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Debate covers safety, community ties

Madeline Buckley | Thursday, February 4, 2010

The three student government tickets competing for student body president and vice president debated food services, student safety and tree houses Wednesday evening in LaFortune Student Center.

Juniors Eras Noel and Julian Corona, sophomores Catherine Soler and Andrew Bell, and freshmen Peter Ledet and Gabe Alvare faced off in front of a full crowd in the first student government debate moderated by Judicial Council vice president Marcelo Perez.

Perez allowed the candidates an opening and closing statement and the chance to answer questions posed by himself as well as the audience. 

The Zahm ticket took the floor first in pink onesies and sport coats, asserting that the two are “super serial” candidates running for emperor and vice emperor.

Soler then said her ticket’s first focus will be instating a rental textbook program in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.

“This is a tangible idea that affects every student, every semester,” Soler said.

Noel said his primary campaign goal is creating a system in which students would be able to use Flex Points in Eddy Street Commons. The duo said they have been discussing the issue with managers at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

“They are excited to work with us,” Noel said.

In response to a question from the audience about the Flex Points plan, Bell said his ticket has also researched the issue and found it is not feasible.

“The past two administrations have tried to do this and failed,” Bell said. “But we have some alternatives because off-campus eating is important.”

Soler said the two have discussed systematizing and publicizing existing off-campus discounts offered to students who show their ID cards and an off-campus meal plan option.
On the issue of improving student food services, Noel said his ticket wants to revamp Grab-and-Go options by creating a to-go box that students would be allowed to take into the dining hall to get hot food.

Ledet said his ticket also has plans to improve food options at Notre Dame, but his platform includes an all-male tree house where Keenan Hall currently stands, which will have an endless supply of Lunchables and juice boxes.

“It will be nachos and pizza all day long,” Ledet said.

After a question from Perez about the South Bend community, each ticket touched on safety and community relations.

“We want to start with a block party in Eddy Street Commons,” Soler said. “We want to get neighbors, students and local merchants involved.”

She said her ticket also wants to work with the city’s Chamber of Commerce to have a South Bend street fair for students and residents of the city.

Noel and Corona said they hope to have benefit concerts that include the University and the community, and they plan to host dinners for community members with athletes and the administration.

Noel also said student safety will be a priority for the ticket.

“During the night there have been many assaults recently in dark areas. We want to try to improve this,” Corona said.

Soler said her ticket has plans to address campus safety as well, and plans to continue the weekend Transpo bus route established this year by student body president Grant Schmidt and vice president Cynthia Weber. She said her ticket would also like to work with the Office of Alcohol and Drug Education to find a solution to help students deal with dangerous situations involving alcohol.

“We feel this is an important issue because it happens every weekend,” Bell said.
Ledet and Alvare said alcohol awareness is a focus of their ticket as well, which is why they are pushing for a University-sponsored alcohol assessment.

“First weekend, they University is going to provide us with alcohol in a contained environment where everyone can have alcohol screening as they test their limits,” Alvare said. “It will make things a lot safer.”

An audience member asked the candidates how they plan to approach the issue of adding sexual orientation to the University’s non-discrimination clause. The Soler-Bell ticket and Noel-Corona ticket each said the addition of the clause would be a focus during their time in office. 

“We can’t discriminate against anyone for who they are,” Noel said.

Bell said his ticket will take “tangible steps” to see the addition to the clause continues to be pursued in student government.

“We see it as a major problem that students don’t feel welcome here,” Bell said. “We want a task force formed just for that issue, similar to the task force that formed the [Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention].”

An audience question also asked the candidates to address how they would improve pep rallies.

As a former football player, Noel said he felt disconnected from the student body at pep rallies when the team was separated from the students.

“We want to have those pep rallies where the students are all close together,” he said. “Those have intensity.”

Soler said her ticket also hopes to return to more student-oriented pep rallies.

“Our first order of business would be to sit down and talk with Game Day Operations, who runs the pep rallies and voice the dissatisfaction of student body,” Bell said. “The pep rallies at Irish Green just aren’t student friendly. We want to put the focus back on students.”

Elections for student body president and vice president will be held Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If necessary, a run-off debate is scheduled for Feb. 10 and run-off elections, Feb. 11.