Notre Dame student government leaders Patrick Lee, Sofie Stitt, Nicole Baumann and their directors took office on April 1, 2022. Now, at the end of the second semester in their roles, The Observer spoke to the executive cabinet to get an update on their plans and progress.
Lee and Stitt, the student body president and vice president, respectively, said one surprising outcome of their work is how close the executive cabinet has become.
“[One indicator] of great success to me is just the relationships that we have with our directors and between the directors,” Lee said. “We have a very strong sense of group identity now, we’re all very close. That, to me, has been an unexpected blessing this semester.”
Stitt, agreeing, said their cabinet is a “complete joy” to work with.
Chief of staff Baumann, who works closely with the cabinet, explained that this semester contained more action steps rather than planning.
“Last year in the spring was a lot of the dreaming phase and planning,” she said. “[This semester,] not only have we been able to see a lot of execution of those plans that we thought about back in March of last year, but we’ve also been able to form really good relationships with people in administration.”
Lee compared the cabinet’s movement toward carrying out long-thought plans as putting “rubber to the road” and is confident they will reach 100% completion of the goals outlined in their progress tracker. Currently, 46% of goals have been met, with around 50% of the group’s term now in the rearview mirror.
“A lot of the hardest work in student government is the work that’s behind the scenes: the research, the report writing, the initial meetings that are sometimes uncomfortable on some of the biggest initiatives,” Lee said. “Those are out of the way, and we’re ready to reap the rewards of the really hard work that we’ve done this semester.”
Stitt explained that many goals are right on the precipice of being completed, noting that “Walk the Walk Week” will occur in the first week of the spring 2023 semester. This year’s programming will focus on the theme, “Education, Celebration and Participation” and will feature a service project, multiple panels and a dinner celebration.
The leaders highlighted a few of their cabinet members for exceptional work throughout the semester: Anna Dray, Lane Obringer and Collete Doyle.
Dray, the director of University Policy, has been developing the ND Safe App with police chief Keri Kei Shibata, leading the transition to mobile identification (ID) cards and organizing efforts to upgrade residence hall exercise facilities.
In the aftermath of a series of various allegations surrounding Title IX earlier this semester, director of gender relations – Title IX and women’s initiatives Obringer led with “strength and grace” to come up with practical and supportive solutions, Lee said.
“’I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lee emphasized. “She’s so reliable. She’s so passionate and is always ready, even when she’s feeling stressed, to help others.”
Lee also heralded the leadership of sophomore director of communications Doyle, saying, “The communication efforts of our group will be radically changed, and that is in part due to her organizational capabilities and just unending source of effort.”
When asked about the challenges faced by the student body this semester, such as two student deaths and widespread discussion regarding Title IX, Lee drew a comparison from the University to the broader community.
“Notre Dame is emblematic of the world in a lot of ways, and the struggles that we’re seeing in our society related to Title IX and issues of gender relations as well as a mental health crisis among young people — that’s nationwide, and we have to learn how to cope with those,” Lee said. “I would just say, in those moments of deeper sadness, I’m even more immensely grateful that we are together in a community.”
In terms of challenges within the office, Stitt noted that they chose their cabinet because the students would not give up after the first “No.”
“[Our directors are] going to continually advocate for students and advocate for our campus community. So I would say there have been challenges as we work through a pretty ambitious list of initiatives, but I have been so impressed and in awe of the way that our directors respond,” Stitt explained.
Looking ahead, the three leaders pointed to many initiatives that will take effect next semester, including a collaboration to improve University Health Service communications, a visit from Bishop Robert Barron, a program to bring free menstrual products to all campus restrooms called Code Red, Taste of South Bend, Vocation Fair and many more.
Lee, Stitt and Baumann all re-emphasized how honored they are to serve the student body.
“We are a broken record every time, but it’s just an absolute privilege and a joy for us to serve the student body. If there’s anything we can do, for anybody on campus or in the tri-campus community, please don’t hesitate to reach out,” Stitt said.
She also noted the overall excitement the cabinet has for the end of their terms and for some rest over the break.
“I am honestly, really excited to enter this next semester. We’ve got this spectacular team, and we’ve got a lot of momentum behind us,” Stitt said. “But it’s important for us to remember that our directors and everybody in student government is a student first.”
Review: The Lee-Stitt administration has been clear and straightforward surrounding their platform and plans for the year; however, the cabinet is not forthcoming with barriers and issues they have faced while attempting to accomplish their goals. The administration is making definite strides but has not yet reached full transparency. Additionally, the leaders responded soundly to Title IX allegations raised by alleged victims with both practical and supportive solutions to ease students’ pain and gather suggestions for policy updates to bring to University administrators.
Contact Bella Laufenberg at email@example.com.