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viewpoint

Thank you, Notre Dame

| Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Back in February 2020, we were elected on a promise to accompany and advocate for all students and to amplify their voices. 

Just a few weeks later, in the now-notorious month of March 2020, Notre Dame brought all students home from study abroad and asked all students living on campus to not return following spring break — and the world as we knew it changed.

When we ran for office, we had great ambitions and a vivid vision for improving life on campus — plans to reverse the restrictive dorm access policy, create partnerships with ride-sharing platforms for students and enact large-scale campus programming surrounding events such as the scheduled 2020 presidential debate. However, we were soon attending classes virtually, each of us pinpointing a different spot on a global map, and our hopes and dreams for our life in community here at Notre Dame began to feel obsolete. 

We quickly realized that leadership is not about what you want; rather, it is about what your community needs. Within our first week in office, we pivoted to advocating for the University to house international students who could no longer leave the country, to provide students without reliable internet connection a prepaid hotspot to get them through a semester of Zoom classes and to support students whose basic needs were not met in their typical home environments. While we had to jettison a lot of our initial plans, we adopted a mindset of flexibility and resilience early on, which has proven to be a blessing. 

Although our time in office has been nothing like we anticipated, the opportunity that you all gave us to serve in these offices has given us more than we could have imagined. We count all the conversations that we have been able to have with students on a daily basis as blessings, and we have been deeply moved by the vulnerability, strength and courage that many of you have demonstrated when sharing your stories. Over the course of our term, we have learned from passionate club representatives who strive to make Notre Dame more accessible and welcoming, dedicated public servants who give of themselves to community efforts and partnerships and student leaders who provide rallying cries to their constituencies at a moment’s notice. 

Our community has energized us throughout this entire journey, and we have been especially grateful for the hard work of our executive cabinet members as they made great strides in the name of justice and progress. Thanks to an inimitable team of brilliant minds and bold hearts, we were able to stand with survivors of sexual assault by influencing Notre Dame’s new Title IX policies and procedures, provide anti-racism programming through Race Relations Week, attend to student mental health by successfully advocating for break days during the spring semester and providing care packages to students in Q&I, prioritize sustainability in the dining halls by distributing reusable cutlery, enhance structural representation by working with student leaders to elevate the status of Diversity Council and PrismND on campus bodies and foster civic engagement and voter education. Every day, we were inspired by their unbridled optimism for what Notre Dame could be and their dedication to see that vision through, despite the unique challenges that this year presented. 

As our term concludes and we approach a time of reflection, we know that we will have the chance to unpack this rollercoaster of a ride further and reflect on our moments of pride, as well as what we could have done differently. Although imperfect, we hope you know that we genuinely gave this public service our all. 

We will welcome this opportunity for retrospection, extremely comforted by the full faith we have that our successors will be dedicated servant leaders for the student body. Allan, Matthew and Alix have a sense of compassion that permeates all they do, and we know them each to be great forces for good. We are excited to support them from the sidelines and celebrate their victories.

Additionally, we are heartened by the wonderful news that on-campus vaccination for students will begin tomorrow. Through our service on the Student Advisory Group for Campus Reopening, we have been involved in important discussions regarding the restoration of certain aspects of our communal life if 90% of our student body makes the decision to protect themselves and our community by getting vaccinated. We highly encourage you all to take this opportunity for the good of our community, and especially for the most vulnerable members within it.

History certainly has had its eyes on us over this past year, and as we begin to take the first steps towards a new normal, let us remember the most important lessons that we have learned from this time: lessons to be more compassionate in our daily interactions with one another, and lessons to put the common good at the forefront of everything we do. The light at the end of the tunnel draws nearer with each passing day, and we look forward to a full reunion with our beloved community at the end of it. 

But most importantly, we want to thank you all for the opportunity and honor of serving you in what has been quite the unprecedented time. You have been generous with your perspectives and abundant with your kindness, and the grace that you showed us as we embarked on a learning curve did not go unnoticed. Throughout the whirlwind of it all, you helped us stay grounded in why we were HERE. There is no student body we could have been more proud to represent. 

Keep fighting the good fight.

In Notre Dame,

Rachel Ingal

student body president 

Sarah Galbenski

student body vice president

Aaron Benavides,

chief of staff

April 6

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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