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Student government department reviews

, and | Thursday, December 12, 2019

Department of Academic Affairs

Senior Katherine Wallace assumed the director position of this department, which addresses the academic needs of the student body, after a leadership change in October. Wallace had already been a member of the department. She said her experience, combined with the support of senior leadership helped ensure a smooth leadership transition. Wallace’s top priority is to improve the University’s Course Instructor Feedback surveys, or CIFs. She recently met with the Office of Strategic and Institutional Research to discuss how the University could improve the CIF system, giving students more time and opportunities to share their feedback. As the system currently functions, students have a short period of time to submit their CIFs, and Wallace said the short timeline prevents some students from submitting their feedback. Although Wallace said the department likely cannot extend the CIF deadline, she believes they can create a window for additional feedback after the deadline passes. She also wants to emphasize the importance of CIFs in the Moreau First Year Experience Curriculum. Additionally, Wallace wants to improve the printing system for Notre Dame students, making mobile printing easier and possibly adding new printer locations on campus. 

Grade: B


Department of Athletics

Sophomore Philip Quinton heads this department, which represents student athletic needs. Quinton said the department hopes to increase turnout to Notre Dame sporting events and support the athletic needs of both student athletes and non-student athletes alike. Before this year began, the Leprechaun Legion, an independent student organization that has historically led cheers at Notre Dame sports games, was looking to revive its presence on campus. Quinton believed the group could help energize the student section, so his department has supported the Leprechaun Legion’s board as it made a resurgence. Additionally, the department is focusing on student mental health and wellbeing. This semester, the Student Athletic Advisory Council — along with the student-athlete-led Irish Strong movement — has coordinated mental health events for student athletes. The department wants to work with the student athlete community next semester to open this mental health initiative to the entire student body. This semester, Quinton was disappointed that his department was unable to organize GreeNDot sexual assault prevention training for all student athletes, but he hopes they’ll be able to implement the training next semester. Although the department is pushing many promising initiatives, it lacks a grand strategic vision connecting its various agendas.

Grade: B-


Department of Campus Technology and Innovation

Senior Nick Marcopoli leads this department, which oversees student concerns regarding information technologies. Going into this student government term, the department hoped to implement four main initiatives. The first, a campus technology awareness campaign, is already underway. The department is in the process of publicizing the availability of resources such as Microsoft Desktop. The second initiative, a “mega-calendar” of campus events, is already available to some select student groups. Once fully developed, the calendar will aggregate all the various events occurring around campus, helping student groups decide when to schedule their upcoming events. The third initiative, a rideshare coordinator, will connect students interested in hailing an Uber or Lyft to Chicago. Marcopoli said the coordinator is on track to launch before spring break. The department has struggled, however, to implement its fourth initiative: a sexual assault reporting service. The service would allow students to anonymously report sexual assault perpetrators, and it would use a database to discover repeat offenders. Marcopoli said the “bureaucracy” of the University administration has slowed the development of the reporting service. Nevertheless, Marcopoli said he’s hopeful the service will be available by the end of next semester. 

Grade: A


Department of Communications

After the abrupt resignation of junior Aaron Benavides in October, senior Tiffanie Cappello Lee took over this key department. Cappello Lee said the department, which facilitates communication between student government and the student body, has a strong team dedicated to the cause. She credits Benavides — along with student government senior leadership — for supporting the department through the leadership transition. She admits, however, that the initial adjustment was a challenge. By next semester, Cappello Lee hopes the department will be fully recovered from the transition said she’s looking forward to upcoming initiatives. Currently, the team is developing a spotlight series that will profile different members of the Notre Dame community. They plan to publish the stories on social media and the student government website. Additionally, Cappello Lee said the department is exploring a revamp of the student government website. She hopes a more user-friendly interface would enhance communication between student government and the rest of the student body. Despite its promising agenda for next semester, the department has been bogged down by its disruptive leadership shift.

