Senate nixes elections for SUB representatives, solidifies election reimbursement

The Notre Dame student senate convened Wednesday night to pass resolutions to eliminate Student Union Board (SUB) representatives as elected positions, adjust funding rules for diverse student clubs and clarify the usage of funds for campaign reimbursements. 

Senate approves change in SUB representative elections 

SUB executive director Rachel Dorfner presented SO 2223-21, an order to amend laws in the constitution stating that SUB dorm representatives must be elected by a hall-wide election and may not exceed one representative per residence hall.

Under the new order, an internal application process will replace the elections and allow for potentially more than one representative to serve each dorm community.

Dorfner said the resolution was conceived since SUB has struggled to retain dorm representatives for the full election term. Based on a survey of SUB representatives with a 45% response rate, Dorfner said many elected representatives cited “wanting a hall government position” as the reason they ran for the position. 

In addition, Dorfner said many did not realize the commitments inside of SUB that come with the role, such as joining committees. 

“We see a lot of people wanting to get involved in their own [hall] government and did not realize that that also constitutes a large involvement in SUB,” Dorfner said. “In fact, one person actually said ‘I don’t like the required participation in SUB.’”

Dorfner hopes with the internal application, SUB will attract students interested to do all the work required for the role.

Judicial Council president Madison Nemeth supported the amendment and noted that the ultimate goal of the resolution is to have engaged representatives. 

“We’ve consistently been re-electing somewhere around since the first week on campus because we had people who ran last year and then didn’t respond to our committee requests,” Nemeth said. “From an election perspective, ideally, it would be one of each dorm, but for some dorms, there’s absolutely nobody who wants to do it.”

The number of SUB dorm representatives is not expected to significantly increase or decrease because of this order, Dorfner said. 

After brief debate, the resolution overwhelmingly passed.

Clause on cultural club funding repealed, election funding clarified 

Under the Constitution, ethnic student organizations are eligible for funding from the Club Coordination Council (CCC) given that their programming promotes “greater cultural awareness and understanding within the Notre Dame community.” Resolution SO 2223-18 repeals this clause with the argument that no other category of clubs must adhere to these guidelines to receive funding. 

CCC president Connor Patrick presented the order. With no debate or questioning, the resolution unanimously passed.

The third resolution debated that night clarified how election candidates are reimbursed for campaign expenses. SO 2223-19 is meant to remove confusion that might prevent Judicial Council from constitutionally reimbursing candidates for election campaign funds, executive controller Kevin Wang said. 

No clubs or organizations may use allocated or unallocated funding from the Financial Management Board to support a candidate for an office. With the order, an exception is written that Judicial Council may use funds to exclusively reimburse such candidates without violating the clause. 

Candidates for first-year class council, any class officer position, hall senator, hall president and vice president, Student Union Board (SUB) representatives and off-campus candidates are all guaranteed reimbursements under the Constitution. Spending limits vary depending on the position a candidate is seeking.

The resolution unanimously passed.

A fourth resolution to amend a constitutional clause on regulations and resignations did not pass a motion to move to general orders and was tabled for next week.

To close the meeting, student body vice president Sofie Stitt reminded senators that campaigning for student body president and vice president begins Tuesday.

Perspective tickets are currently petitioning for the roles and must obtain roughly 700 verified and valid signatures to get their names on the ballot. The elections will take place Feb. 8.

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Petition advocating for American Sign Language at Notre Dame circulates social media

Over winter break, a petition advocating for the acceptance of American Sign Language (ASL) at the University of Notre Dame was posted on the Disability Justice ND Instagram account and circulated on social media. By signing the petition, students call on the university to accept ASL as fulfillment for the admissions requirement of taking two years of a world language in high school, provide proficiency exams for students with experiences in ASL and to offer classes in ASL that fulfill college-based foreign language requirements. 

The petition originated as a class project for sophomore Jill Maudlin and her peers in their “Disability at Notre Dame” course. 

“We had to do a final project that culminated in somehow bettering the lives of disabled students on campus or furthering the cause of disability justice, so we chose to take on ASL for that project,” Maudlin said. 

Maudlin, who is also the Director of Disability Advocacy in student government, specified undertaking this project was due to her assignment, not because of her position in student government. 

When she was first assigned the project, Maudlin said part of the reason they chose to address this specific issue was because of a story she had heard about another student in her dorm. 

Junior Caitlin Papalia grew up in a household with two deaf parents, so ASL was her first language and her foreign language in high school. Upon her Notre Dame acceptance, however, she was told that her high school ASL classes did not meet the foreign language admissions requirement. Papalia said she had to take Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 the summer before her first year in order to attend the university. 

Furthermore, students interested in studying ASL while at Notre Dame must do so through another institution. Junior Chloe Lestitian takes ASL courses through Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf over Zoom while attending Notre Dame. 

“Right now, I’m thinking about being a physician, and sign language is a skill and language that would be really important,” Lestitian said. “It’s really useful to know how to communicate with patients in the deaf and hard of hearing community.”

