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Student body president, VP speak with politicians

| Friday, April 11, 2014

Student body president Lauren Vidal and vice president Matthew Devine, both juniors, traveled to Washington earlier this week to discuss the interests of the Notre Dame student body with policymakers as part of their involvement in this year’s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Student Advocacy Trip.

The trip, which drew representatives from 11 ACC universities, focused primarily on the importance of federal funding to support undergraduate research and financial aid, Devine said.

“Collectively, students were advocating the continued support of research and filling what they referred to as the ‘innovation gap,’ in terms of developing countries and looking at continuing federal support of … research opportunities,” he said.

The topic of federal funding is one that is important to Notre Dame not only because of the importance of research and financial aid to the University, but also because of Notre Dame’s status as a private university as well, Vidal said.

“Notre Dame has a lot of institutional funding from our endowment, especially when we’re dealing with student financial aid — a lot of that comes from the institution, more so than other ACC schools that may be public,” she said.

Vidal said she and Devine also used the opportunity to discuss other important campus issues with Indiana state representatives.

“The ACC focused on the idea of federal aid and what it means to students on our campus, but we also used the opportunity to speak directly [about] our school when we were in individual meetings with representatives from Indiana,” Vidal said. “We really tried to capitalize on that opportunity and speak to the issues of Notre Dame specifically.”

A major issue they discussed with representatives was the Health and Human Services mandate, which has been controversial not only for the University administration, but for many students as well, Devine said, especially those looking to enter the medical field.

“[Students’ concern] was something that I think hasn’t been addressed from the university level … but something that I think students are worried about,” he said.

Vidal said the discussions that addressed student opinions of current issues at Notre Dame allowed congressmen to gain a better understanding of campus life and important campus issues.

“[This trip] is a way for students to express the sentiment on campus from a personal standpoint where legislators and individuals who work in Washington, D.C., to represent schools oftentimes … don’t have the direct connection to the students,” she said.

This is the second year the ACC has sponsored this trip to the nation’s capital. Vidal said she hopes Notre Dame student government will continue its involvement.

“Every year that they have been in existence we have participated, because we think it’s important as a University and as a student body,” Vidal said. “It’s only the second year, but we hope to continue it. We think it’s a great opportunity.”

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