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Senate hears presentations, approves resolution

| Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Notre Dame’s student senate convened for its weekly meeting Monday evening, hearing presentations regarding the Sexual Conduct and Campus Climate Survey and Hesburgh Library renovations, as well as approving a new constitutional amendment and nominating senators for the Constitution Committee.

Junior and student government director of gender relations Elizabeth Boyle started the meeting with a short announcement about the Sexual Conduct and Campus Climate Survey sent out to students via an email from Erin Hoffman-Harding, vice president for student affairs, Nov. 5.

“This [survey] is the way that we can gauge violence, specifically sexual violence on campus, and it’s the only way that we can monitor and number where those things are coming from and how frequently they’re occurring,” Boyle said.

Boyle said the survey will remain open until Nov. 26, and all students are highly encouraged to take the survey.

University librarian Diane Walker and head of the Library Renovation Steering Committee Jessica Kayongo then presented to the senate about the renovation plans for Hesburgh Library.

“When I was interviewed and accepted this job, a then-student who was writing an article on the library for ‘The Scholastic’ and wanted to interview me — this was before I arrived on campus — one of her questions was, ‘Students don’t find the Hesburgh Library an inviting or welcoming space, and certainly not a very lively one — what will you do to change that?’” Walker said. “So I took that as a mandate that we really needed to address the space in this building.”

Walker said some of the main goals behind renovating the library were to promote its research and learning services, provide high-quality study spaces for students and make space to organize and publicize the library’s physical anthology, including special collections.

“[We want to] basically transform the environment here so that it lives up to the expectations and the aspirations of our university, to be a top light and provide a top experience for everyone who is here,” she said.

Parts of the first and second floors of the library have already been renovated, as well as the 10th floor of the building. Walker said the renovation team is planning the project in phases while Notre Dame raises funds for it. Currently, space on the first floor for subject librarians and technology areas on the first and second floors are being renovated.

Kayongo said future plans include renovating the first floor study space known as the “Fishbowl” to become the Grand Reading Room, creating a similar space on the second floor and moving and combining the special collections and archives on the first floor.

The senate also voted to approve a resolution regarding an update to the Student Union Constitution whereby a substitute leader can be elevated in the case of the absence of the senate chair, who is normally the student body vice president.

Sophomore and parliamentarian Halena Hadi proposed the resolution, explaining that in case of the vice president’s absence from the senate, it would be best to designate a non-voting member of the senate to substitute as chair. Hadi said that she drafted the resolution after senior and vice president Corey Gayheart had to miss a senate meeting and sophomore class council president Sam Cannova and junior class council president Laksumi Sivanandan chaired the senate in his absence. Since the two are voting members, it could cause an issue in the case of a tiebreaker vote, since the chair of the senate only votes when there is a tie.

“This is mainly just to maintain impartiality, because Corey’s not a voting member as it is unless there’s an emergency, in which case he would break the tie,” Hadi said. “I just thought we should stay in line with that, especially in the situation where he’s gone, we should have another nonvoting member take his place so that we can preserve the right of all voting members to vote.”

The senate unanimously approved the resolution.

The group also nominated and appointed three nominees to the Constitution Committee. Hadi said the committee’s duties would include independent reading of the constitution and proposing potential changes to the document as they see fit.

“There is no mandated meeting schedule, so we would probably meet every two or three weeks or as issues arise,” Hadi said.

Sophomore and McGlinn Hall senator Isabella Schmitz, junior and Sorin Hall senator Mark Spretnjak and junior and Lyons Hall senator Caila Lindsey were nominated and approved to be on the committee.

During the new business portion of the meeting, Lindsey asked a question about students who may want to run for student body president, but cannot as they are studying abroad in the spring semester.

“I want to discuss how we can change that, because there are students who are going abroad who couldn’t go abroad any other semester,” Lindsey said.

The senate debated this topic and Gayheart spoke from experience, saying that the transition period could be difficult to navigate for a student trying to lead from abroad.

“My first thought is that because the term starts on April 1, there’s a lot that happens during the transition period — so February and March,” Gayheart said. “There’s a lot of meetings with cabinet directors and things like that, that in theory, people should probably be present for.”

In addition, Gayheart said because the term begins before the end of the semester, the student body vice president would miss senate meetings if they were abroad.

Sivanandan said students have to choose between studying abroad and running for a leadership role, as students can’t pursue both opportunities.

“As someone who had to go through the decision-making process of going abroad or running for something, I get that we are all Notre Dame students who want to do everything, go study abroad and having all these leadership positions, but sometimes you can’t really have your cake and eat it too,” she said. “You have to decide what you think is the best thing to do.”


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the Sexual Conduct and Campus Climate Survey as the Inclusive Campus Survey. The Observer regrets this error.

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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.

Contact Claire