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Student senate discusses Dorm Week, Design for America

| Thursday, September 24, 2015

Student senate met Wednesday night to talk about Dorm Week and to learn about human-centered design projects on campus currently being carried out by Notre Dame’s chapter of Design for America (DFA).

The meeting opened with a discussion about the first-ever Dorm Week, which took place last week. Several senators criticized the timing of the event, both in the year and the day. McGlinn Hall senator Christina Murphy and Howard Hall senator Amy Smikle both said Dorm Week could be improved by hosting it at a different point in the year.

“I think fall, especially football season, is a really busy time for a lot of people and they have to prioritize what they want to do,” Murphy said. “I know we did it because of the weather and all the outdoor activities the dorms wanted to include, but I think we could look at doing it another time when people have more opportunity and desire to look for things to keep them busy.”  

“During the day it was a little early,” Smikle said. “For people who have late classes and for people who get out of class and want some down time and don’t really want to go straight from class straight to go dunk someone or go to a cookout, I think it could be beneficial to move it later in the day when people are trying to procrastinate homework or are coming back from dinner and see something on the quad.”

Several senators also lodged complaints about communication on all fronts. Badin Hall senator Alexandra Fincher said some hall presidents felt they were not given enough time to come up with events, while Pangborn Hall senator Taylor Still said issues communicating with the Student Activities Office led to the cancellation of Pangborn’s karaoke event because the speakers were never delivered.

Several senators also said many students were not sure of what Dorm Week was for, or what they were supposed to be doing.

Carroll Hall senator Ryan Heard said a possible miscommunication prevented Carroll from fully participating.  

“Technically, Carroll is on South Quad, but I don’t think we were included on South Quad festival day,” Heard said. “Carroll just didn’t really do anything at all for the entire dorm week. So next year if we could get included on South Quad, that’d be great.”

After the Dorm Week discussion, John Wetzel, a leader of the DFA chapter, led the student senators in a workshop on human-centered design. The workshop took senators through DFA’s project at Notre Dame to reduce food waste in the dining halls.

Wetzel said the DFA model was a good example for the senators to adopt when solving problems in student government.

“The human system, such as a government or a university, requires a little bit of a different process than a mechanical, biological or financial system, when you’re addressing the problems that are faced by those communities,” he said. “They’re very contextual, so you need to know what’s going on in your dorm and in the specific population you’re looking at and targeting, or within the university as a whole.”  

Wetzel also said the model would help to provide solutions in addition to identifying problems.

“Your goal, in general, is to move beyond our discussions and complaints,” he said. “We heard a lot today about feedback on Dorm Week as one example. But you should try to move beyond those into solutions, proposals and constructive dialogue.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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