Grade: B


Community Engagement and Outreach

This department, which supports student civic engagement and promotes outreach to the South Bend community, is led by senior Alex Yom. The department’s biggest initiative this semester was its “South Bend Adventure Guide.” The guide, which launched in August, is what Yom calls a “one-stop-shop” for navigating South Bend. It lists various restaurants, natural sites to see, events and activities in the South Bend area. The department has been promoting the guide through its “South Bend Scavenger Hunt” challenge, encouraging students to visit some of the locations listed on the guide. Yom wants to foster stronger ties between Notre Dame and the South Bend community, and his department is currently developing a “South Bend module” for the Moreau First Year Experience curriculum. Additionally, the department has been supporting voter turnout and civic engagement among the student body. In partnership with ND Votes, the department helped register 700 new student voters. Yom said he was disappointed that his department couldn’t do more to engage the campus community with the South Bend mayoral race. The problem, he said, was that some candidates were reluctant to speak on campus because Notre Dame is technically separate from incorporated South Bend. By strengthening ties between the two communities, however, Yom hopes to bridge this divide.

Grade:  A


Executive Controller

Junior Jack McClintock heads this department that is responsible for the student government budget. Currently, student government is spending less money than there is in the budget, he said. The department is working on two big initiatives at the moment: a personal finance website with resources for students and an event “centered around personal financial wellness in collaboration with McWell.” McClintock said the website will be up at the beginning of next semester. In collaboration with vice president, junior Patrick McGuire, McClintock said they changed the University’s New York Times subscription to a digital platform to save money and promote sustainable efforts by cutting down on paper use. 

Grade: A-


Department of Diversity and Inclusion

This department, run by senior Kenzie Isaac, engages on issues of student identity, ranging from race to gender to mental health. Isaac said she targets intersections of identity, supplementing and engaging with work from other departments. Over the summer, the department helped provide the student government’s South Bend Adventure Guide with restaurants, salons and places of worship geared towards minority groups on campus. Isaac also began work with the diversity council on a “Know Your Rights” handbook that would summarize duLac policies about protests and policing for students who engage with NDPD. This semester, the department hosted events during the Race Relations and First-Generation, Low-Income Students Weeks and was the force behind bringing Yusef Salaam, one of the “Central Park Five,” to campus. Most policy changes next semester will be geared towards the presidential debate in the fall, including dorm-specific diversity training and “Conversations Across Diasporas” lunches to create dialogue between minority groups before the debate. In light of protests this semester by student groups against hate speech and parietals, Isaac said she wants students to take the lead on addressing their issues and then look to streamline with current Student Government initiatives. She said she hopes to “avoid redundancy” regarding student programs that already exist. 

Grade: A-


Department of Faith and Service

Senior Meenu Selvan heads this department directed at meeting the “spiritual needs of all students.” Selvan said in an email that she aims to emphasize the universality of the Catholic faith, herself being a Hindu student who grew up at Catholic schools. Interfaith initiatives this year have included a “What If I’m Not Catholic?” lecture at Welcome Weekend, a 9/11 prayer service including Jewish and Hindu readings and an Interfaith Road Trip for some members of student government to experience different faiths. Ahead, the department plans on launching “Teaching Masses” as dorm events to help Catholics and non-Catholics better understand the Mass. These will take place as brother/sister dorm events. Selvan also plans on helping First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (FUEL) with the upcoming first-year retreat. Sevlan declined to comment on her department’s non-engagement with the Church sex abuse crisis, focusing instead on her interfaith initiatives.

Grade: B-


First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (FUEL)

Sophomores Jim Broderick and Alix Basden head up this first-year-only student government department. (Editor’s Note: Broderick is a News Writer for The Observer.) Basden said the department works to acclimate leaders at Notre Dame by forming a first-year cohort that works on policy together. FUEL also works to ensure first-year interests are represented in other areas of student government by placing their members in other Student Government departments. Most of the fall semester focused on this process rather than actually drafting policy since students have to apply and interview. FUEL does have specific plans for the spring involving first-year interest. One example is an improved system of Moreau course feedback, potentially involving a survey of upperclassmen regarding the most and least helpful parts of the class. Basden also mentioned an upcoming student senate resolution to introduce more first years to members of student government via matchup survey. Look for more activity from FUEL in the spring semester. 

