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Student body presidential candidates: Rohit Fonseca and Daniela Narimatsu

| Monday, February 6, 2017

Who they are:

Junior Rohit Fonseca, the presidential candidate, is an international economics major concentrating in Spanish and a Fisher Hall resident. He has lived in eight states and spent two years living abroad. Fonseca was student government’s first director of health and wellness, and served as the director of social concerns. He is also a campus tour guide and member of the Knights of Columbus, and he volunteers at the Robinson Community Learning Center.

The vice-presidential candidate, junior Daniela Narimatsu, is studying IT management and political science. She is a Howard Hall resident — and current vice president — and hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Narimatsu has also served as the director of social concerns for student government and sat on the advisory committee for student climate related to race and ethnicity.

Top priority: Creating platforms for “civil discourse” on campus

Fonseca said the top priority for the upcoming year is to foster an environment for discourse on campus through two programs: Irish Connection and RouND Tables. Irish Connection intends to bring two or more groups, clubs or organizations that don’t share much in common to an activity, such as a dinner, game, campus event or social service to build relationships between people who might not otherwise know each other. RouND Tables is the ticket’s answer to the need for civil discourse on campus, centered around topics that are Notre Dame-specific, such as parietals and whether President Donald Trump should be invited to speak at Commencement.

Best idea: Focusing on mental health

While Fonseca and Narimatsu do not offer up new or significantly changed programming to draw attention to mental health, their plan to emphasize, underline and expand existing resources is both well-focused and highly reasonable. Their intention to continue partnering with Active Minds for Irish State of Mind and Irish Peace of Mind is expected but still important and their plans to better advertise the McDonald Center for Student Wellness Center could benefit students by alerting them of a perhaps underutilized resource. Finally, expanding on the anonymous testimony project Fonseca implemented during his time as the first director of health and wellness is a highly visible platform to encourage dialogue regarding mental health and the issues confronted by students on a daily basis.   

Worst idea: Feminine hygiene product boxes

Fonseca and Narimatsu’s plan to provide access to necessary feminine hygiene products may seem commendable — at least on the surface — but it should be stressed that the ticket does not intend for student government to be providing the products. Rather, “sharing boxes” would be placed in female public restrooms across campus and students would be encouraged to leave any “spare products” inside in case another student has an emergency situation. While clearly well intentioned, the plan does not require the intervention of student government in any way and they offered no way to incentivize students to donate their own products, which can be expensive, especially if purchased on campus. Most students, additionally, do not consider the products they don’t need at a particular moment as “extra” — they tend to carry a few in case of their own emergencies and, as the products have no expiration date, simply keep any leftovers for their next cycle.  

Most feasible: Building on the University’s spiritual life

The ticket’s plans to expand upon the University’s sprawling spiritual life is unique and comes off as extremely simple and easy to implement. Fonseca plans to have a brief prayer with students followed by breakfast in front of O’Shaughnessy Hall each and every Monday morning. As a Catholic institution, it can be assumed that at least some students would be interested in participating in the weekly events, coordinated with the Department of Health and Wellness and the Campus Ministry representative.

Least feasible: Broadening Grab ‘N’ Go locations

Fonseca and Narimatsu’s plans to address Campus Dining consists of two highly feasible projects — encouraging the dining halls to continue to offer late lunch hours, and improving allergy and dietary labeling in the dining halls — and a third, highly infeasible plan to broaden the locations where students can pick up Grab ‘N’ Go meals. Working with Campus Dining can be a very slow process and, as the suggest locations — the Huddle, Waddicks, a la Descartes and Cafe Commons — function to create their own revenue, it is highly unlikely that such venues would be in favor of the plan. Additionally, with two Grab ‘N’ Go locations on campus, there does not seem to be as much of a need for this service as their other suggestions. 

Bottom Line: Maintaining the status quo

While Fonseca and Narimatsu bring a different kind of student government experience to the table against the other ticket and most of their platform appears to be highly achievable, very little of what they propose is truly progress. Much of the platform focuses on reiterating the availability of already-existing resources — both in and out of student government — and continuing relationships that student government already has. In particular, their lack of a plan to further address sexual assault on campus beyond what programming is already offered is disheartening. While maintaining the services currently offered is realistically attainable and better than regressing, the hope of every election is to improve upon what already exists. 

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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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