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Student government candidates discuss parietals, student life at debate

| Monday, February 10, 2020

With the student government elections this week, the Notre Dame chapter of the Knights of Columbus hosted a student government election debate Sunday evening in the Carey Auditorium in Hesburgh Library. The candidates discussed the parietals policy, areas for improvement in student government, the role of Catholicism at Notre Dame, student life and sexual assault prevention. 

The candidates running for student body president and vice president respectively this year include 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.

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

Max Lander | The Observer

Pictured From left to right, senior Mark Spretnjak, junior Connor Whittle, junior Noble Patidar, sophomore Sam Delmer, junior Michael Dugan, junior Rachel Ingal, and junior Zachary Mercugliano all pose with Knights of Columbus flag after a student government debate on Sunday, Feb. 9.

Each candidate was given approximately a minute to answer each of the five questions posed as well as a minute and a half for an opening and closing statements.

Candidates were asked to share their stance on the Universities parietals policy, specifically in light of growing concern over the policy voiced by student protests in Stanford Hall and Sorin College fall semester.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

Generally, candidates called for education about parietals amnesty and the need to foster open, meaningful and civil dialogues regarding parietals.

“Given that parietals are going to stay at the university, at least in the short term, parietals amnesty is something that should be very clearly known from the first week that kids get here,” Patidar said.

Mercugliano said that while he and his campaign welcome discussion about subjects such as the parietals policy, he criticized the form the protests Stanford and Sorin took last semester.

“In Stanford and Sorin it was done in such a way that was disruptive to the life of that dorm,” Mercugliano said. “We would prefer to see discussions like that pursued in a more civil manner.”

Ingal said that the need for having dialogues about issues like parietals on campus was essential, and she highlighted the need for education on parietals amnesty, specifically during welcome weekend.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

“[Parietals amnesty] is something that we would like to have mandatorily implemented in welcome weekend so that people are aware that parietals amnesty exists,” Ingal said. “Especially during the ‘red-zone,’ a time at the first six weeks of the semester where first-year women are susceptible to being sexually assaulted.”

Dugan also said that parietal amnesty was very important but raised the possibility of altering parietals slightly.

“I think the question itself is what is parietals, what is its purpose and how should that interact with the Notre Dame community,” Dugan said. “I think there are actually a number of ways you can actually revise parietals within what the board is willing to do.”

Whittle said that he agreed that key to the issue of parietals was better education about parietals amnesty but also said that civil dialogue was essential for assessing the root cause of issues with parietals as a policy.

“Overall, these movements stem from a much broader issue on campus that needs to be handled and need a student government that‘s going to lead them in having civil discussions on this campus,” Whittle said.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

Candidates were also asked to share areas in which they thought student government could improve, as well as ways they planned to make such improvements happen.

Overall, candidates highlighted transparency, communication and representation as some areas where student government could be better.

Mercugliano said that greater transparency was needed around student government and student government funding. He also said that he planned to make himself available to leaders of small and newly formed clubs on campus in order to keep them informed.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

“I believe in releasing frequent reports, so that the student body can follow along if they wish with what‘s happening in student government,” Mercugliano said. 

Ingal said that it was important for student government to mediate and represent the student body to those in power and that a greater effort should be made to make student government present in places like student dorms.

“I think the way that Sarah and I have envisioned it is acting as a liaison between the people and power, so we understand student government is presented a lot of resources and what we want to do is disseminate that and really empower students,” Ingal said. “The idea is not only making yourself available within your space but going out of your space to halls, not just being in the office.”

Dugan said that the two main ways that student government could improve were by fostering better communication with the student body, citing the need for redundancy in roles like director of communications, and reducing the budget to provide greater club funding as a way to empower the student body.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

“Student government continues to prioritize its own initiatives and own funding at the expense of student clubs,” Dugan said. “The fact of the matter is this, more people are involved in clubs than experience the direct impact of student governments programming side.”

Whittle said that he thought student government could do a better job working with rectors and hall leadership to ensure that all students feel integrated into and represented in the Notre Dame community in the first month or so students are on campus. Specifically, he mentioned working to promote greater diversity in hall resident assistants to accomplish this.

“We need to make sure students feel like they are represented within hall leadership and feel like they are going to be integrated and an influential part of the overall Notre Dame community,” Whittle said.

Lina Domenella | The Observer

Patidar also focused on greater inclusivity and communication between hall residents and student government officials. He said he would promote a greater degree of communication between the two.

“Connor and I plan to visit each dorm once a semester. It’d be a very rare occurrence but it would be enough where you could go to each hall, update them on policy initiatives and ask them for survey data, like what they think about x, y, or z,” Patidar said.

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