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Boyle, McGuire reflect on ‘unpredictable’ year in office

| Friday, May 15, 2020

As the academic year began with the elimination of campus-wide dorm access and culminated in a global health crisis, senior Elizabeth Boyle and junior Patrick McGuire led the student body through unprecedented changes, victories and losses as student body president and vice president, respectively.

Despite the challenges they faced and the controversies that took place during their term, both Boyle and McGuire expressed deep gratitude for their experience.

“I wanted to go to Notre Dame like my whole life, basically, and I never thought I’d be able to graduate and say that I had the honor the student body president,” Boyle said. “I just felt like I got to know the school in such a more genuine and unique way this year and I’m really grateful to all the students who let [McGuire] and I do that and who entrusted us to do it.”

After a year in office, Boyle and McGuire reflected on their time as leaders, the challenges they faced, and the lessons they learned throughout their time in office.

Inclusivity at work

When Boyle and McGrath decided to run for office, they had a mission of empowering students of all different backgrounds, Boyle said.

“Everyone’s Notre Dame experience actually looks vastly different,” Boyle said. “I think sometimes we come in and you’re expected to fall in love with your dorm, have to double major, graduate in four years, go abroad, have a research position –– and we learned that everyone’s path can look vastly different. So we focused on how we could best serve as a vessel to support students in all of their myriad interests and to make them feel welcome no matter their background.”

To achieve this goal, Boyle and McGuire strived to foster inclusivity within cabinets and departments, and “welcome all voices” into the dialogue.

“I just felt like student government was so different,” Boyle said. “It finally became a place that was so much more open to students, really made an effort to reach out and wasn’t as insular as it was before. We made it a place where it wasn’t scary to walk into the office, and you didn’t feel like you had to have been there and had to be a part of the friend group to be heard and be involved.”

Both Boyle and McGuire counted this change of environment as one of their greatest achievements.

“We’re so proud of have our team for the spirit of inclusion and welcome that they really foster this year,” Boyle said. “I think when you have people at the very top who are buying into that, who are going to be filled with grace, and patience and love, and are not going to take rash actions that are going to think things through that are pouring their full heart and soul into this work and inspires those below them to kind of do the same.”

An ‘unpredictable’ and ‘tiring’ year

When asked to describe the year in one word, Boyle said the year was “unpredictable” while McGuire described it as “tiring.”

“Right before we took office, our advisor’s were like ‘Cool, cool, this was your platform, but everything you thought was going to be the focus of the year is like, going out the window,’” McGuire said. “That’s just the nature of things, like what you expected is never going to be what happens.”

Such unpredictability was especially present during the spring semester because of the pandemic.

“It was difficult because when everything seemed to really be falling apart, everyone was still on spring break all around the world,” Boyle said. “So it was hard to coordinate efforts and …  kind of react to it until everybody got back after spring break.”

Notre Dame’s traditional culture sometimes made it difficult to enact changes, McGuire said.

“It can be really hard to get stuff done at Notre Dame in terms of things that make learning great, like its culture and its cohesiveness,” McGuire said. “I think it can also make things difficult at times –– that applies even to the structure of the student union or the Constitution.”

Despite the trying times they faced, Boyle and McGuire emerged with plenty of lessons. Boyle said serving as student body president taught her about leadership.

“Being a leader, I think means knowing that even when those times are going to be tougher, the unpredictable things are going to come up, it’s kind of on you to carry your team through it and to do it with grace and love,” Boyle said. “So I’ll keep working on that for sure. But I’m really proud of the way that we all did that this year.”

McGuire said his greatest takeaway from his time as vice president was the importance of assuming there are good intentions behind leaders’ actions.

“My biggest lesson is the importance of assuming goodwill and the importance of relationships, because like, whether it’s an administrator or a student leader, no one pours themselves into a role like this if they don’t really care about what they’re doing, the people they’re serving,” McGuire said.

Looking towards the future

Because of the transition to a virtual semester, Boyle and McGuire were unable to see some of their projects come into fruition, like the Back the Bend 2020 –– the day of service in South Bend that was going to be held in April 25 –– and “Civics in Action” –– a dialogue group aiming to foster civic engagement in advance of the presidential debates. However, according to Boyle, the incoming Ingal-Galbenski administration might pick up these initiatives during their term.

“I take a lot of comfort in the fact that they’re going to do a wonderful job and that I think they got a good foundation to start with,” Boyle said.

In regards to the future, Boyle and McGuire said they hoped some of the positive changes they accomplished carry on in the next years, especially the improved relationship between student government and the administration.

“I am really proud of the way that our entire team has worked with the administration this year because our team has been so vigilant of telling the administration that they have to include student voices. And I’ve been really impressed that they’ve listened to those complaints from students. It seems like they are moving in a direction of being better about that,” Boyle said.

McGuire mentioned a change he hopes to see in the future: either paying or giving credit to student leaders. He believes this policy would allow marginalized students to participate in student government.

“Elizabeth and I are in a privileged enough position that we can devote 20 to 30 hours a week to student government, we can afford not to support our families or have a job on the side. But that cuts out a lot of students,” McGuire said. “Student officers are doing it because they care, not because they’re getting paid for it. While it’s something that shows commitment, it does cut people out.”

After reflecting upon tumultuous times, changes and unpredictability, Boyle and McGuire’s wish is to have made a positive mark at Notre Dame.

“I hope when we’re all older and gray and thinking back on the 2019-2020 Student Government administration, you probably won’t remember what we did,” McGuire said. “I might not even remember what we did. But I just hope that people think we cared and we tried to make Notre Dame more inclusive and a more loving place.”

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