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Senate approves executive cabinet nominees

| Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Student senators debated questions of religion, gender and morality on Monday evening as they voted on the remaining candidates for Notre Dame’s student government executive cabinet.

Student body president junior Elizabeth Boyle and vice president sophomore Patrick McGuire took office two weeks ago, but four of their executive cabinet positions have been unfilled since April 1. A highly contested provision of the Student Union constitution prevented the nominees — who will be studying abroad for the first month of their terms — from being approved for the roles.

Last week, the student senate passed a resolution allowing the abroad executive cabinet nominees to be considered for the roles. On Monday, senators interviewed the nominees for the four remaining director positions via a video conference call.

Boyle and McGuire’s nominee for director of the Gender Relations department, junior Anne Jarrett, faced an exceptionally controversial hearing. Several senators raised concerns about two of Jarrett’s tweets, which were critical of Catholic sexual doctrine and men.

Dillon Hall senator, freshman Samuel Delmer, read an excerpt of one of Jarrett’s tweets from February 6. 

“I see the [Catholic] faith as inherently against female empowerment and sexual freedom,” the tweet said.

Some senators said that Jarrett’s personal views about the Catholic Church could put work at the Department of Gender Relations at odds with Notre Dame’s mission.

“The fact that [Jarrett] see[s] the faith as inherently against female empowerment — not just the faith as it is now — shows that while [Jarrett] advance[s] female empowerment at this University, [Jarrett] will … see part of that as counteracting the Catholic faith,” Delmer said.

Jarrett, however, told the senators that personal opinions wouldn’t interfere with the mission to strengthen gender relations on campus.

“I’m not here to teach or promote my own agenda … but rather, I am here to … work for every single student on Notre Dame’s campus to better their daily lives,” Jarrett said.

Additionally, Jarrett explained that their values and vision for the department aligned with several guiding principles of the University — namely, the values of love, acceptance and empathy.

Boyle served in the same role as the director of the Gender Relations department this past year before taking office as student body president. Speaking from her background, Boyle said Jarrett had the necessary experience and skills to succeed in the role.

“Talking about gender relations is something very difficult — and something that Notre Dame has a lot to grow in,” Boyle said.  “Bringing diversity and diversity of thought [into student government] is exceptionally important.”

Jarrett was also a vocal critic of the controversial letter to the editor decrying leggings, which was published in The Observer on March 25. In protest, Jarrett tweeted a picture wearing leggings. Several hundred people responded to the tweet, and many verbally harassed Jarrett on the topic of body and sexual worth.

In response, Jarrett issued a tweet on March 29 that said, “The only thing this has taught me is that men are gross and they don’t deserve opinions and I categorically do not want to [have sex with] them.”

Fisher Hall senator sophomore DC Morris questioned Jarrett about the tweet, raising concerns about Jarrett working effectively with men on campus. Jarrett said the tweet was simply a reaction to feelings of fear and isolation.

“That was a pretty difficult thing for me to go through as a female-presenting person on the Internet,” Jarrett said. “As director of Gender Relations, I would want to make sure that we have discussions about how to relate to other genders on campus in ways that don’t make people feel alienated or hurt or sad or scared.”

Senators debated extensively about Jarrett’s ability to serve in the director role. While many argued that Jarrett was too radical for the position and that the tweets were disqualifying, others maintained Jarrett’s experience and dedication made a worthy candidate.

The senate ultimately approved Jarrett, despite opposition from several members. The remaining abroad nominees were approved unanimously.

In the following weeks, the senators plan to examine the University’s new Residential Life policies announced this past Thursday, April 11. The policy changes — which are designed to encourage students to live on campus all four years — will also prevent off-campus students from fully participating in activities sponsored by their former residence halls.

Many senators said that the new changes could alienate students of color, low-income students and members of the LGBTQ community who may have alternative reasons for moving off campus.

Senators are currently drafting a resolution calling the University to reverse the changes for off-campus students. They have also invited Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president for student affairs, to speak about the changes at an upcoming senate meeting.

“This is something we need to act on quickly,” Duncan Hall senator freshman Jackson Oxler said. “All the classes at Notre Dame … care about this.”

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