Grade: B-


Department of Gender Relations

Senior Anne Jarrett focused their department towards GreeNDot training and expanding student resources, especially with respect to the LGBTQ+ community. Gender Relations passed a student senate resolution requiring all 275 student officials to receive GreeNDot training and continued prior efforts to bring the training to local bars. The department is “currently reviewing SpeakUp ND to streamline the online reporting process” regarding sexual assault, Jarret said in an email. They also co-sponsored the third annual GlobaLBGTQ+ Film Festival, this year bringing the event to Saint Mary’s and the greater South Bend community. Coming up next semester, the department negotiated for free menstrual products in several buildings on campus. They plan on sponsoring a Pride event for the LGTBQ+ community next semester, showcasing art and music. Regarding protests over parietals, Jarrett said Gender Relations aims to reform and expand the language used in duLac to make them more true to “the spirit of parietals” and spread awareness of relevant University policy.

Grade: B


Department of Health and Well-Being

Sophomore Natalie Munguia focused her department’s efforts to partner with McDonald Center for Well-Being (McWell) and the University Counseling Center (UCC) to connect more students with resources offered by the University. The department has worked with McWell’s Healthy Campus Coalition to help their efforts in reaching and engaging students. The department was successful in implementing a well-being tab on Sakai this semester. It links students to care and wellness consultants, McWell, Sara Bea disability services, the UCC and University Health Services. To better connect students with the UCC, the department hosted a pop-up stand with bagels and flyers to advertise the UCC’s new policy of drop-in mental health counseling sessions which started at the end of October, Munguia said. The department has plans to continue engaging students and plan a mental health walk-in April to increase mental health awareness and reduce stigma. 

Grade: A-


Department of Social Concerns 

Senior Beth Steiner directs the social concerns department. She entered the semester with the goal of focusing on specific committee member concerns and engaging more genuinely with the South Bend community. There was a recent social justice listening panel called Growing Togetherto discuss Notre Dame’s relationship with the South Bend community. The department has been in discussion with the administration about changing the cigarette policy on campus in the hope of ending traditional cigarette use on campus and aims to add questions to the campus climate survey concerning vaping on campus. Another initiative includes bridging the discrepancy between students of a lower socioeconomic standing that want to do service and those that have an opportunity to do service in South Bend. With the Department of Technology, they are working to launch a ride-sharing app for both traveling for breaks and to service opportunities in South Bend. Next semester the department will host the annual Back the Bend service project and hopes to facilitate more conversations between Notre Dame and the South Bend community and engage more with the Center for Social Concerns. 

Grade: A-


Department of Student Life

Senior Abby Smith and junior Connor Whittle head this wide-ranging department with the goal of clear communication between the administration and students. One of their main goals is to help Residential Life on policy communication with students on the off-campus differentiation policy as well as dorm renovations, dorm equity and more. Smith and Whittle also focused on equipping the sophomore class to facilitate dialogue with Residential Life and hope to find a more technical solution with the ID swipe access next semester. Smith and Whittle are working on development within campus dining to be announced next semester. Big events of the semester included Flick on the Field, which had the highest turnout to date, and the Student Safety Summit. The department collaborated with GreeNDot to give out GreeNDot towels at Flick on the Field. The department also hosted a student government tailgate to provide an alternative to typical game-day tailgates. Next semester, the department will launch expaND, a speaker seminar centered on the theme of change. Speakers will include faculty members, members of the South Bend community and students. The theme is inspired by the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Grade: A


University Policy

Senior Nick Ottone is the leader of this department focusing on initiatives and collaborations with the administration and other departments with student government. (Editor’s Note: Ottone is a former Scene writer for The Observer.) As a part of Race Relations Week, the department collaborated with different organizations and clubs on campus to host Notre Dame Unfiltered. Along with the department of student life, this department helped host the Student Safety Summit. Ottone said the department is working with NDPD to form a committee to provide feedback and a space for dialogue. The department plans to look into the parietals amnesty clause within the Title IX code “to look at what it means and publicize it more regularly,” to create a digital pamphlet about freedom of speech policies and practices on campus before the election cycle in the fall and to look into clarifying the medical withdrawal policy. 

Grade: B+


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