Judicial Council hosts election debate
Emily McConville | Tuesday, February 4, 2014
The candidates for student body president and vice president squared off in a debate Monday night ahead of Wednesday’s elections. The debate, which took place in the LaFortune Student Center basement, was organized by the Judicial Council’s Election Committee.
After an opening statement, the three tickets — junior Olivia LaMagna and sophomore Rohan Andresen, freshmen George McCabe and Sean Campbell, and juniors Lauren Vidal and Matt Devine — each answered five questions from the Election Committee.
Andresen, who currently serves as Siegfried Hall’s Senator, described several of his and LaMagna’s initiatives, including opening classes in certain departments to students who are not majors and instituting a student advocate during Student Activities Office planning.
Devine, who served as director of the Gender Issues Department last year, described his and Vidal’s platform as “personalizing the Notre Dame experience,” using existing structures to institute new policies and to continue those that work.
“Our platform stems from looking at what the individual student experience is, looking at the clubs and organizations and how student government can facilitate that and expanding it into the world too,” Devine said.LaMagna, who is currently the junior class president, said she and Andresen would improve student government by working to be accessible and instituting some reforms, including changing the transition procedures for student government positions.
“We want to make sure that kids are poised so that they can succeed from the second they get into office and finish out their term and be able to plan all the way through the semester,” LaMagna said.
Vidal, who served as student union parliamentarian last year, said she and Devine would improve student government through “policy and programming,” including incorporating medical amnesty into Du Lac. Devine said he and Vidal also plan to increase transparency within student government.
LaMagna said she and Andresen would improve student-community relations by increasing awareness of downtown events and businesses and working with other student organizations such as The Bridge Project.
“There’s an extremely culturally rich community that’s so close to our campus, and by interacting with them in a more regular and normal way, I think that everybody can have a better Notre Dame experience,” LaMagna said.
Devine said he and Vidal would increase interaction with the community by bringing farmer’s markets and other businesses to “quad markets” on campus. Vidal said they would also increase service opportunities, including creating a “29 for 29” program in which each dorm would “adopt” a local underprivileged family.
“There are hundreds of families who are both in and out of the Center for the Homeless specifically who would really love help from students like us, as simple as getting a Christmas tree and decorating it, getting donations and presents and making them a meal,” Vidal said.
LaMagna said she and Andresen would continue the current sexual assault prevention initiatives by focusing on prevention, including creating a mid-semester presentation for freshmen and naming male-female co-chairs on the Gender Issues Department.
“Gender issues and sexual assault is not a one-way discussion,” LaMagna said. “Is shouldn’t be weighed by women who think that it’s their issue or men who think that it’s their thing to fight. We need to make sure the conversation is two-sided. We want to make sure that everybody feels like it is theie issue because it’s everyone’s issue.”
Devine, citing his experience in the Gender Issues department and the Committee for Sexual Assault Prevention, said he and Vidal would continue the current administration’s programs, working with the University and students to raise awareness.
“We really love the grassroots effort that [student body president] Alex [Coccia] has made with the prayer services, which is an initiative of the student government, but also the bystander training. We think that’s essential when talking about these things.”
Also on the ballot were McCabe and Campbell, whose platform consisted of making class registration more complicated, creating a study abroad program in Zahm House for Saint. Mary’s students, asking Belmont Beverages to accept flex point, and making Wrangler Jeans the athletic apparel sponsor. Each of their initiatives was met with cheers from Zahm House residents.
“Obviously we’re more concerned about our own needs than your needs, so let’s just get that out of the way,” McCabe, who wore an Easter Bunny costume to the debate, said.
Kathryn Peruski, the Judicial Council’s Vice President of Elections, said she was pleased with the student turnout.
“There were a lot of people there, which is always nice that people came out. … I was really impressed,” Peruski said. “The candidates obviously had great answers for what we were looking for, and I’m hoping that the students who came to listen got a lot of information from them. It was also publicity for the election, which is the ultimate goal, to get people to come vote.”
Freshman Olivia Till said the debate showed her next year’s student government would be in good hands.
“I thought that it was pretty obvious which candidates were here to be serious and which were here to be comic relief,” Till said. “I really appreciated the people that took a lot of time on their platform, and I think that we’re really lucky that we have student leaders that have such a clear vision for what they want to do on campus.”