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Students meet with residents

Tori Roeck | Sunday, March 4, 2012

Members of the Notre Dame student government and the South Bend area met last week at the annual Student Government Community Summit to brainstorm ways to improve communication between the campus and surrounding community.

Student body president Pat McCormick said the annual Summit gives student government the opportunity to engage with South Bend residents.

“In recent years, student government has worked quite aggressively to deepen partnership between community members and students at Notre Dame,” he said. “There has been an effort to really solidify our relations with the community on the basis of mutuality.”

McCormick said the summit involved student government representatives from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross and Ivy Tech, advocates for local businesses, officers from the South Bend Police Department and Notre Dame Security Police and other delegates from the South Bend community.

Senior Erika Hansen, director of community relations, said engaging all these people in discussion provides a basis for incoming student government’s policies on community relations.

“It is a high level opportunity for students and members of the community to more broadly deepen partnerships as well as introduce incoming administration to community leaders,” Hansen said. “It sparks ideas for how to get students more motivated and more involved to go downtown and patronize local stores and restaurants.”

Student body president-elect and current vice president Brett Rocheleau said incoming student government representatives listened closely to community concerns.

One way student government can be of assistance to the community is spreading the word regarding student safety off-campus, Rocheleau said.

“The police force mentioned that there are a lot of students walking around at night alone,” he said. “They want to make sure that students know to be safe when they’re out in the neighborhood.”

Rocheleau also said student government hopes to participate in more community-wide events next year, including a possible special celebration the weekend of the Notre Dame football game in Dublin.

“There was an idea floating around at the community summit to throw an Irish celebration that weekend … [and to hold] a Taste of South Bend where it would be all about local South Bend eateries,” Rocheleau said. “They talked about mimicking Chicago during St. Patty’s Day and dying the river green.”

Summit attendees also discussed marketing strategies for the annual Freshman Bus Tour, an event sponsored by the mayor’s office to introduce new students to what South Bend has to offer, McCormick said.

In addition, Hansen said another topic discussed was how to integrate the new housing development opening on Eddy Street into the South Bend community in the future.

Each year’s summit influences the work student government does during the year, McCormick said.

“One of our platform ideas had been to try to integrate the arts community more fully in advocacy in student government,” McCormick said. “Last year’s summit was an early chance to … bring the art community together at Notre Dame to advance the arts on campus and beyond”

McCormick said this year’s summit also allowed him to thank those in the South Bend community who were influential in helping student government.

“We are grateful for the attendance and contributions made by community members and to come together to thank community leaders who played such an important role in efforts of the student government team this year,” he said.

McCormick said Notre Dame students continue to become more involved with the South Bend community and that meetings like the summit are important.

“Students increasingly think of themselves as members of a shared South Bend community,” he said. “There is no longer a bubble mentality.”

Rocheleau said he hopes to continue this trend by pursuing the ideas put forth at this year’s Summit.

“Our main goal is to try to deepen our roots in South Bend so that we’re more than just four-year visitors, rather that we’re part of the community,” he said.