The petition is not students’ first attempt at promoting inclusivity towards ASL at Notre Dame. Papalia wrote an argumentative essay titled “American Sign Language: Why Notre Dame Should Validate My First Language,” and a  resolution presented to the student senate on Oct. 12, which called for the acceptance of ASL as the world language admissions requirement. 

Maudlin helped write and present the resolution to the student government. She said it was an attempt to attain student government support before it was presented to the administration. The Senate decided to refer the resolution back to the Department of Disability Advocacy so the department could continue working on the resolution and present it again once it has more information.

“When student government turned [the resolution] down, it felt almost invalidating because that is what I speak at home,” Papalia said. “I was hurt already by Notre Dame not accepting it, but hearing other students say that we shouldn’t do it because of X, Y and Z made it a lot more difficult to hear.”

The petition, which now has almost 1000 signatures, was an alternative way of demonstrating student support of the cause, Maudlin said. She also expressed her belief that the University will be pushed to introduce ASL because many other elite institutions in the American Association of Universities (AAU), an organization composed of research universities in which Notre Dame is not included, already accept ASL.

95% of AAU schools accept ASL from high schoolers, 63% offer ASL proficiency tests for free and 75% teach ASL, Maudlin said. 

“There are only a couple other elite universities who don’t do all three and Notre Dame is one of them,” Maudlin said. 

Even so, Maudlin is hopeful for change. She said she believes that an optimistic timeline for Notre Dame to start implementing these three measures is by the spring of 2024, but a more realistic timeline would be the following fall. She believes these changes are doable during her time at the university.

“With Notre Dame’s Catholic, service-based mission, we should be able to communicate with the people that need to have their voices heard,” Maudlin said.

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Student senate reconvenes, votes to increase diversity in UCC staff

The University of Notre Dame has a robust ROTC program for undergraduates in all areas of the military. The student senate passed a resolution Wednesday evening to start the process of giving ROTC students priority class registration times.
Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame.

This Wednesday, the Notre Dame Student Senate passed resolutions to increase LGBTQ+ and minority representation among the staff at University Counseling Center (UCC) as well as give Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students earlier registration times for selecting classes.

Resolution 2223-13, introduced by four senators as well as several executive cabinet directors, urges the UCC to make efforts to hire more LGBTQ+ and minority counselors.

The resolution came after recent surveys revealed that LGBTQ+ and minority students at the University feel less comfortable both reaching out to the UCC as well as sharing aspects of their identity with counselors. 

Briana Chappell, director of gender relations – LGBTQ+ advocacy, expanded upon this point, stating, “47.7% of students of color and 35.5% of LGBTQ questions declare that they have been hesitant to reach out to the UCC for support as a result of their identity.”

While students can specify if they would prefer either a male or female counselor or a counselor of color, Chappell said the wait to meet with a specific counselor can be very long.

Chappell also noted that the UCC is facing a shortage of counselors generally and that any and all efforts to increase the number of counselors ought to be taken.

“Additional staffing would not only increase diversity in the UCC staff but would also benefit all students on campus regardless of minority status,” she said.

One senator made a similar point, emphasizing, “we don’t have enough counselors to supply the needs of people that need health resources on campus, and hiring more diverse counselors helps everyone.”

The resolution passed overwhelmingly.

During this first meeting of the spring 2023 semester, the senate also passed resolution 2223-11, which requires the office of the Provost to work with the office of the Registrar in order to help ROTC students get earlier class registration times.

Keough Hall senator Derrick Williams, a co-author of the resolution, spoke in favor of the change. He argued out that ROTC students, like student-athletes (who do have early registration times), have complex schedules — making registering for classes much more difficult for them than it is for the ordinary student.

“With great complexity in their schedules and increased course load, ROTC students find it difficult and frustrating to obtain the classes they need while still maintaining a reasonable schedule,” he explained.

Williams added that the students often “deal with many of the same situations and challenges faced by Notre Dame student athletes. ROTC students must balance early morning drills, university travel and afternoon workouts to fulfill their ROTC responsibilities.”

Williams argued that having a scheduling system that is favorable for ROTC students will help the University to both maintain and recruit ROTC students.

“If the University is to continue to attract and recruit these valuable members of the Notre Dame student community, the University must address the difficulty and frustration these students have when registering for classes,” he said.

A current ROTC student and senator also spoke out in favor of the resolution, explaining, his difficulty with fitting long lab classes into his schedule.

“If you ask any ROTC students on Tuesday and Thursday past two, a lot of engineering students have labs right then and they can’t go to those labs,” he added, “I think this is really valuable to recruit more ROTC students. I think it’s healthy for the university, and I just want to push this as far as we can get it.” 

This resolution also passed overwhelmingly.

Campaign rules were the subject of two additional resolutions passed on Wednesday evening. First, resolution 2223-16 clarified the rules for campaign reimbursements.

Under the current University Constitution, only candidates for student body president and vice president are guaranteed reimbursements for money that they spend campaigning. While it is true that in the past two election cycles, candidates in all student government elections were reimbursed by the Judicial Council, the council was under no obligation to do so.

Now candidates for first-year class council, any class officer position, hall senator, hall president and vice president, Student Union Board (SUB) representatives and off-campus candidates are all guaranteed reimbursements under the University Constitution.

