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BeND program aims to improve relations

John Cameron | Friday, September 3, 2010


As part of an ongoing effort to improve relations with the community outside the Notre Dame campus, student government administration has launched the “BeND campaign.” 
“BeND is our cohesive effort to improve relations, promote off-campus initiatives and encourage students to be an active and respectful member of the surrounding community,” student body president Catherine Soler said.
Soler said community relations are more important than ever as the city grows to include more off-campus attractions for students, increasing interactions between students, residents and business owners.
“Now that transportation is becoming easier, people have more options off-campus,” Soler said. “South Bend is becoming more of a college town than it ever was before.”
While the program began before the recent arrests off-campus occurred, Soler said she hopes the educational aspect of BeND will help ease tensions between students and police by fully informing students of their rights and how to deal with law enforcement appropriately and respectfully while off campus. She said the general improvement in community relations will carry over to dealings with the police.
“While this is not a reaction to any one incident, we feel this is building a foundation for long term positive relations in the community, which hopefully will help diffuse some of what is happening and prevent more of that in the future,” Soler said.
“It didn’t start with recent incidences and it won’t end with recent incidences,” student body vice president Andrew Bell said. “The aim of it is for us, as students, to take ownership for how we act rather than be reactive to situations that occur.”
BeND primarily asks students to be conscious of how they are presenting themselves and the University, to act respectfully toward the community, and to make more of an effort to become part of that community themselves.
“The program asks students to be mindful and respectful … and be willing to be engaged in South Bend,” Soler said. “It will give them more of an opportunity to experience the positives of South Bend… Students can take the characteristics of Notre Dame students that everyone admires and bring them into the community.”
“We all hear about how the Notre Dame experience stays with you long after graduation, but part of that is we represent Notre Dame on campus and off campus, even when we’re home over the summer,” Bell said. “The same way it stays with us long after we leave then, it stays with us long after we leave campus.”
While there are no community or Notre Dame administration leaders directly involved in the efforts, student government plans to present BeND to the Community/Campus Advisory Coalition as well as the other various community meetings it takes part in.
“There is no official connection but there are many shared goals,” Bell said. 
As for the community’s role in the process, Nick Ruof, chief of staff, just hopes community members are receptive to the efforts and initiatives undertaken by students.
“We hope the community opens up to us, at least gives us a chance to show who we really are,” he said.
Some of the measures already enacted under BeND include the distribution of “good neighbor guides” to off-campus students through the Senior Class Council, promotion of the Transpo program, a voluntary listserv for RAs to pass along information to on-campus students and cooperative efforts with the Office of Drug and Alcohol Education to help distribute more educational materials and tips to students. 
“This is not a marketing plan. It’s not simply an awareness campaign. It’s really multifaceted,” Soler said. “We want BeND to be branded on everything we do. This is really going to be the platform for all of our efforts to be good neighbors, to reach out to the community and to really just enhance the experience of a Notre Dame student both on and off campus.”