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Senate rejects residence hall endorsement resolution, passes proposal to increase off-campus representation

| Thursday, March 31, 2022

The 2021-2022 senate convened for their final meeting Wednesday night, with senators pushing for amendments on residence hall endorsements and off-campus student representation.

To start the meeting, student body president Allan Njomo delivered his final State of the Student Union speech — highlighting the accomplishments of the Union during his term while stressing that there is still much more to be done.

Among the highs of his term, Njomo recognized the student push for the University’s first full observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the implementation of the Callisto sexual assault reporting service and renewed calls for the University’s divestment from fossils fuels.

Njomo described his term as rewarding but nonetheless challenging. He noted especially the sense of hope when he started his term as vaccines were rolling out.

“We’re still very grateful that we have some sense of normalcy this year despite the hardship that we still faced,” Njomo said.

Notre Dame student senate meets Alysa Guffey | The Observer
The 2021-2022 Notre Dame student senate met for its last meeting of the term Wednesday night.

The main debate of the evening centered on a resolution calling for guidelines and regulations for residence hall endorsements in the student government president and vice president election.

The resolution would require hall presidents and vice presidents to poll their dorm residents through a Google Form and receive at least a 20% participation rate with a plurality of votes to make an endorsement.

Prior to the meeting, the committee on the Constitution suggested rejecting the proposal after discussion among committee members, parliamentarian Madison Nemeth said. The committee’s notes surrounded feasibility and accountability concerns.

Co-author Martha Castellini, Walsh Hall senator, said the resolution was necessary because the Constitution currently “neither forbids residence hall endorsements, nor does it provide guidelines for them.” She also argued that residence hall assignments are random for undergraduate students, and their sense of belonging can be jeopardized by nonuniform hall endorsements.

In questioning, Knott Hall senator Abraham Figueroa asked how the 20% metric was decided. Castellini said she and the other authors discussed a 50% participation rate but lowered it to 20% after considering that the total turnout for the 2022 election was only 56%.

Figueroa followed up by questioning why the hall president and vice president cannot make the endorsement themselves, given that they are elected by their constituents within the dorm. Castellini responded that the main considerations when voting for a hall president include programming and likeability in a dorm.

Co-author and Farley Hall senator Annika Barron added that hall president elections occur almost a full year before student body elections, meaning the members of a hall may not be thinking that far out when voting for their leaders.

In debate, Hall Presidents Council (HPC) co-chair Caroline Cameron said hall presidents have significant influence over first-year and sophomore voting opinion within their dorms. However, she stated there would be “no way to enforce” the proposed resolution.

Breen-Phillips Hall senator Faith Woods argued in support of the resolution, emphasizing hall government’s influence given that not everyone will do outside research on the candidates.

Figueroa argued that the resolution would be an overreach of the senate into HPC matters.

The resolution ultimately failed in voting.

The other hot topic of the night was off-campus representation in the senate. Currently, there are only two voting members of the senate representing off-campus students — the off-campus council president and the off-campus senator. SO 2122-10B, a resolution presented by off-campus president Thomas Davis, called for the addition of two more off-campus senators and the recognition of off-campus council vice president as a voting member — which would bring the off-campus voting members to five.

Roughly 22% of the student body resides off campus, but they are represented by only 6% of the senate, Davis said. The largest residence hall, McGlinn Hall, has one senator for 272 students while the off-campus community has one senator for roughly 1,600 students, according to the resolution.

Senior Class Council president Timothy Gallagher questioned why the vice president of the council would be given voting privileges as opposed to adding four senators, given that no other class council vice presidents have voting privileges.

Davis responded that the vice president would be a guaranteed spot where someone was elected, whereas there may not be as much interest for four senator positions.

Sophomore Class Council president Paul Stoller raised concerns over possible attendance issues, as the senate has struggled to meet quorum recently. The senate quorum requires two-thirds of voting members to be present.

After debate, the resolution unanimously passed.

The senate also heard a resolution calling for Notre Dame to participate in the Energy Star Higher Education Benchmarking Initiative. The resolution unanimously passed.

To close the meeting, the senate approved the nominations of ​​Hannah Blaskiewicz and Henrique Raposo to serve as Student Union assistant treasurers.

The 2022-2023 senate will convene for its first meeting next Wednesday.

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About Alysa Guffey

Alysa is a senior and served as Editor-in-Chief for the 2022-23 term. She is pursuing a major in history with minors in digital marketing and journalism. While she calls Breen-Phillips her home on campus, she is originally from Indianapolis. Follow her on Twitter: @AlysaGuffeyNews

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