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Senate encourages University to speed up surveillance testing

| Friday, August 14, 2020

Student body president and senior Rachel Ingal opened the first student senate meeting of the academic year Wednesday night with a call to action and responsibility for student leaders in the midst of the pandemic.

Alysa Guffey | The Observer
Notre Dame Student Senate gathered in DeBartolo Hall Thursday evening for their weekly Senate meeting, and discussed COVID surveillance testing, additions to the University’s faculty.

“We would really like if you guys could join us on this journey of this interesting semester, … and that includes setting the example,” Ingal said. “Our University has [spent] tireless hours this summer working to make reopening possible, and I think they’ve done a great job, … and we are making it possible to remain here and improve your life every semester.”

Ingal also noted student government is working toward determining how the new Title IX regulations will be implemented on Notre Dame’s campus.

To fill a vacancy on the campus life council, Sarah Galbenski, senior and student body vice president, asked for nominations, and three senators ended up on the ballot. Senior and Dillon Hall senator Mike Dugan won the vote with the majority vote. (Editor’s Note: Dugan is a former Observer news writer and Systems Administrator.)

The election of a committee on the constitution members, whose role will be to overview the student government constitution, was formed during the meeting after speeches from four nominees. Three students — sophomore Dunne Hall senator Michael Murakami, sophomore Johnson Family Hall senator Madison Nemeth and senior Club Coordination Council president Ricardo Pozas Garza — will serve on the committee.

Dugan presented a resolution calling for the University to commit to surveillance testing of COVID-19 that is both regular and random in order to protect the health and safety of the community. Dugan drafted the resolution Sunday before the University announced its plan for surveillance testing on Tuesday. As a result, Dugan inserted an amendment to make a “friendly suggestion” for the COVID-19 Response Unit to have a swifter approach and not wait three to four weeks to begin surveillance testing.

Senators raised questions concerning the effects on everyday life for students who would be waiting on test results and the logistics of testing the entire student body. Dugan said Notre Dame has the financial resources to expand surveillance testing similar to other large American universities, such as Princeton — which stated it would test its students twice a week.

“Nineteen people are [confirmed] infected — with the vast majority that’s from one party — but we saw those infections came out over a period of time. [Notre Dame] said they want to wait and see and be non-committal on even doing something as wide as testing the whole student body … which is recommended by every public health authority on cases of substantial community transition,” Dugan said.

In addition, Dugan said he envisioned large groups of students getting tested instead of the small groups the University has suggested it will require to undergo testing.

When the floor was opened up for debate, Pozas Garza noted that the motion is not demanding an explicit plan for the University to take, but is rather telling the University that students want more testing to prevent a greater outbreak. The resolution subsequently passed.

The student senate then voted on a resolution to affirm and express its support for the addition of Pete Buttigieg to the Notre Dame faculty. Sophomore Keenan senator Henry Jackson drafted the resolution after some faculty members spoke against Buttigieg’s appointment. This opposition is speculated to be homophobic, according to the resolution.

Chair of the Diversity Council and senior Estefan Linares argued in support of the resolution that faculty with ideals opposite of the University need to be present in the academic world of the University. The resolution passed.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said graduate student Esteban Alfaro Salas was chair of the diversity council. The Observer regrets this error. 

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a junior pursuing a major in history with minors in digital marketing and journalism, ethics and democracy. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. She currently serves as the Notre Dame News Editor.

Contact Alysa