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Senate confirms new executive cabinet member, discusses ASL resolution

On Wednesday night the Notre Dame student senate met in Montgomery Auditorium to confirm sophomore Quinn Akerman as the director of national relations and political engagement, discuss hall vacancy elections and American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language in undergraduate admissions.

Notre Dame student body president Patrick Lee began the meeting by delivering the State of the Student Union address. Lee discussed how the time between fall break and Christmas break is often the busiest time of the year. He encouraged the senators to continue thinking about what they want to accomplish over break and remind themselves about their commitment and enthusiasm. 

Junior Lane Obringer, director of the Department of Gender Relations-Title IX and Women’s Initiatives, gave an update on the safety after parietals initiative and back-to-school safety. 

She explained that the goal of safety after parietals is for students to not be held responsible for “policy violations in situations where they felt unsafe or discriminated against.” Infographics outlining this initiative have been distributed to hall rectors and posted in all of the dorms. 

After fall break, student government will present a fall version of Take Back the Night. This event will provide students with “a confidential setting to share their experiences with gender and power-based violence on campus, either by speaking in person or via a written proxy,” Obringer said. 

After approving the minutes from last week’s meeting, student body vice president Sofie Stitt moved to general orders.

Lee introduced Akerman, the executive cabinet’s nomination for director of national relations and political engagement. In this role, her duties will include assisting political clubs on campus during midterm elections, working with NDVotes and BridgeND to increase voter registration on campus and organizing events to help students become involved with domestic and global political environments. 

Akerman said one of her goals is to “not only invite South Bend political leaders on campus but also national leaders.” In a unanimous vote, she was confirmed to the position. 

Additionally, the senate passed order SO2223-11, which proposed that hall elections with one candidate running unopposed can be suspended with the candidate declared the winner. 

Jill Maudlin, director of disability advocacy, introduced resolution SS2223-11 calling for Notre Dame undergraduate admissions to recognize ASL as a foreign language that meets the two-year requirement for prospective high school students applying to Notre Dame. 

Maudlin explained that students who take ASL in high school in place of a foreign language can be accepted to Notre Dame if they complete two years’ worth of a foreign language before enrolling.

During questioning, Maudlin said she had not talked to administrators about the proposal yet and was hoping to gain student support before contacting the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CLSC) and undergraduate admissions.  

When the resolution moved to debate, senators were concerned about the ambiguity surrounding the resolution and the lack of a detailed plan. 

“Resolutions are not supposed to be used as a vehicle to get your foot in the door,” Judicial Council president Madison Nemeth said. She suggested that Maudlin talk to administrators first and come up with a more specific plan before bringing the resolution to the senate. 

Nemeth suggested drafting a letter to the University that the senate could pass as one way to approach the issue and try to get more information following conversations with the necessary administrators.

The majority of the senators supported the resolution but wanted more details about the next steps in the process. 

Keough Hall senator Derick Williams supported the resolution. Offering ASL as a foreign language “would provide the equity and inclusion that we seek here at Notre Dame and that’s part of our mission,” Williams said. 

The motion to postpone the resolution failed, but the motion to refer the resolution back to the Department of Disability Advocacy for revisions passed.

The senate held a brief overview of upcoming topics at the end of the meeting. Williams said RecSports will potentially provide free passes as a mental health rejuvenator that will be distributed by the University Counseling Center (UCC).

Sophomore Connor McCloskey gave an update on the dining hall’s plans to add more gluten-free options, and Williams discussed plans to talk with dining hall services about flex point options. 

Contact Caroline at ccolli23@nd.edu