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Senate meeting discusses new changes with Campus Dining leadership, tackles internal tensions over social justice, considers replacing Executive Programming Board

| Friday, September 18, 2020

The Notre Dame student senate convened Thursday evening to hear from Campus Dining leadership about sustainability initiatives, menu enhancements and service format in Campus Dining operations this semester. Senior Rachel Ingal, student body president, also addressed internal tensions that came to a head with a Letter to the Editor, which criticized Student Government’s response to social justice issues.

Senators also voted to pass an order regarding allocation of funds from the COVID-19 Response Financial Account and tabled an order to replace the Executive Programming Board with an Executive Committee.

The meeting began with a presentation by Chris Abayasinghe, senior director of Campus Dining, Cheryl Bauer, director of Sourcing and Sustainability and Luigi Alberganti, director of student dining. Abayasinghe said Campus Dining has had to make many changes to adapt to public health regulations as well as students’ concerns.

“This truly has been probably the most flexible and most pivoting of times,” he said.

Some adjustments they have had to make focus on the disposable nature of containers, plastic bags and cutlery — all essential, nonetheless, to the take out format necessitated by the pandemic.

Bauer announced a switch from compostable take out containers to mineral-filled polypropylene, which retain heat better, are sturdier and are manufactured in Minnesota.

Campus Dining will also stop offering plastic bags Sept. 22 and single-use cutlery later on. They will sell BeeGreen reusable bags at Huddle Mart and the dining halls, and will give each student two stainless steel cutlery kits beginning Sept. 28. Student Government held a reusable cutlery giveaway Sept. 9  during which they distributed around 500 kits to students, junior Jackson Oxler, a member of the Department of Student Life and the Department of Sustainability, told The Observer.

“It’s much easier to cut stainless versus the plastic and in these new containers, you are going to be able to cut inside of them … So it seems like a win-win all the way around,” Bauer said.

Since COVID-19 regulations do not allow for drink refills, the single-use cups will still be used, according to Abayasinghe.

“Over time, what we’re seeking is an actual replacement for the vessel itself,” he said.

Other changes to dining operations include hiring more staff to serve students over 29,000 meals a day, according to Alberganti. Staff is also now serving food directly into the containers as students file past in line. Abayasinghe noted that new desserts have been introduced to the menu, such as red velvet cake, apple pie and Boston cream pie.

After Campus Dining leadership’s presentation, senior Sarah Galbenski, student body vice president and chair of the student senate, opened with an executive announcement. She updated her peers on the first meeting of the University Committee on Women Faculty and Students (UCWFS) Thursday, which dealt with the new Title IX policies. The next meeting, she said, will take place Oct. 21 and focus on campus climate ahead of the November general election.

After Galbenski’s announcement, Ingal referred to the aforementioned Letter to the Editor published in The Observer Thursday. Dillon Hall student leaders submitted the letter ahead of the meeting, asking for a more forceful, actionable response from Student Government in addressing private prison labor.

After a student-led virtual strike for racial justice Aug. 31, the Student Senate passed order SS 2021-16, asking the University administration to continue engaging in dialogue with student organizations committed to racial justice and anti-racism. Senior Dillon Hall senator and one of the letter’s authors, Mike Dugan criticized the resolution.

(Editor’s Note: Dugan is a former Observer news writer and Systems Administrator.)

“Rather than taking a firm stance on specific issues of racial injustice that pertain to our campus community, however, the Senate simply voted to encourage administrators to continue to talk with students,” Dugan and other Dillon student leaders said in the letter. “We believe that the Senate could have and should have taken a stronger stance.”

Specifically, the Dillon residents criticized Galbenski’s decision, as chair of the student senate, to not include a Senate Order in the agenda for the senate meeting.

Dugan and senior Ricardo Pozas Garza, Club Coordination Council president, had drafted said order “to ensure that Student Union Organizations, and groups that receive funding from the Student Union, divest from companies that use prison labor and/or forced labor in order to obtain profit.”

The letter’s authors also found fault with the rejection of their order, as they compared its contents with the other items in Thursday’s agenda.

“None of these priorities carry the moral weight or urgency associated with ensuring that money collected from students in a mandatory fee is not spent in a socially irresponsible manner nor invested into companies that directly profit from human rights abuses,” they wrote.

In her executive announcement at the senate meeting, Ingal vouched for Galbenski. She listed reasons why she had asked her to be student body vice president and the ways in which she said Galbenski has shown a commitment to racial justice and the student senate.

The senate had received five resolutions this week, three of which carried over from the previous week. The two new resolutions could therefore not be included in Thursday’s agenda, Ingal said, and Galbenski reached out to the authors to explain why.

While there is not a deadline requirement included in the senate bylaws, Galbenski has prepared a document with frequently asked questions for senators, in which she writes that, in order to be considered as “new business” in the week’s agenda, a piece of legislation must be submitted by Sunday. But Dugan and Pozas Garza’s order was not submitted until Monday, Galbenski told The Observer.

“By no means did she deny debate time to a bill she didn’t support or refuse to hear this piece of legislation,” Ingal added.

Chief of staff Aaron Benavides also spoke, characterizing the letter as “unbecoming of any member of the Student Union.” He cautioned against personal attacks, which he said might “distract us from the essential work that we must undertake.”

(Editor’s Note: Benavides is a former Observer news writer.)

Ten senators wrote a Letter to the Editor published Friday in response to the Dillon students’ letter, expressing their support for Galbenski and explaining the situation from their perspective.

After the executive announcements, Benavides read an order presented by senior Grace Stephenson, Student Union treasurer and chairwoman of the Financial Management Board (FMB). Order SO 2021-07 would make $10,000 available from the Student Union COVID-19 Response Financial Account for allocation to Student Union organizations and special interest groups who apply. The order passed.

The second order in the agenda was read over Zoom by senior Tiffany Pages-Sanchez, Judicial Council vice president of peer advocacy, on behalf of junior Matthew Bisner, Judicial Council president. Bisner authored the document but was not present for most of the meeting. The order, which passed, effectively made Audrey Feldman and Thomas Krapfl the First-Year Class Council Representatives for their respective dorms, Cavanaugh and Dunne Hall, since only one candidate had been received by the Judicial Council for both residence halls.

Benavides then read SO 2021-09. The order proposed an amendment to the Constitution of the Undergraduate Student Body replacing the Executive Programming Board (EPB) with the Executive Committee. Per the order, the committee would “serve as a forum for the executive officers of the Student Union branches to communicate and collaborate on policy, programming, and other issues relevant to the Student Body and Student Union.”

“Over the past several years, EPB has really lacked a focus or a purpose or any signs of duty,” Benavides said. “Nothing was really ever accomplished. We see that this group accomplishes more of what EPB was supposed to do, but it never really got off the ground.”

During debate time, junior Thomas Davis II, Student Union parliamentarian, asked that the senate send the order to the Committee on the Constitution first, so they could approve the amendment. The order was ultimately tabled and referred to said committee.

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About Adriana Perez

Adriana is a junior from Guayaquil, Ecuador majoring in Political Science and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Sustainability. You can find her on Twitter @adrianamperezr.

Contact Adriana