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Student government candidates discuss diversity, inclusion initiatives

| Thursday, February 6, 2020

Diversity Council hosted its fourth-annual student government election debate on Wednesday evening in DeBartolo Hall. The debate asked the candidates to address issues of diversity and inclusion on Notre Dame’s campus. 

Claire Rafford | The Observer

A student government election debate was held on Wednesday evening in DeBartolo Hall. The event provided candidates the opportunity to share their plans for addressing diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame.

The candidates running for student body president and vice president this year are junior Noble Patidar and freshman Connor Patrick, junior Connor Whittle and sophomore Jack Rotolo; junior Zachary Mercugliano and freshman Gavriella Lund, freshmen Henry Bates and Thomas Henry, juniors Michael Dugan and Ricardo Pozas Garza and juniors Rachel Ingal and Sarah Galbenski.

The Bates-Henry ticket was not present at the debate. 

(Editor’s note: Dugan is a former systems administrator and news writer for The Observer)

Senior and Diversity Council chair Tiffany Rojas moderated the debate and asked the candidates how they plan to create diversity in participation in organizations like student senate.   

Galbenski said that in addition to promoting multicultural events in administration, she plans to work on allocating funding to create a multicultural center at Notre Dame. 

“This is something a lot of our peer institutions have,” she said. “It’s really a place where people of diverse backgrounds to come together and celebrate what makes them, them. And so we really want to start that dialogue.”

Dugan said his ticket would focus on providing increased club funding to multicultural groups.

“We plan to increase club funding by $95,000,” he said. “We want to promote organic, you know, grassroots creation of these events and initiatives and facilitate them at a higher level and bring it to the whole campus community.”

Patidar said the Patidar-Patrick ticket would focus on implementing diversity training for students involved in leadership positions on campus. 

“It should be for student union leaders,” Patidar said. “It should be for … all Welcome Weekend ambassadors and … it should be for anybody else at a high-up position, in my opinion. Hall staff — make the RAs train with diversity.”

Whittle said their campaign believes that diversity starts in the dorm communities and that his ticket is advocating for greater diversity among Resident Assistants and hall staff.

“When students first come to campus, they really self-select into their own groups,” he said. “And if they feel like they are represented by hall leadership, they’re probably more likely to engage in leadership down the road in hall government, in student senate. And so we’re calling for residential life to really up their recruiting strategy.”

Mercugliano said that should he be elected, his team would work to personally attend as many multicultural events as possible. 

“One of the things that I think we’ve all witnessed here is that a lot of clubs at Notre Dame, actually, a lot of a lot of groups in general, right, the majority voice gets heard first, it’s just the loudest,” Mercugliano said. “And you really, you really have to shout loud … just to be heard if you’re down at the bottom.”

Rojas asked the candidates a question about the 2020 debate elections how their campaign plans to improve political discourse on campus and welcome opposing views.  

Ingal said she would partner with BridgeND to host events to improve dissenting political discourse on campus leading up to the elections.

“Before we really get into the height of the election, amplifying and elevating these types of programs and working with these clubs and people of all political ideologies and backgrounds just so we can mitigate any tensions that might arise,” Ingal said.

In addition to partnering with BridgeND, Whittle said the Whittle-Rotolo ticket would implement an event called Share Your Story Week, where video booths would be placed across campus to help students share their unique life experiences.

“It’s a great way for students to record themselves and then these videos [will] be shared with the student body so that we have a greater understanding of what makes each of us here unique,” he said.

Patidar said that partnering with Converge — an initiative that pairs students with differing political beliefs together to have a conversation over a meal or coffee — is one of the best ways to facilitate discourse on campus. 

“That is actually what I believe to be the most practical way to set up organic conversations with individuals,” he said.

Dugan said that working with clubs to facilitate discussions about important issues facing people, especially during elections years, is a priority for the Dugan-Pozas Garza ticket.

“What student government can do is raise issues of human dignity, raise issues of human rights, because at a fundamental level, what our government is going to be doing something that is supposed to be good for all of us,” he said. “These are things that I think student government can really do well, but you can’t do it alone. We have to work with the clubs.”

Mercugliano said the most important tenet of creating a conversation about politics on campus is committing to civil discourse and putting people first.

“I mean, the very fact of us all sitting here means we’re committed to the idea of civil discourse on all fronts,” he said. “And so that means you have to make sure, each and every one of us here at Notre Dame, to look out for the people. Every single one of us does that.”

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

Contact Claire