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Student senate discusses sustainability

| Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Notre Dame student senate heard a number of reports from various departments Wednesday evening.

The first presentation came from Marc Burdell and Consuela Wilson, director and inclusion specialist of the Office of Student Enrichment, respectively. They presented their pilot program, the Fighting Irish Scholars Program, designed to give financial support and social enrichment to students who are, as Wilson said, “high achieving and under resourced.”

In its first year, the program will invite 60 students — 12 upperclassmen and 43 freshmen — to engage in peer mentoring, financial literacy workshops and networking workshops, among others.

“We will open these workshops to all students as well, although only students within the program would receive financial resources. This first year is really to test the program and see what works and what we can improve,” Wilson said.

The Office is also taking over the Rector’s Fund and hopes to rename it to the Student Experience Fund, as well as change the Low Socioeconomic Status (LSES) Fund to the Opportunity Fund.

“We want to better reflect how we can help high-achieving and under-resourced students best, through both Notre Dame experiences, like attending football games and retreats, and through other areas, like laptop repair and emergency travel expenses,” Wilson said. “We are committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for Notre Dame students.”

The senate Sustainability Committee — consisting of Duncan senator Zach Huber, Cavanaugh senator Brittany Benninger, Lewis senator Allison Young and Pasquerilla East senator Samantha Berley — presented a proposed revision of the Comprehensive Sustainability Strategy.

“We should get on board with this [sustainability] movement more in student government,” Young said.

The group proposed new ideas for student government to tackle, including encouraging composting, and lending more support for South Bend initiatives.

“Current efforts are applaudable, but there are places where Notre Dame could take more of a stance,” Benninger said.

Four percent of Notre Dame’s 10 billion dollar endowment is invested in fossil fuel, according to Benninger.

“We think it is wrong to profit from this market,” Benninger said. “We also want to revisit the current goal of 25% renewable energy by 2050 and start a conversation about improving it.”

She said the University needs to do more research on their own carbon footprint.

“Notre Dame hasn’t even done a feasibility study; from there, we could find more realistic and ambitious numbers,” Benninger said.

Other senators, including Stanford senator Connor Green, suggested asking for a feasibility study to be carried out before any other steps are made.

“Is it premature to say that the number needs to be higher when no concrete information has been gathered?” Green said. “We need to take a step back, because it doesn’t sound like we have all the information; we need to wait for that step.”

St. Edward’s senator Corey Gayheart said senate should push for that research to be conducted.

“We should be pushing for an investigation to get those numbers, and this resolution leaves the administration open to involve students, but it also puts a student senate push behind more student involvement in this,” he said.

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