McGavick, Gayheart reflect on first half of administration’s term
Mary Steurer | Thursday, December 6, 2018
Nearing the halfway point of their term, seniors Gates McGavick and Corey Gayheart, student body president and vice president, said they have worked hard this semester to encourage greater conversations between the University administration, campus groups and the Notre Dame community.
In their campaign platform, the pair pledged to make student government “approachable, collaborative and transformative.”
McGavick said the team has already taken several measures to advance the “approachable” and “collaborative” modules of their platform.
“We’ve just made it a point to make student government as interactive as possible and form as many relationships as possible,” he said.
McGavick said Student Government has worked closely with campus’ various student union organizations this semester. He also said he and Gayheart hope to improve communication between the groups, which in the future will help streamline event planning.
“We’re really looking at how [we can] integrate the multiple moving parts of the student union better,” he said. “How can we get them interacting more on a daily basis and less operating in their different bubbles?”
Gayheart said regularly communicating with the organizations will prove essential when discussions about renovating LaFortune Student Center begin.
“There’s some updates that need to be made in [LaFortune Student Center] and we think working with that, that would also have an adverse impact on how the student union functions as a whole,” he said.
Student government has also worked to improve the Student Activities Office this semester, Gayheart said.
“[SAO] has started meeting at the beginning of every week, and they go in to approve or look at the different events that are happening within the next week that they have to get approved and through the process,” he said. “So there’s kind of an active communication pipeline where there wasn’t one before.”
McGavick and Gayheart plan to continue these efforts next semester.
“Moving forward, there’s actually going to be an external audit of SAO,” Gayheart said. “So they’ll bring in administrators from other schools that work in similar departments, and they’ll observe what SAO does and then provide suggestions for how they can rethink and revamp SAO.”
McGavick and Gayheart said student government’s communications department has improved student outreach this semester by increasing their following on social media.
“When we started the semester, one of the biggest problems was, a lot of current students don’t follow the student government social media,” Gayheart said.
By consequence, Gayheart added, many student government events went overlooked by the student body.
McGavick said since the beginning of the semester, however, the team has raised its engagements and impressions on social media eightfold.
“The social media presence for student government has just completely turned around,” he said. “ … People actually have a way to reach out to student government [and] they know what student government’s doing.”
Gayheart said he believes another one of student government’s greatest successes this year has been its push for financial transparency within Notre Dame’s administration.
In October, student government hosted a seminar with the Office of Development titled “Where Does the Money Go: An Insider’s Look into Finances at Notre Dame.” At the event, an official from the department spoke on student tuition and the University’s endowment, and broke down how the money was used to cover annual expenses. The event drew between 100 and 200 students, Gayheart said.
Gayheart said he and McGavick plan to do more to promote financial transparency next semester.
“In our platform, we had originally advocated for online University checkbook, which we’re still working on,” he said. “But we felt that [the event] was a step in the right direction because we very clearly communicated that students, one, don’t know how [the University’s] money’s being spent, and when they see the numbers, they’re just appalled.”
Gayheart said he not only hopes students find these efforts educational, but that the initiative sets a precedent for fiscal transparency within the administration.
“[The message] we tried to get to the administration was, ‘People are OK with you spending the money, they just want to know how,’” Gayheart said.
Gayheart said student government has also taken strides to promote campus safety by requiring all of its members to be GreeNDot certified and its executive cabinet to receive multicultural competency training.
“Those were — in terms of scalability — minor things, but we felt that they have larger impacts in our work as a whole,” he said.
Looking to next semester, McGavick said student government will focus its efforts on improving dorm maintenance.
“Our approach to dorm maintenance can be completely founded on the experiences of kids on campus,” he said. “I’m trying to gain pretty much as many anecdotes, as many experiences that kids have had with dorm maintenance and just kind of collectivize these experiences.”
McGavick said the initiative will be a massive undertaking requiring the combined efforts of several student government departments and thorough research.
“We’re going to have several departments and their entire staffs devoted to [the dorm maintenance initiative], and we’re just going to collect information from across campus until we have so much information on the issue that we can make a really compelling argument for improving the situation,” he said.
McGavick and Gayheart said they also plan to write transition books to help better prepare future student government leaders. The books would include recommendations for handling the day-to-day responsibilities of the jobs, lists of contacts and other useful information.
“Obviously we’re not going to know everything going in,” he said. “That being said, we think that there could be more done to help ease [people] into the job.”
Gayheart said he wants next year’s successors to be as prepared as possible for the challenges of the jobs.
“Whoever comes after us, we want to work with them as much as we can,” he said.
McGavick and Gayheart have made significant efforts to improve student life at Notre Dame. Their work integrating student organizations and emphasizing communication between groups promises tangible improvements in the future. Initiatives student government have orchestrated this year have been made in the best interest of Notre Dame’s students, and by taking on big issues like campus safety and fiscal transparency, McGavick and Gayheart demonstrate a desire to address parts of the University in need of reform. However, substantial progress remains to be made in several areas before the pair enacts meaningful change.