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Senate discusses residential life policy changes

| Thursday, October 3, 2019

At their weekly meeting, the Notre Dame student senate met with the sophomore class council leaders to discuss the new policy regarding off-campus seniors’ ability to participate in formal dorm events. Members of the sophomore class council had been meeting with vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding and associate vice president for residential life Heather Rackoczy Russell about the school’s intentions with the change and potential modifications to the policy.

Sophomore class council president Jordan Theriault said the administration was interested in working with students to modify new residential life policies announced last spring.

“From what they gathered from the students, there seemed to be some sort of confusion between about what the relationship with off-campus seniors was, whether they were supposed to and were able to come back and participate in sports, hall, dances and whatnot. … They don’t want seniors to come in and take full advantage of those without having something to give,” he said. “To sum it all up, they released this policy last year with still a lot to be worked out, but it was not a policy completely set in stone; they wanted to work with us about solutions going forward.”

Other issues covered in the meeting between the council and the school administrators included the final deadline to decide upon this policy change and protests regarding the shift. There are plans in place for the sophomore class council to send out a survey to students about the exclusion policy.

Senators had a variety questions and comments about the meeting and this potential survey to be sent out in the coming weeks. Senior Quentin Colo, off-campus senator, took concern over the description of the relationship between off-campus seniors and the dorm.

“I know you’re not arguing for their policy — you’re just the liaison — but taking one-way relationships the way the University is describing it, it sounds like the relationship between off-campus students and on-campus students is parasitic; that we are somehow coming on campus and taking,” Colo said. “I think that language is incredibly harmful to anyone who is off-campus. I like to think that my off-campus friends [and I], we provide a lot to the on campus community.”

Theriault clarified some of the sensitive issues with language coming from the administration.

“It is all about language. We had a conversation with Heather Rackoczy Russell about community, and that is the heart of what this really stems from and trying to figure out what the administration views as community and what we view as community on campus; there seems to be a sort of rift between them,” he said, “Part of the policy is trying to form it into language that is both clear and also not degrading to off-campus [residents].”

The sophomores said the University indicated it will allow seniors to partake in formal dorm events as long as they meaningfully participate in their dorm’s community. This idea of meaningfully participating in the dorm begot more concerns from senators, including junior D.C. Morris from Fisher Hall.

“What is participation? Is it like going back to my study room in Fisher and helping other chemistry majors with class? Because that is not official participation,” Morris said. “The very presence of off-campus seniors advising, telling kids about life at Notre Dame — that’s not official. That isn’t like playing shoots and ladders with the RA or anything like that. The whole idea of participation, it seems they are trying to formalize that, like if you come back for certain events or raise money for the dorm and stuff like that. It’s more than that; it’s like the very presence of those seniors being there to tell kids what classes to take, what internships to do.”

Luke Sheridan-Rabideau, sophomore senator from Keenan, pointed out a contradiction between building community and attendance at dorm events.

“The events are kind of what builds community,” Sheridan-Rabideau said. “That’s where I’ve met pretty much everybody who is an off-campus senior, so I think having the requirement that you need to build community to go to the events is kind of counterproductive since the events are what build community.”

Sophomore Samuel Delmer, the Dillon senator, pointed out that seniors contributed to the dorm for the three years prior to moving off-campus.

“Seniors who have contributed to their dorm before, clearly they don’t stop — having contributed in the past — by virtue of being seniors; they’re not just seniors alive for that year. They’re human beings who have contributed to the dorm in the past,” Delmer said. “The administration really likes the dorm policy, and it’s something they pride themselves in. They may think it’s what makes Notre Dame special. I think we are ultimately what makes Notre Dame special, and I think our decisions as adults are what make Notre Dame special. Telling us where to live, where we can go and what communities we can join is kind of degrading.”

Other points brought up in the meeting include trying to involve the Hall Presidents Council in the talks, hearing from members of the dorms at hall council meetings, involving freshmen and other ways of showing participation.

In addition to the meeting today, the student senate passed a bill proposed last month requiring all individuals holding enumerated student government positions to complete GreeNDot training by January 1, 2020.

Main concerns previously in discussion were whether to make the training recommended or mandatory, and the logistics of getting more than 100 officials certified. An amendment made the training mandatory, and Anne Jarrett, student government’s director of gender relations, addressed concerns about logistics at the meeting.

“I had a meeting with the [Gender Relations Center] and basically found out that there are 20 plus GreeNDot trainings a semester usually,” Jarrett said. “The GRC was not concerned at all about making it super easy. They basically have GreeNDot training once a week, and then the way the checking would work is that either you have all positions sign a release that they are GreeNDot status whenever they take office, it can be released to president, vice-president or chief of staff, or we can do what the athletics department does because the athletics department requires the same kind of thing with GreeNDot training and that would mean that we print out the list of people who have positions. We hand the list to the GRC; the GRC says ‘yes’ and what date, gives the list to Karen Kennedy and from there she can make the list of who we need to contact. Super feasible, and the GRC is very excited about this.”

At the recommendation of senior Tiffany Rojas, chair of the Diversity Council, the student senate may look into a similar bill for racial awareness.

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