Student government election tickets gather for final debate
Chelsey Boyle | Wednesday, February 19, 2020
The two remaining teams vying for victory in the student body elections — juniors Rachel Ingal and Sarah Galbenski, and junior Noble Patidar and freshman Connor Patrick — met for the run-off debate in Duncan Student Center on Tuesday night. This was the final chance for the student body to hear from the candidates before Wednesday’s election.
In the debate, candidates spoke to their positions on a wide array of issues important to the study, including Notre Dame’s relationship with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi; bridging the gap between the Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and the LGBTQ+ community; addressing issues of accessibility and disability awareness; improving University Counseling Center (UCC) services; fighting mental health stigma on campus; addressing academic gaps between students; combating sexual assault; and negotiating changes to the off-campus differentiation policy.
Patidar and Patrick said their main goal is to prioritize the well-being and safety of Notre Dame students. Patidar said his team plans to accomplish this by expanding resources for sexual assault prevention, mental health support and disability awareness. The ticket also aims to improve sustainability and increase diversity-related clubs and events.
Ingal and Galbenski said their platform focuses on amplifying student voices. Similar to the Patidar-Patrick ticket, the Ingal-Galbenski ticket said they will prioritize promoting inclusion on campus. Ingal said though their platform is ambitious, the team also aims keep their ideas pragmatic. Increased access to resources for mental health and sexual assault prevention and intervention was also a point of priority for the Ingal-Galbenski ticket.
Both tickets said they plan to take action to change the senior exclusion policy.
The first issue debated was student education on the history of Notre Dame’s founding on Pokagon Band of Potawatomi land. Candidates were asked how they would help foster a positive relationship between the University and the local Potawatomi community.
Both candidates said they have reached out to Native American Student Alliance of Notre Dame to ensure their platforms recognize obstacles Native American students face on campus.
Patidar said he has a sophomore Native American student on his team that helps address these issues at policy meetings. Patrick said the Moreau First Year Experience and other academic programs should incorporate more lessons on Native American historical and cultural connections to Notre Dame. Ingal said she believes the most foundational step moving forward would be to have an acknowledgment in official University documentation of the original and true ownership of the land by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. Both tickets said they would advocate for the creation of a Native American Studies minor.
On the issue of bridging Catholic teachings and LGBTQ+ community, Galbenski said their team will focus on partnering with the Gender Relations Center and push for changing the University’s nondiscrimination clause to include sexual orientation and gender identity — a platform point the Patidar-Patrick ticket said they also share. Both candidates said club funding is crucial for empowering groups like PRISM on campus.
“Everyone on this campus deserves to feel welcome, no matter what their background is,” Patrick said.
When it comes to promoting accessibility on campus, Ingal said having conversations with students with disabilities is paramount. Both tickets said invisible disabilities also needed to be recognized and supported with funding.
All candidates also agreed mental health resources available on campus need more publicity, and these resources should be more immediately available. Each team said they hoped to push for extended UCC hours, for example.
“The more immediate resources students have, the more we can normalize the conversation and destigmatize the issues surrounding mental health,” Ingal said.
To address the academic gap between students who come from underfunded high schools and students who come from privileged high schools, Galbenski said she stood in solidarity with DACA students to have their voices heard on campus and protect their status as members of the Notre Dame community. Patidar said his connections to the Reilly Spring Visit Program have allowed him to see Notre Dame’s efforts to bring in more students of low socioeconomic status.
The vice presidential candidates outlined how they would use the student senate to be a greater force for change.
“We believe that a student union should present a united front, not fragmentation,” Galbenski said. “If elected, we would create a platform where members of the senate and members of the executive cabinet could communicate and bounce ideas off of one another.”
Patrick said senators should be available to their constituents.
“Being present is a key pillar of our platform and having the student body vice president and all the senators be present in their communities is extremely important for people to be able to talk to them,” he said.
Both Galbenski and Patrick said there needed to be an increased awareness of the senate’s work.
On reducing sexual violence, Patidar said his team wants to bring on a permanent Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner to campus and offer self-defense classes at no charge.
“Sexual assault is probably the most important piece on all the remaining platforms,” he said.
Ingal said she wants to implement technology to assist sexual assault reporting and include more women in Campus Ministry confidentiality programs.