Student organizations continue work while away from campus
Emily Hunt | Tuesday, March 24, 2020
As the spread of COVID-19 causes massive social and economic disruption, Notre Dame student organization leaders continue to advocate for students to have a voice, support and access to opportunities.
Incoming Notre Dame student body president and vice president juniors Rachel Ingal and Sarah Galbenski have been working closely with many members of the administration — including the Division of Student Affairs, the Student Activities Office (SAO) and the University Emergency Committee — to determine how internal operations and transitions will proceed for student government and clubs.
Ingal said the priorities of student government have not changed during this time of uncertainty.
“During such a rapidly fluctuating time, the focus so far has been on the most vulnerable students and the wellbeing of the Notre Dame family, as it should be,” Ingal said.
Members of student government are focusing on a different aspect each week to adapt to the evolving needs of students while adjusting to life away from campus, Galbenski said.
“Last week’s focus was health and safety,” she said. “This week’s focus is on academic coursework. Next week or the week after is when extracurriculars are planned to resume.”
These extracurriculars are expected to take place using an online format, Galbenski added.
Due to the international pandemic, the current session of the student senate and the student constitution have been suspended, according to an announcement on the senate website last Saturday. The official transition of swearing in newly elected student government leaders into office was previously scheduled to take place on April 1. This transition is suspended until a senate meeting can virtually take place.
Galbenski said the later transition date does not affect the position appointments.
“Fortunately, we were able to hold our interviews for our executive cabinet the week before spring break and make our final deliberations and decisions over spring break,” Galbenski said. “When extracurriculars resume, the senate and the constitution will be unsuspended. We should then be able to have a meeting, if possible.”
The incumbent student body president, senior Elizabeth Boyle, and vice president, junior Patrick McGuire, will remain in power until the new elects can officially transition.
Ingal said she and Galbenski have been in contact with the administration involving concerns about pass-fail classes, logistics for pro-rates for spring semester room and board charges to student accounts and decisions regarding the Class of 2020.
“We haven’t had super in-depth discussions on how grades or transcripts are going to look yet,” Ingal said. “We have been dealing with the most pressing issues of crisis management right now. We have let our contacts know about the pass-fail petition and Elizabeth [Boyle] and Pat [McGuire] have been echoing those concerns as well. The administration has been handling the situation with a lot of empathy and I would imagine they are going to continue to handle it that way.”
The Club Coordination Council (CCC) — the Student Union organization that oversees, allocates funding for and represents undergraduate student clubs — is also allowing time for students to adjust before announcing plans on how the spring allocation process will proceed digitally.
“Our top priority is for the campus community to be healthy and safe,” incoming CCC president and junior Ricardo Pozas Garza said. “We don’t want to give students another reason to worry while many are still working on finding a safe place to continue their studies.”
More details, including a timeline for due dates, on the spring allocation process will be released after the first week of online classes, Pozas Garza said.
“Thankfully a lot of the process is already digital,” he said. “The CCC Executive Board is working on developing guidelines for how meetings will be conducted.”
Many student clubs and organizations have already informed their members of canceled events originally set to take place after spring break, including a number of Student International Business Council (SIBC) projects, Mock Trial Nationals, Habitat for Humanity builds and the musical production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Additionally, clubs such as the Harper Cancer Research Institute Society, the American Medical Women’s Association and the Asian American Association have already begun moving their respective elections online via Google polls and slides.
The Nancy Kerrigan visit, SUB concert, and advising process for first years in student government to learn how to plan SAO events were also canceled, senior and Student Union Board (SUB) executive director Eric Kim said.
SIBC — the largest student organization on campus, with nearly 1,000 active members — allocates most of its budget to providing students with national and international networking opportunities. Year-round, students research and work on projects to present to partner companies including Microsoft, the “Big Four” accounting firms and Goldman Sachs.
Junior and SIBC president David Torgerson said the new off-campus circumstances will not have a huge impact on student projects this semester.
“Out of the 60 projects, the majority of them will be continuing virtually,” Torgerson said. “A lot of the budget that would’ve been allocated to travel will be reallocated to future semesters.”
Given that one of the primary visions of SIBC is “Peace Through Commerce,” Torgerson and SIBC vice president and junior Jennifer Paul said they remain optimistic about how SIBC is going to continue this vision in light of the crisis.
“There’s even more of a call for peace now,” Paul said. “Business is down, but it will be up again. I think it’s important to maintain those relationships and build our networks. If we lose commitment now, it’s going to be that much harder to get it back up in the future.”
Amidst the uncertainty, Ingal said Notre Dame students have been committed to support and help each other respond to adversity.
“This is a time when we are finding the true strength and resilience of the Notre Dame family,” Ingal said. “It’s something that will continue to grow and hopefully, we just come out stronger on the other end of this.”