Reviews of 2018 Notre Dame student government departments
Department of Academic Affairs
Senior Caroline Cloonan, director of Academic Affairs, has led several events for her department this semester, most notably Majors Night, an event that allows students to meet with representatives from different academic departments. The event drew about 500 attendees and also featured a raffle where students could win prizes. This fall, the department also hosted Rise ’n Roll and Einstein’s Bagels giveaways and Play-Doh Power Hour, where students were given a free container of Play-Doh as well as complimentary snacks. Cloonan is also a member of Academic Council, faculty senate and has been working with other student government members to update the University’s Honor Code. Next semester, the department is rolling out “Coffee Hours,” a program where students can request $10 vouchers to take professors out to coffee on campus.
Department of Athletics
Junior Katherine Wallace, athletics representative, worked with the Department of Athletics, Development Office and the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs this semester to organize a wristband sale to support the Notre Dame Veterans Fund. Additionally, the department collaborated with the Gender Relations Center and other student government departments to encourage all varsity teams to become GreeNDot certified. In November, the group also hosted a Notre Dame vs. Syracuse game watch in Duncan Student Center. This semester, the department has worked to further several other initiatives, such as providing feedback on proposed NCAA legislation and coordinating “Irish Fight for Life,” a program that works to foster relationships between athletic teams and patients from the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Unit at South Bend’s Memorial Hospital.
Department of Campus Technology
The Department of Campus Technology, led by senior and director Thomas Krill, has carried on long-term projects as well as taken the department in new directions this semester. The department has continued to promote the Wi-Fi Feedback Survey, which gives students the chance to report issues in internet connectivity so that the Office of Information Technologies knows which areas of campus need the most help. This year, it partnered with an IT project management course, in which, over the course of the semester, students put together an implementation plan for an outdoor activity app called IrishGo. Additionally, the department has worked to represent students’ interests at various councils this semester, including the Learning Management Guidance Council, the University Council on Academic Technologies and the ND Mobile Advisory Council. Responding to student feedback, the department had a printer installed in the north wing of Duncan Student Center. CTI has laid the groundwork this semester for more projects next year — the group has plans to redesign the ND Mobile homepage, develop a prototype version of IrishGo and partner with Apple Inc. to host workshops in the bookstore.
Department of Communications
This semester, Communications Department co-directors senior Peter Seidner and senior Vivian Nweze devoted their efforts to the McGavick-Gayheart platform promises of transparency and approachability. They accomplished this in a number of different ways, including by hosting “Lunches with Gates, Corey and Bri,” an event where 10 students are invited to lunch in North Dining Hall with the student government executives and are able to share their comments, concerns and suggestions with the current administration. Since launching the lunch initiative, the officers have met with about 80 students. The department has worked to uphold student government transparency by ensuring every senate meeting is streamed on Facebook Live. Next semester, the department is aiming to improve their social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Community Engagement and Outreach
Headed by sophomore Fritz Schemel, the goal of the Community Engagement and Outreach Department is to not only get students connected with the South Bend community, but also the broader national community through civic engagement opportunities. This year, the department’s work began with Welcome Weekend, when they hosted a South Bend farmers market that included about 12 local vendors selling everything from food to artisan goods. Before the midterm elections, the team also partnered with NDVotes to set up voter registration tables at various locations around campus. Since the beginning of the semester, the department has pushed to make South Bend education a greater part of the Moreau curriculum, which will likely be implemented next year. The group has plans to host a South Bend Involvement Fair in January, hosting representatives from community partners in addition to continuing their highly successful Back the Bend campus-wide day of service in April. The department’s work has been promising so far, but it is still waiting for several initiatives to pay off.
Department of Diversity and Inclusion
The mission of the Department of Diversity and Inclusion is to foster a more inclusive community in terms of race, religion, nationality, socioeconomic status, citizenship status and sexual orientation. This semester, junior and department director Mita Ramani worked to better establish the structure of the department, as it is only in its second year. Ramani said the group’s semester goals were to work with cultural clubs on campus, strengthen diversity initiatives and build a stronger relationship with the administration’s Multicultural Student Programs and Services department. The group reached out to over 40 cultural clubs on campus to offer their support and have co-sponsored over 20 campus events this semester, she said. They also hosted the third-annual Race Relations Week, which sponsored Dia de los Muertos events, Asian Allure and a talk by Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, a Native American activist. In addition to these campus events, the department has been working closely with the Office of Student Enrichment for a stronger advertising distribution system and the Diversity Council to assess dorm multicultural commissioners. While they’ve hosted and co-sponsored a number of successful events, however, the department is still working on reforming larger issues on campus relating to diversity and inclusion.
Department of Faith and Service
Recognizing existing faith-based and service-oriented organizations on campus, the Department of Faith and Service has worked collaboratively with Campus Ministry, Notre Dame Right to Life, BridgeND and the Office of Sustainability throughout the semester. Under the leadership of sophomore Aaron Benavides, they have co-sponsored a number of events, including Fellowship Night, Notre Dame: Unfiltered and Respect Life Week. Earlier in the semester, the department also released a statement on the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and worked with the University administration as part of the Campus Engagement Task Force. As a whole, the department strives to encourage students to individually improve their mind, body and spirit in addition to promoting community and dialogue on campus through service and faith-based projects.
