Student senate concludes 2018-2019 session
Genevieve Redsten | Tuesday, March 26, 2019
The 2018-2019 session of Notre Dame’s student senate came to a close Monday evening, following a two-hour meeting in which senators debated a provision on electing students to the executive cabinet and the University’s sustainability initiatives.
Outgoing senators worked to address unresolved questions and unfinished initiatives before the new student government takes office on Monday.
As the senators prepared for next week’s transition, they confronted a controversial provision — 1.4(b) in the Notre Dame Student Union Constitution, which requires all student government executive cabinet members be “present” for the entirety of their terms.
The provision poses major logistical challenges for student body president-elect junior Elizabeth Boyle and vice president-elect, sophomore Patrick McGuire. Several of the students who Boyle and McGuire nominated for their executive cabinet are studying abroad this semester and will be off-campus for the first month of their term.
In previous years, the undergraduate Judicial Council interpreted this provision loosely; they allowed previous administrations to appoint executive cabinet members who were abroad for the first month of their term. But this year, the Judicial Council determined this precedent violated the constitution. On March 5, they notified Boyle and McGuire they could not nominate students who are currently abroad.
Boyle and McGuire asked the outgoing senators to suspend this constitutional provision and allow their nominees to be considered. They explained this suspension would be a temporary solution and the larger constitutional issue could be resolved by future legislation.
Sophomore Fritz Schemel, a member of the 2018-2019 executive cabinet, also urged senators to suspend the provision.
“Look at what happens practically if this motion is struck down. Basically, you’re going to be going back to the drawing board on a number of positions,” Schemel said. “People who have cabinet positions now are expecting their term to end on April 1 and have a replacement.”
But critics argued suspending the provision would set a bad precedent.
“The constitution was made to be followed,” Fisher Hall senator and sophomore D.C. Morris said. “We can’t just keep on kicking the can down the road because I guarantee you that if we do this now, this is just going to keep on coming up.”
Sophomore class council president Sam Cannova argued in favor of Boyle and McGuire’s motion, suggesting the constitutional provision was open to interpretation.
“The important thing here to note here is that two consecutive judicial council presidents can have perfectly opposite interpretations of the same piece of text in the constitution,” Cannova said, adding the constitution is “a living document.”
The motion to suspend the constitutional provision, however, failed. The new incoming senators will have to decide next week whether to consider Boyle and McGuire’s abroad cabinet nominees.
“Just like all good Notre Dame students, we have fought to the bitter end on this issue,” junior and Duncan Hall senator Steven Frick said.
Outgoing senators devoted the rest of the meeting to unfinished business by voting on a wide variety of resolutions and approving various students, staff and faculty for end-of-the-year awards.
Keenan Hall senator and sophomore Zachary Pearson, a vocal advocate for faith-based initiatives on campus, co-sponsored a resolution calling the University to take a more active stance on the fight against global religious persecution, which passed overwhelmingly.
Other senators focused their final legislative efforts on sustainability, proposing resolutions that dealt with food waste and meat consumption in the dining halls.
One resolution called on the University to support wider implementation of its Grind2Energy food waste recycling program; the other encouraged Campus Dining to expand and better support its “Meatless Mondays” initiative in the dining halls. Both resolutions passed with widespread support.
Finally, senators debated the nominations for several awards, sharing their recommendations for outstanding students, staff and professors.
The senate awarded the Michael J. Palumbo award, given to students who have stood out in their service to the Student Union, to senior class vice president Daniel Hopkinson. Additionally, the group gave the Irish Clover award, which also commemorates students for their work in the Student Union, to seniors Kim Miller, a staff assistant at the Student Activities Office, and Corey Gayheart, current student body vice president. They awarded the Frank O’Malley Undergraduate Teaching Award to Dr. Jennifer Newsome Martin, an assistant professor in the Program of Liberal Studies.
As the meeting came to an end, Frick addressed the senators-elect who were observing the meeting in preparation for their new terms.
“New senate people, it’s a great organization. Please don’t reconsider why you’re here just because we’re getting in some bitter debates,” Frick said. “That’s why we’re here — because we really do care about the betterment of the student body.”