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Senate hears presentation on Washington program, approves mental health resolution

| Tuesday, October 9, 2018

At their weekly meeting, Notre Dame’s student senate approved an official resolution encouraging faculty to include information regarding mental health resources on their syllabi.

Before the vote occurred, the group heard a presentation from senior Meredith Soward about the Notre Dame Washington program. Soward said the application to the semester-long program is open to both freshmen and sophomores and students can participate either in conjunction with or in place of study abroad. Students live in DuPont Circle in the heart of Washington D.C. and take classes, in addition to working 25-30 hours a week at an internship, which counts for a Notre Dame general education requirement.

“One of the coolest opportunities that comes with this program is the opportunity to intern in D.C.,” Soward said. “A lot of people do intern on the Hill, but if you don’t want to intern on the Hill, people have worked at think tanks, nonprofits, lobbying firms and law firms. I worked at an environmental nonprofit during my semester.”

In addition to the internship, Soward said that students in the program take a Notre Dame-required class entitled Foundations of Public Policy, as well as Public Policy Visits, where students have the opportunity to meet influential people in D.C. and discuss important issues. Beyond that, participants take two elective classes.

“The classes that I took [there] were some of the most impactful classes that I have taken,” Soward said.

The deadline to apply for the Notre Dame Washington Program is November 25th.

The group then began deliberation on a resolution submitted by several members of the Senate, reading, “the Student Senate hereby encourages faculty to include a statement regarding mental health resources sent annually by the Division of Student Affairs on class syllabi.”

A similar resolution was proposed by the student senate last year but died before it could be approved, senior and student body vice president Corey Gayheart said.

“We are bringing [the resolution] back up because we think it’s important, and so the senators as well as [junior] Grace Dean, the director of health and wellness took the charge on this. They did a great job and it is the first Senate resolution [of the year],” Gayheart said.

After the resolution was read, the Senate debated its merits.

“Can we talk about what it means to encourage faculty?” senior and Diversity Council president Alyssa Ngo asked.

Gayheart responded to Ngo’s question by clarifying that the senate does not have the power to mandate what professors include on their syllabi.

“We don’t have the power to force faculty to do something,” Gayheart said. “Part of this is also the staff retention movement. To attract high quality professors, a lot of the game in higher education is to give them the autonomy to determine how the classes operate and what’s on their syllabi. We definitely think this is a generally agreeable thing, and so we don’t feel it necessary to make it mandatory because most professors will likely hop into this.”

After debate closed, the group moved into a vote and approved the resolution.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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