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Senate passes resolution to define antisemitism in final meeting of 2020-2021 term

| Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Notre Dame student senate gathered in Jordan Hall Wednesday night for the final meeting of the 2020-2021 board. During the meeting, the senate passed two resolutions and heard the State of the Student Union Address given by senior and student body president Rachel Ingal.

To commence the meeting, student government chief of staff and senior Aaron Benavides delivered announcements regarding the student advisory group and the Campus Life Council (CLC).

On Thursday, the student advisory group met to discuss details of the email students received Monday, April 5 regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. The group suggested plans for a University vaccination dashboard to display updates on the number of vaccinated students. Benavides also reminded the senate that the University will continue to work on logistics for the summer and fall, but all students must be vaccinated by the fall semester.

Next, Benavides discussed the CLC meeting, in which students were joined by vice president of student affairs Erin Hoffman Harding and vice president for campus safety and event management Mike Seamon. Within the meeting, they reviewed two resolutions about COVID-19 logistics and vaccinations as well as the vaccination dashboard. Next week, the CLC will discuss its future structure.

On the topic of the first resolution to address antisemitism, co-sponsor and sophomore Siegfried Hall senator Miles Kelley yielded his time for sophomore and secretary of the Jewish Club Blake Ziegler to speak. Ziegler authored and presented the resolution to represent the Jewish Club. Before discussing the text, Ziegler offered gratitude for the student government’s response to an anti-Semitic Zoom bombing — when people randomly joined the meeting and displayed swastikas — during a virtual Anti-Semitism Awareness Week presentation Tuesday.

(Editor’s Note: Ziegler is a current Viewpoint columnist at The Observer.)

Katie Werner | The Observer
Sophomore Blake Ziegler advocates on behalf of the Jewish club to advise the senate to adopt a different definition of antisemitism in order to address discrimination on campus.

Then, he advised the senate to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. This definition, as well as the resolution in full, seeks to acknowledge, define and condemn antisemitism in solidarity with Jewish students on campus.

“To fight anti-Semitism, you have to define it,” Ziegler said.

He stated that the purpose of the definition is twofold: “to provide an educational tool for organizations to use to address antisemitism when it arises” and “for data collection” to classify hate crimes.

In response to Ziegler’s advocacy for the resolution, sophomore Johnson Family Hall senator and co-sponsor of the resolution Eliza Smith expressed encouragement for the future of non-Catholic students on campus.

“I believe this can be infused more towards a better and brighter future for those who want to attend Notre Dame who may be frightened or second-guessing their decision,” she said.

The resolution passed unanimously. If the Notre Dame administration officially adopts the definition, it would be the first Catholic university in the U.S. to do so.

Next, the senate introduced a resolution to suspend the Cavanaugh Hall senate election as first-year Miranda Colon ran unopposed. Since the Cavanaugh Hall election occurred late, Colon was not confirmed at the previous meeting. The resolution passed unanimously, and Colon will attend the following meeting.

After the two resolutions, Ingal delivered her final State of the Student Union Address. She asserted that despite the pandemic, the senate has pivoted to the student body’s unanticipated and unique needs.

“We quickly realized that leadership is not about what you want; rather, it is about what your community needs,” she said.

Ingal also named many of the senate’s successes, including influencing Notre Dame’s new Title IX policies and procedures, providing anti-racism programming during Race Relations Week and prioritizing sustainability in the dining halls. To conclude, she commended her successors — incoming president Allan Njomo and vice president Matthew Bisner. She also encouraged students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Benavides then offered his remarks on his past years in student government, urging students they should “be proud of the work that [they] have done this year,” know their work is important and “always seek to find uniting belief or understanding” to do their best for the student body.

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