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Judicial Council hosts final debate before student body election

| Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Judicial Council hosted the final debate for the regular student body elections Monday night at 9 p.m. in the Midfield Commons of the Duncan Student Center.

Running for office this year are the following tickets, for president and vice president, respectively: junior Noble Patidar and freshman Connor Patrick; junior Connor Whittle and sophomore Jack Rotolo; junior Zachary Mercugliano and freshman Aviva Lund; freshmen Henry Bates and Thomas Henry; juniors Michael Dugan and Ricardo Pozas Garza and juniors Rachel Ingal and Sarah Galbenski.

All six tickets were present at the debate, which was moderated by junior and Judicial Council president Halena Hadi.

Hadi began the debate by explaining the questions posed to the candidates came directly from students, and three randomly generated tickets would have the opportunity to answer each question. 

The pairs of candidates then introduced themselves and provided a brief overview of their platforms. The Bates-Henry ticket concluded the introductions by spontaneously ripping off their tear-away pants, much to the amusement of the crowd.

The first question was in reference to the upcoming presidential debate that will be hosted on campus next fall and how each ticket’s administration planned to unify the campus in the midst of such a divisive political climate.

Galbenski started the conversation with a proposition to include a voter registration module in the Moreau First Year Experience because of the influx of “newly minted 18 year olds” on campus in the fall.

Photo courtesy of Patrick McGuire
Candidates for student body president and vice president debated Monday night at 9 p.m. in Midfield Commons. The election is Tuesday, and voting commences at 8 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m.

Whittle brought up his ticket’s initiative titled “Share Your Story Week.” 

“There would be a video booth around campus with simple questions like, ‘Who inspires you?’ ‘What’s your story?’ I think questions like that raise an overall important way of approaching dialogue that is meaningful,” he said. 

Lund emphasized the “blue dot / gold dot” initiative.

“Starting in the dining halls, we would want people to be open to having conversations with cool, new people by putting a gold dot on their table,” Lund said. “If you’re busy studying, you could put up the blue dot.” 

The next question asked candidates to explain how they would help students from diverse backgrounds feel a sense of belonging on campus.

Pozas Garza discussed why increasing club funding could help promote inclusion. 

“BridgeND can provide a model that suits that conversation [about diversity],” Pozas Garza said. “Did you know that Diversity Council, for example, is a club? Those are the kinds of things we want to improve our funding upon.”

Diverse religious backgrounds were also a part of this conversation. Patidar suggested a method reminiscent of ConvergeND’s quiz format for pairing up students of different faith backgrounds to engage in productive dialogue.

The Bates-Henry ticket chimed in as well, proposing the national anthem of every country represented in the Notre Dame student body be played before every sports event “at the same time to promote unity on campus.”

When asked how they would address transgender rights on campus, Whittle decisively communicated his ticket’s stance. 

“Hate has no place on this campus,” he said. “We believe that sexual orientation and sexual identity should be added to the University’s non-discrimination clause.”

Ingal agreed with the importance of this addition to the clause, sharing an anecdote about a Notre Dame graduate student who faced discrimination from an academic advisor as a result of her transgender identity.

In response to the next question about sustainability, the Patidar-Patrick ticket shared a specific facet of their platform.

“At Starbucks … people don’t know that only the lid and the cupholder are recyclable and the actual cup is not,” Patidar said. “I don’t see why having an awareness initiative where you put a poster where you throw your trash away that shows what’s recyclable and what’s not … is that hard to do.”

The following question dealt with the inclusion of low-income students in residential and student life.

Dugan explained that as a low-income student himself, he had experienced some of these limitations firsthand. He emphasized a necessary change in compensation for resident assistants and increased communication from the Student Activities Office about student programming jobs.

He also said the Dugan-Garza ticket would reallocate $10,000 in student union funds.

“What we would do with that $10K is give it to the Office of Student Enrichment, which is the office that serves low-income students like myself,” he said.

In regards to gender relations issues, Ingal said it was crucial to take a pre-emptive approach with the gender relations issue on campus.

“Something that’s really important to us is protecting women during the ‘red zone’ which is the first six weeks of a semester,” she said. “That is the time when you’re most likely to see sexual assaults carried out successfully. … One way we want to do that is by amplifying GreeNDot training not only for Welcome Weekend staff but also for people at bars or ushers at football games.”

Dugan provided statistics to support the claim that women need greater access to confidential sexual assault resources on campus.

“Twenty seven percent of women on this campus experience non-consensual sexual contact, and 7% of men do,” he said. “Of those who experience non-consensual sexual contact, 4% are able and 2% wind up reporting. Those are numbers we should not accept.”

The candidates were then asked how Notre Dame should extend its community to the locals of South Bend.

Mercugliano shared his experience with a craft fair that allowed him to connect with local business owners.

“They expressed a lot of interest in both having more craft fairs of the like and small business fairs not only here on campus but in downtown South Bend,” he said. “I think that would be a great way to increase community involvement.”

Rotolo proposed the addition of a community engagement module to the Moreau First Year Experience curriculum.

To round out the debate, the candidates gave their closing statements, where they thanked their campaign teams and summarized the key takeaways from their platforms. 

Hadi reminded the audience that the election would take place Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and students could vote via email or the Judicial Council’s website. She also said there would be a runoff debate Wednesday at the same location and time and runoff elections would take place Thursday.

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