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Robinson, Blais take office

| Friday, April 1, 2016

Corey Robinson and Becca Blais, who take office as student body president and vice president today, plan to hit the ground running in their mission to lead, connect and serve Notre Dame students.

“We want to give the students all we’ve got,” Robinson said. “We’re going to be fighting for [the student body’s] best interests — with the administration, with polices, with ideas, programming, events, relationships with the community.”

Starting next week, the administration will launch a student senate reform initiative, Blais said, implementing a new structure that separates senators into four committees — health and wellness, sustainability, student affairs and community engagement. At each meeting, which will now be held Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Notre Dame Room of LaFortune Student Center, senators will spend a portion of the time in their committees discussing items on the agenda.

“Each senator would share the perspective not only of their committee, but of the departments they sit on, their residence halls, the constituents they represent,” she said. “The small group discussion in the committee is not only to bring that committee’s perspective, but also give them a chance to vocalize where they’re coming from.”

Student Government Graphic newest colorOlivia Mikkelsen | The Observer

After committee discussions, Blais said all members of the senate will assemble to decide what action to take moving forward.

“Every committee will approach it in a different way, so it will be nice to spur dialogue and attack the same subject from different viewpoints,” Robinson said.

Three days after the pair was elected in February, they met with St. Liam’s to discuss their plan to train Notre Dame nurses as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), Robinson said. Junior Gracie Watkins, the administration’s policy liaison, is working on a research report to present to St. Liam’s before the end of the school year.

“We’ve got to show that there’s similar and successful satellite programs,” Robinson said. “… We’re going to give them the report. Then hopefully over the summer, we’ll co-present it to St. Joseph Hospital, so that we’re ready for the fall.”

To further the administration’s community engagement goal, student government is also working to increase student involvement in the Riverlights Music Festival, a three-day event in South Bend in May, Robinson said. The festival features a variety of local bands and other performers at various venues throughout the South Bend area.

“Hopefully we can make this not only a Notre Dame staple, but a South Bend music festival that is permanent,” he said. “It’s a really cool event for both college students and the people of South Bend.”

Blais said their administration will continue to work on some of the same issues the Ricketts-Ruelas administration focused on, in small-scale and large-scale ways.

“They have a lot of similar ideas as us — diversity and inclusion, sexual assault — generally working towards those goals of making it better. Honestly, that’s not something that ends with one administration. Those are things that we’re carrying on,” she said.

Robinson will be on campus over the summer, working on events and policies for the upcoming school year. He said he and Blais both have an open door policy and welcome students to share their ideas with student government.

“Right now what we have to do, in my opinion, is be able to foster communication on these important issues,” he said. “We can’t keep going around them, beating around the bush.

“Talking is great, but the most important thing we want to do is have a result — an attainable result. But we realize we can’t get that tangible result in policy, unless we have discussion about it, unless we know what the students think.”

Blais said she hopes to increase awareness about resources the University offers, such as the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being (McWell Center).

“We have all of these structures and resources in place,” she said “Now it’s just about making them accessible to students, making it a part of the everyday talk, everyday lingo, so you know that you have them and that you actually utilize them.”

Robinson said he is trying to pursue goals that are realistic yet ambitious.

“For us, this is not necessarily doing anything different or reinventing the wheel. It’s just continuing the great legacy already left,” he said. “Diversity and inclusion, sexual assault, health and wellness — these things don’t just disappear. We’re trying to push it forward a little more, before we pass the torch on to the next administration.”

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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