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Single ticket creates unique circumstance

Sam Stryker | Monday, February 6, 2012

Last night’s midnight deadline for any potential write-in candidates for the student body presidential election came and went with no approved candidates stepping forward. As a result, juniors Brett Rocheleau and Katie Rose will run unopposed — something unprecedented in student government records. 

Students will be presented with the option of voting for Rocheleau and Rose or abstaining when ballots open at 8 a.m. Wednesday. An abstention signifies a presence, not a vote, according to the Judicial Council.

Rocheleau said though other members of student government may have had interest in running, they all agreed on the goal to continue the course of this year’s administration. 

Rocheleau currently serves as student body vice president with student body president Pat McCormick, who declined to comment for this story.

“Coming into this election, there were a lot of different candidates inside student government that were very interested in running, but this time, there weren’t different visions,” Rocheleau said. “So instead of having four tickets basically saying the same thing, we decided to stay unified as student government and push together.”

Other potential candidates were ultimately more interested in addressing specific concerns, Rocheleau said.

“With us running, they saw that they could really focus on the issues they truly have at heart,” he said.

Senior Ben Noe, director of internal affairs for student government, agreed to speak for this story based on his perspective as a Notre Dame student, rather than as someone within student government. He said he sees a variety of potential explanations as to the lack of competition this year.

“Speaking as a student, not as a person in student government, there are several reasons why there could be only ticket right now,” Noe said. “It just may be a non-competitive year, people may be really accepting of continuing the vision Pat laid out … and this transferred into Brett and Katie’s campaign.”

Rocheleau said he believes Notre Dame students support the work the administration has done this year. 

“They saw what we did in the past year, and they wanted to see more of the same vision,” he said. “They decided they wanted to keep student government and the vision where it was, and didn’t want to bring in a different perspective or change.”

Though the Rocheleau-Rose ticket was the only official petition to be approved, Rocheleau said they did not know this when they formed a ticket.

“We went about this thinking it was going to be like last year,” he said. “We knew this whole process of being competitive is what makes student government thrive.”

Rocheleau said he faced competition in last year’s student body presidential elections, which featured five tickets. He said he and Rose wanted to bring a similar spirit to this year’s elections.

“I would hate for that to be lost in this year’s campaign, and that is why we’re going about it as if it was extremely competitive,” he said. “We want to hear the voices of the student body.”

Though he may be the only candidate running for student body president, Rocheleau said he is open to the opinion of the student body. 

“It’s not just two people running unopposed. It’s a vast majority of student government, of different sectors,” he said. “We have people not a part of student government on our team; we have a lot of people who are a part of student government on our team … We’re bringing different perspectives as well.”

Looking forward to the next year, Rocheleau said he believes little change needs to be made to how student government is currently run.

“Obviously, every year when you look at it, there are different things you see, but there is nothing drastic that needs to be changed,” he said.

Rocheleau said he does not believe the student body is apathetic to what student government does, nor do they perceive it as meaningless.

“I think they perceive [student government] to be strong,” he said. “I think they see what we have been working on in the past year and they want more of the same. I think they are happy with what we are doing.”

Noe said as a student, he believes the showing in this year’s election displays Notre Dame students understand what has been achieved this year in student government.

“I think it speaks to the fact that students are generally in support of and in favor of what we have done this year,” he said.

Sophomore Cait Ogren, vice president of elections with the Judicial Council, said this year’s situation is unusual, but the Judicial Council advertised the election to the student body in the same way as in previous years.

“In past years, we did the same where there was an information session for all people interested before Christmas break and after Christmas break,” she said. “I hold office hours every week where people can ask questions, the petitions were available … It was the same protocol, just a unique year.”

Ogren said the fact that both candidates come from inside student government is not unusual.

“Usually most candidates are involved in student government in some aspect, so I wouldn’t say there is anything particularly unique,” she said.

Though only one ticket was ultimately approved, Ogren said there seemed to be interest from the student body in the election. However, the Judicial Council is not able to identify potential candidates until their petitions for approval are turned in.

“There were various individuals who attended each individual information session,” she said. “At the information sessions, we don’t have any indication of whether those people are running themselves, whether they are getting information for future years, or information for other people, so we can never really know who is intending to run until petitions come in.”

Though the same protocol is used every election for notifying the student body, Ogren said every year yields different results.

“It completely depends on the year, the students, the interest, it’s just beyond our control,” she said. “We never know what we’re going to get until petitions come rolling in.”

Ultimately, Noe said he believes the circumstances of this year’s election are unique.

“I’m not sure this is going to become a trend in future years,” he said.

The faculty adviser for Judicial Council declined to comment, and the director of student activities for programming could not be reached by press time.