Sophomores Clark Bowden and Rachel Ingal, co-directors of First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (FUEL), have the mission of developing talented and passionate leaders by working with roughly 20 first-year students interested in becoming future leaders in student government. Working as motivators, they hope to teach freshmen how to effectively work in student government to improve student life at Notre Dame. This semester, they have restructured FUEL to establish specific committees to enable the first-year students to work on projects of their own. The freshmen created the committees themselves, and the department plans to implement the events the group planned next semester. While FUEL has made steps in the right direction to prepare first-year students for leadership, it is hard to tell how successful their efforts are as the first-years have yet to actually put any of their ideas into action.
Department of Gender Relations
Led by junior Elizabeth Boyle, the Department of Gender Relations has sought to create a more tolerant environment for all students, specifically in regards to gender identity and sexual orientation. Their semester goals were to increase the number of students who are GreeNDot trained, write policy in response to Title IX changes, host Notre Dame: Unfiltered, audit the prevalence of sexual assault in study abroad programs and partner more closely with PrismND. They have worked with the organization Aunt Flow to provide free feminine hygiene products on campus as well as Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) on the blue light phone system. The group has succeeded in bringing SOS Advocacy training to campus, a program training individuals to work a 24-hour rape crisis hotline, accompany survivors to the hospital and offer medical advice and serve as counselors and consultants at events involving sensitive material. The program, typically six weeks long, will be held over two weekends early next semester.
Department of Health and Wellness
Under the leadership of sophomore Grace Dean, the Department of Health and Wellness has been working to improve the overall physical and mental well-being of students in a variety of ways. Their main goal for the semester was to work with the University to expand student access to mental health resources. In an effort to partner with health groups on campus, they invited members of the mental health advocacy group Active Minds and several McWell Public Health fellows to sit on their committee. The department also worked with the Department of Student Life to create Campus Dining’s “Dining Hall Hack” contest and has hosted several successful events promoting student stress relief and mindfulness, such as “Macaroni & Chill” and “Berries on the Quad.” Finally, in terms of policy-making within student senate, they wrote and passed a resolution to encourage professors to include mental health resources on University syllabi.
Department of Social Concerns
The Department of Social Concerns, according to its mission statement, “aims to break down the complexities associated with sustainability initiatives on campus and provide channels of advocacy to respond to crises of international scope.” To this end, the department has worked on several projects this year, including setting up a table and giving out hot chocolate to inform the student body of the results of the National Climate Assessment and coordinating with Catholic Relief Services to hold a Fair Trade Christmas Market. The department is also working on establishing a sustainability coalition with student governments at other colleges, and is collaborating with the Office of Sustainability to form a campaign encouraging students to avoid obstructing access routes such as handicap ramps when parking Lime Bikes. Sophomore Kevin Gallagher was appointed to the role of director of the department in October, following the departure of the previous department director. Gallagher said the department hopes to provide more consistent programming going into the spring semester.
Department of Student Life
The Department of Student Life, co-directed by senior Claire Marie Kuhn and junior Eduardo Luna, focuses on matters of residential life, campus dining and student events and programming. They have emphasized coordinating with Campus Dining, meeting monthly with director of residential dining Scott Kachmarik, to improve campus dining halls. This semester, the department held a survey to gauge student dining preferences, which was presented to the head chefs of the dining halls. Their discussions with Campus Dining have also led to the creation of a weekly student poll to determine which Sirius XM music station should be played in the dining halls on Fridays. During midterms, the group also co-hosted several other events, including Flick on the Field and the Syracuse vs. Notre Dame game watch in Duncan Student Center. Luna said the group is currently working on a research project to compare Notre Dame policies and student life to those of other universities. They hope to use this data to frame residential life proposals in the spring.
This semester, the Department of University Affairs — previously known as the Department of University Policy — shifted its focus toward assessing student life. Directed by senior Maria Palazzolo, the department is currently reviewing Notre Dame’s parietals policies, pushing for amnesty for residents who have violated parietals but wish to leave an unsafe or uncomfortable situation without punishment. The group also collaborated with NDSP for the first time to co-host the annual Campus Safety Summit. This year, the department is conducting research for a new safety app to help NDSP quickly locate students who feel unsafe on or near campus. The group is also working to help resolve conflicts between clubs and the Student Activities Office (SAO) and is collaborating with SAO to offer training for students on how to use SAO360, the platform student organizations use to register their events. In the future, the department hopes to expand current campus safety initiatives by introducing GreeNDot training to employees of South Bend bars that students frequent.
This year’s executive controller is senior Dylan Jaskowski, who described his primary duties as managing the student government budget, sitting on the financial management board and approving expenses. His main focus this year has been helping to bolster financial support for student clubs on campus, in coordination with a larger push within student government for increased collaboration with clubs. Last year, the Financial Management Board raised the percent allocation of the student government budget for clubs from 36 percent to 39 percent, and Jaskowski says he hopes to work with the Club Coordination Council to further increase allocation this year. Another focus of Jaskowski’s term has been to make the University more fiscally transparent. As such, he worked with the Development Office to host a seminar on University spending.