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Coccia, Joyce look back on time in office

| Friday, May 16, 2014

When their term in office came to an end April 1, student body president emeritus Alex Coccia and vice president emeritus Nancy Joyce said they only wish they had more time. 

Although his term as president is over, Coccia said he believes current student body president Lauren Vidal and vice president Matthew Devine will pick up right where his administration left off. 

“We just really wish he had more time to continue working on things, but Lauren and Matt have been very gracious in looking at some of the projects that we have still been developing and that they’ll want to continue,” Coccia said. 

Joyce said she felt her and Coccia’s administration started important initiatives that will continue after they leave office. 

“I think the only regret would be that we really can’t see some of [our projects] all the way through,” she said. “I think we’ve laid the groundwork and have set it up for next year.”

Coccia said one such issue he wanted to progress more is medical amnesty for students, particularly with regard to alcohol consumption. 

“I think issue-wise … I wish we could have pushed [the discussion on medical amnesty] a little bit further, but we are happy to see where the conversation has progressed,” he said. “When we look at medical amnesty, I think in the past there has been a hesitancy to think about a specific policy because we don’t want to make it seem as if we’re condoning underage drinking, which is illegal. 

“However, where we’re coming from as representatives of the student body is that our first priority, regardless of what circumstances happen in a night, is student safety and students getting the medical attention that they need if they so need it. So I think what we’ve been able to do is refocus the conversation on that aspect, and to show the need for some sort of explicit policy.”

Joyce said in a more general sense, she felt her and Coccia’s administration made student government more accessible and pertinent to student life. 

“I think generally speaking, I would say I’m really proud of the fact that this year’s student government felt relevant,” she said. “And maybe that’s because we were in the office, but I think we did a lot this year where people who wouldn’t normally interact with student government did, and I’m really proud of that.”

This past year student government achieved smaller, more concrete goals, Coccia said, but they also confronted problems more directly concerning all students, most notably the issue of sexual violence. 

“There’s obviously the tangible successes like the coffee cart in DeBartolo,” he said. “We’re proud of that one, but I think we also realize that student government could address larger student life issues than just something like the coffee cart. 

“I think before that maybe it wasn’t student government’s role to take the lead on something like sexual violence, but ultimately students were the ones that pushed that and we developed the One is Too Many Campaign, which was a success in raising awareness about the issue, and framing things like the prayer services and bystander intervention training, which will be part of Frosh-O now.”

Coccia said the One is Too Many campaign, a student government initiative aimed at sexual assault prevention and healing, mobilized the student body and brought the issue to the forefront of student discussion. 

“I think the One is Too Many Campaign was important because not only did it raise the level of awareness and dialogue, but it touched, very directly, at least over 3,000 people,” he said. “We recognize that the pledge itself is not enough, but our hope was that it would raise the level of awareness and dialogue about the issue of sexual violence and about what our role in prevention is.”

Overall, Joyce said she thought the administration treated the office with professionalism, with the end result being a productive and effective term. 

“I think one thing we really hoped to do, and I think we were largely successful at, was bringing a level of professionalism to the office,” she said. “We approached it like a job and interacted with administrators on the same level.”

Conversely, Joyce said the professionalism the office requires can separate the administration from the students, something she said she believed her and Coccia largely avoided.

“At the same time, you have to realize that it’s a balancing act. If you allow yourself to get caught up in the full-time job aspect of it, that’s where the distance between you and the students you’re representing comes,” she said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of walking that line, but it’s a very fine line of having a respect for the office and the professionalism that’s necessary, and then also recognizing the need to be normal college students.”

Both Coccia and Joyce said they will live and work in Washington following graduation, Coccia working with the Department of Health and Human Services through the Truman Scholarship program, and Joyce with defense consulting firm Avascent Group. 

Joyce said she wanted to extend her personal thanks to the student body for their support, engagement and feedback throughout the past year. 

“It’s really been a pleasure,” she said. “Personally, I have enjoyed this experience and the opportunity to represent some of the best and the brightest in the country. It has been pretty incredible to really see what Notre Dame students are all about.”

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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