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Senate discusses proposals regarding student burnout, pass/no credit grading policy

| Friday, October 30, 2020

The student senate voted on two proposals Thursday night regarding the pursuance of strategies to attempt to alleviate campus burnout and on an order to amend the undergraduate constitution to prohibit student union consumption of forced and prison labor. 

Student body vice president senior Sarah Galbenski started the meeting with a moment of silence and prayer honoring Valeria Espinel and Olivia Laura Rojas, two students who died last week.

Following executive announcements, chair of the Diversity Council senior Estefan Linares and vice chair senior Frankie Tran presented an argument in favor of the Diversity Council gaining recognition as an organization associated with the student union rather than maintaining its status as a club. 

Ryan Peters | The Observer

The student senate gathered Thursday night in their third-to-last meeting of the semester.

Tran and Linares’ argument was focused on the idea that they believe an affiliation with the student union as an organization would help the council better achieve their mission of amplifying the voices of marginalized students. 

“We want to ensure that [marginalized students] have a voice moving forward in the community,” Linares said. 

After the Diversity Council’s presentation, Keough Hall senator sophomore Ben Erhardt read and opened up discussion on Resolution SS 2021-21, a resolution encouraging the pursuance of strategies to help alleviate burnout on campus as a result of the fall semester with no break. 

The resolution proposes having rest days throughout the semester, where students will have no class, exams or homework due. Erhardt also proposed that midterms will be prohibited from being administered during weeks with rest days.

An objection was raised that having designated weeks with no tests may cause exams to be clustered together and thus cause more stress for students. However, Erhardt said the sponsors of the bill came to the consensus that having weeks with no exams is a better alternative than having midterms over a five to six-week stretch.

“So I think [rest weeks] just ensures that everything stays as it is, but everybody also gets a much needed break at some point,” Erhardt said. 

The resolution passed with unanimous support among the senators. 

The next discussion on the agenda was over SO 2021-10, an order to amend the undergraduate constitution to prohibit student union consumption of forced and prison labor. Junior parliamentarian Thomas Davis presented the order and urged the senators to vote against it. He argued that prohibiting offices and departments from purchasing goods that were contributed to or made by forced or prison labor is something that can not be enforced and is not best suited as an amendment to the constitution. 

“I fear that this is one of those good-intentioned amendments that in the long run will only hurt the constitution,” Davis said. 

The senate voted in opposition to the order with 27 senators voting against it.

The final discussion of the meeting was about P2021-02, a petitioned resolution calling for the implementation of an optional pass/no-credit grading system for the 2020 fall semester. 

The petition for the optional pass/no-credit grading system was circulated over the past several days and received 1,364 signatures, according to senior and Judicial Council president Matthew Bisner. The only dissent vocalized during the meeting was that the optional grading system would “water down” a Notre Dame degree. However, co-sponsor senior Michael Dugan responded by saying that universities such as USC, MIT and Stanford have already implemented grading systems to accommodate difficulties students are facing while learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Editor’s Note: Dugan is a former News Writer and Systems Administrator for The Observer.)

After discussion, the petition passed as 30 senators voted in favor of the order, while four voters opposed it and one senator abstained.

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