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Observer Editorial: The Observer endorses Siegel-Holland

| Tuesday, February 23, 2021

After nearly a week of campaigning, three pairs of students will appear on the online ballot as candidates for Notre Dame student body president and vice president. In this unusual year, election traditions such as the debate and the gathering of petition signatures took a different form. Nonetheless, students will still be presented with the choice between six juniors: Allan Njomo and Matthew Bisner, Max Siegel and Zachary Holland, and Mabry Webb and Jacob Calpey. 

The Observer Editorial Board interviewed all three tickets Sunday. After weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each ticket and their respective ideas, the Board unanimously endorses Siegel-Holland.

Courtesy of Max Siegel
Student body presidential candidate Max Siegel, right, stands with his running mate Zachary Holland, left.

Siegel is a walk-on offensive lineman for the Notre Dame football team and sits on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Holland has experience with student government as a current member of the Junior Class Council and a First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership member during his first year. He also served as co-president of College Democrats. Having garnered much of their leadership experience from areas other than student government, the pair consider themselves “outsiders,” but we believe them to be well-equipped for the jobs.

Their outsider position provides a unique opportunity to include those who are usually not engaged with the student government. The ticket also provides a break from the recent succession of student government insiders holding these top positions. Siegel and Holland present the potential of a new kind of outreach which is promising.

While Njomo and Bisner have connections that might make enacting some of their policy initiatives easier, we believe Siegel and Holland’s newcomer perspective gives them better insight into the student body itself. This is evident in their plan to send the student body monthly newsletters regarding student government’s work and initiatives, as well as with their varying connections with other campus organizations.

Webb and Calpey’s platform includes initiatives to increase financial transparency and deliver an address to the student body about student government activities each semester; however, they provided no other opportunities for students to learn more about their work on an ongoing basis.

Siegel and Holland presented a thorough platform with innovative ideas for increasing club funding by working with the Club Coordination Council to apply for outside grants. The ticket’s commitment to improving the experiences of minority students is reflected in their plan to restructure funding for clubs to ensure smaller cultural clubs aren’t left with small budgets and their plans to increase diversity training for all members of hall staff through the MiNDful program.

Both spoke passionately about the off-campus differentiation policy, and their platform promises to “revisit” it without overestimating the feasibility of changing it. Siegel also spoke of inclusion in the tri-campus community as an effort that should go beyond simply aiming to welcome Gateway students.

Though all three tickets put forward similar platforms — including the addition of a staff member trained through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program to the St. Liam’s staff and a call for more precise COVID-19 data from the University — Siegel and Holland strike the most effective balance between passion for their unique points and practical approaches to enact them. Their platform clearly delineates ideas for Executive Branch policy, which they would have the power to affect directly, and University policy, which they would advocate for with the respective officials.

The Njomo-Bisner ticket presents admirable ideas when it comes to helping first generation and low-income students build community and pay for educational expenses, but the feasibility of such initiatives is questionable. Their objectives — such as expanding the nondiscrimination clause and creating better sexual healthcare options on campus — build on the work of previous student government administrations. Any work they do if elected would likely only lay the groundwork for future administrations. As a result, they come across as activists rather than potential executives who would be able to implement significant policy changes during their year-long term.

Webb and Calpey’s short platform includes practical ideas, such as increased access to recycling and donation bins to make moving in and out of the dorms more sustainable, but included little mention of ways to amplify minority voices, specifically from students of color. After a summer of racial reckoning across the country as well as within the tri-campus, such an oversight is extremely concerning and disappointing. While the two clearly love Notre Dame, the community model they seem to be advocating for is one of the past which only fits a certain type of student and fails to address our diverse campus community.

The endorsement of Siegel and Holland does not come without reservations. Some of their ideas — such as GreeNDot training employees at bars and other off-campus establishments — seem less than feasible. Their proposed use of Speak4ND as a major method of communication with the student body appears to be out of touch with the current usage of the platform, and their desire to create a peer advocacy program for sexual assault survivors raises concerns of confidentiality and comes across as reactionary. A more comprehensive plan for sexual assault prevention will be necessary if the pair takes office.

Regardless, Siegel and Holland hope to bring equity to Notre Dame, and we believe their unique positions throughout campus organizations and their passion for reviving the community will make this possible.

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