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Senate explores fall procedures with campus staff, elects Campus Life Council

| Friday, May 7, 2021

Thursday evening, the student senate convened in Debartolo Hall for its last meeting of the semester. Members of the student government delivered updates on various meetings and elected two students to the Campus Life Council (CLC).

Katie Werner | The Observer
Students delivered speeches to be elected to the Campus Life Council

First, director of student centers, activities and events Karen Kennedy announced a thank you notes drive for National Nurses Week (May 6-12). During the meeting, senators were digitally distributed a Google form. Form submissions will be delivered as physical note cards to staff members at either University Health Services (UHS), the Testing Center or Contact Tracing Team.

Student body president junior Allan Njomo next delivered a student and faculty Voice Summit update. Njomo said the meeting was successful.

“We really got to engage with faculty, different professors, department heads, deans […] to discuss how we can learn from the pandemic and this school year,” he said.

During the summer, Njomo and other members of student government will compile information from students of different majors and present it to the department head, the dean, the provost and the senate.

After Njomo’s update, student body vice president junior Mathew Bisner gave an update on the Student Advisory Group for Campus Reopening. Given the hopeful turnout at the second vaccination clinic, protocols for the upcoming fall will significantly relax. When moving out of dorms this spring, COVID-19 exit testing will not be required, but the university will provide testing if requested. Regarding commencement, four tickets will be given to each graduating senior. 

During the summer, the University will engage in experimentation to prepare for the fall. This experimentation will occur in labs, ten residence halls and public buildings (student centers and dining halls). Masks will likely be required indoors. 

In the fall, class times and classrooms will function as normal, and dining halls will be nearly back to normal, with 15% of tables having plexiglass for student comfort. The fitness centers are the greatest places of uncertainty. Looking ahead, the student advisory group has meetings planned over the summer to receive updates on these experiments.

Next, Bisner provided an update on the faculty senate, which occurred May 4. He and freshman Dane Sherman are representatives who drafted a resolution at the committee meeting prior to the senate meeting. This resolution calls for the senate and the Campus Life Council (CLC) to extend the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day from a half day to a full day.

Ultimately, the resolution was postponed, but Bisner said, “I was excited to see the amount of support we did have.”

In the future, the faculty senate will discuss concerns regarding first year students overloading their courses from 17 to over 20 credits.

Njomo and members of student government also met with Father John Jenkins early last week. They are currently waiting for an update from the Trustee Task Force on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, established August 2020; however, they succeeded in obtaining representation on the ND forum.

Since vice president of student affairs Erin Hoffman Harding announced her resignation, Njomo sought to have input on the hiring process of the next vice president.

Although at this stage, student government “cannot tangibly be involved in the interview process,” they were given an opportunity to write a letter describing their ideal candidate. In the letter, students emphasized their desire to be involved in the University’s decision making process.

Jenkins responded, “I can assure you that whatever we do, the new Vice President will be committed to seek student input, particularly students of color and LGBTQ students.”

Following Njomo’s update, chief of staff junior Alix Basden discussed a police relations meeting between students and staff of the Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD). Last Monday, Chief Keri Kei Shibata of the NDPD and several of her colleagues asserted that students should bring any concerns to the attention of NDPD, and they hope to have more collaboration and transparency with students going forward. 

Next Thursday, students will meet with the South Bend Police Department, NDPD, Indiana State Excise Police, Harding and vice president for campus safety and University operations, Mike Seamon.

Students plan to report back on “their understanding of how Notre Dame can be good, safe, and friendly neighbors to the entire community,” Basden said.

During the summer, Basden and other members of student government will strategize social media outreach with the University Health Services (UHS). The UHS hopes to disseminate information on general sexual health resources and advocate for students to get the HPV vaccination.

After Basden’s updates, the senate elected two senators (one male and one female) to the CLC.

Bisner said, “The CLC is well connected to administrators, and they’d like to have student representation.”

First-year senator for Breen-Phillips Hall Faith Woods was elected as the female representative. She focused her speech on the need to increase equitability and accessibility for minority students on campus.

Woods asserted, “I am incredibly passionate about making this campus as diverse and inclusive as humanly possible.”

Junior Benjamin Erdhart was also elected. He highlighted his experience sitting on the CLC and as “one of the spearheading forces behind our own internal review and our internal resolution for last term.” 

Following the election, the senate addressed an amendment to the undergraduate student body constitution to lengthen the procedural requirements for petitions to be considered in the senate. This amendment passed unanimously, and the senate concluded the meeting shortly afterwards.

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