Senate alters role of diversity council, grants awards
Katie Werner | Thursday, April 1, 2021
The Notre Dame student senate convened Wednesday evening over Zoom to change the role of Diversity Council (DC), determine the recipients of the 2021 student union awards and confirm three Student Union Board (SUB) positions.
The meeting commenced with an update from chief of staff Aaron Benavides on the Campus Life Council (CLC). The CLC working group slowed proceedings on two resolutions: one voicing concerns about campus policies and calling the CLC to action and another requesting benchmarks in COVID protocols. On April 8, they plan to meet with vice president of student affairs Erin Hoffman Harding to discuss the two resolutions, COVID-19 logistics and the purpose of the CLC.
Then, student body vice president Sarah Galbenski updated the senate on the student advisory group, which plans to discuss how vaccination efforts could impact campus health protocols. Galbenski said the next faculty senate meeting will take place April 6, which may touch on similar topics.
The senate’s only resolution Wednesday requested to establish the DC as a special interest organization. The amendment declares that Notre Dame needs a group “specifically tasked to work on improving the institution where it falls short and, at times, works against the needs of our BIPOC communities.”
Kaya Lawrence, senior director of diversity and inclusion, introduced the resolution by marking the Black Lives Matter movement this summer and dialogue by the Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) as inspiration. Lawrence also noted involvement from black student leaders on campus. These leaders believe a special interest organization is the solution “to figure out how to make the structures more long-lasting and solidify this connection with the administration” to amplify the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) on campus.
Chair of the DC and senior Estefan Linares also detailed the committee’s latest efforts.
“We have empowered more of our marginalized communities,” he said, stressing the action of reaching out to clubs.
Sophomore Daniel Lau, incoming DC executive chair, elaborated upon DC’s role in the community. Lau explained that the DC could act as the “umbrella organization” for BIPOC groups on campus.
“There is a very high need for cooperation of all these organizations together and we really see Diversity Council as being the answer,” he said.
Before voting on the resolution, Benavides noted that they have met with black student leaders in charge of DC and MSPS on new bylaws that promote their ability to be involved in the policy process with important administrators.
“DC has worked tirelessly in conjunction with young leaders on new bylaws that really promote their ability to be involved in the policy process,” he said.
After a brief debate on the resolution, it was unanimously confirmed.
Next, the senate announced four awards: the Frank O’Malley Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Nancy J. Walsh Irish Clover Award— awarded to two recipients — and the Michael J. Palumbo Award. Following debate and a multi-ballot election, the senate named professor of economics Forrest Spence as the O’Malley Award winner.
Afterward, the Student Union Ethics Commission nominated senior class president Sam Cannova for the Palumbo Award. The commission maintained that his four-year commitment as class council president for the Class of 2021 serves as proof of his dedication to the Student Union, which was met with unanimous confirmation.
The newly established Walsh Award is given to either a faculty or staff member and a student. Karen Kennedy, director of student centers, activities and events, was confirmed as the faculty winner. Galbenski, nominated alongside Kennedy in the meeting, was confirmed as the student winner.
After the awards, the senate introduced nominations for multiple positions. First, junior Kate McLaughlin was nominated and unanimously confirmed as SUB executive director. Her leadership in the First-Year SUB (FYSUB), role as lead programmer of Acousticafe and directorship of four committees in SUB distinguished her experience for the position. Next, the student union treasurer nominated two assistant student union treasurers, sophomore Claire Sison and freshman Luke Blazek. They were both unanimously confirmed.
Looking ahead, the senate will address a resolution acknowledging, defining and condemning antisemitism in solidarity with Jewish students.