Finally, resolution 2223-17 amended the University Constitution to make clear that campaigning for student government offices is not allowed in the first-floor lobby of the LaFortune Student Center (LaFun). This comes after Student Government announced plans to relocate to the renovated Sorin Room on the first floor of LaFun. 

Next meeting, the senate will discuss a resolution to amend the constitution in order to give diverse student groups more freedom in planning events.

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Senate amends constitution, previews on-campus events

The Notre Dame student senate convened Wednesday night in DeBartolo Hall to discuss upcoming campus events and pass an amendment to the constitution.

Student body vice president Sofie Stitt began the meeting with executive announcements, where she reminded senators that they are required to get GreeNDot certified. Stitt also asked all senators in men’s dorms to fill out a survey for the department of health and wellbeing to understand the availability of period products in unisex bathrooms in men’s dorms.

Sophomore Jessica Vickery, the senator from Ryan Hall, spoke about involving first-years in student senate. She brought along two first-years to shadow her and learn how to act as a proxy for future senate meetings.

After approving the minutes, Stitt moved to general orders. Jared Schlachet, the student union parliamentarian, introduced a memo from the Committee on the Constitution. After reviewing a proposed amendment to Article XIV of the constitution — which deals with petitions, initiatives and referendums — the committee recommended that the senate split the amendment into a divided order.

The senate passed the first part of the amendment order, SO 2223-10a. The order changes the signature requirements for undergraduate students signing petitions and initiatives. Previously, the constitution mandated that students include their name and local address, but the amendment stipulates that students include their name and email address. Schlachet said local address was already interpreted to mean email address, but this formalizes that practice.

After a brief discussion on the parliamentary process, the amendment passed unanimously.

The senators then discussed their plans for upcoming resolutions. Sophomore Keough Hall senator Derick Williams updated the group on his work to give band members and ROTC students access to early registration.

Williams met with Chuck Hurley, the University registrar, but he said most of the decision making power lies with the provost’s office.

“I think having a little bit more concrete details could help us put together a resolution [and] help us get a better footing if we were to go in and try to present a plan to the provost and or whoever else could make the final decision on that,” Williams said.

Senior Megan Mikuen then updated the senate on her research into “design-your-own-major” programs at other universities, with the ultimate goal of passing and writing a resolution to implement a similar program at Notre Dame. Mikuen found that most self-designed majors are hosted in the equivalent of the College of Arts and Letters at other universities, but that more research is necessary to understand what university and college course requirements are applicable.

Finally, students involved in various organizations across campus previewed upcoming campus events.

Senior Connor Patrick, the president of the Club Coordination Council, asked senators to stop by the ND Cultural Showcase on October 14. The event will take place from 8:30-11 p.m. on Library Lawn and will showcase many of the cultural and performing arts groups on campus.

Junior class council president Paul Stoller previewed the junior class game watch Saturday. Chicken nuggets, wings and an Elvis-themed halftime show will be provided.

Finally, sophomore class council president Patrick Smart asked sophomores and other interested students to stop by Duncan Student Center and sign thank you cards for the dorm housekeepers. Sophomore class council will have a table set up from 12 to 4 p.m. and will provide free Insomnia cookies.

After closing announcements, the meeting was adjourned.


Senate discusses ND Safe app, dorm gyms

The Notre Dame student senate passed resolutions regarding first-year class council elections and received nominations for Judicial Council’s Committee on the Constitution in its meeting Wednesday evening.

ND Safe app

Keri Kei Shibata, chief of the Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD), began the meeting by introducing the NDPD’s new app ND Safe. The app is designed for Notre Dame students, faculty and staff to easily access multiple safety resources, including one-button calls to the NDPD, ND Fire Department, St. Joseph County 911 and a non-emergency dispatch center.

The NDPD launched the app to address a common concern about expanding the blue-light emergency call boxes around campus. 

“[The blue-light phones] very rarely get used,” Shibata said. “We thought it would be a more effective use of resources to put a mobile blue light in each of your hands.”

In addition to the mobile blue light feature, which allows users to quickly contact emergency services and share their location, the ND Safe app includes a Friend Walk program. Friend Walk contacts a designated friend or parent and shares the user’s location so that the contact can monitor their walk home.x

ND Safe also offers a “social escape” feature, in which the app will call the user’s phone within a designated amount of time. This allows the user to flee uncomfortable situations under the pretense of a friend or family member’s emergency. 

The app has links to emergency contacts and resources related to Title IX, the University Counseling Center (UCC), University Health Services, a suicide lifeline and bike and scooter registration.

Shibata encouraged all students to download ND Safe and enable push notifications and location sharing to access all of the safety features. As of Wednesday evening, NDPD has recorded 350 downloads, Shibata said.

Dorm gyms

After the presentation from Shibata, sophomore Anna Dray, the director of University policy for the student union, updated the senate on her work to make dorm gyms more equitable. Dray has been reviewing surveys filled out by senators that reflect the state of dorm gyms. 

“There is a notable disparity between women’s and men’s gyms that we’re looking into,” Dray said.

She is continuing her research to better understand this disparity and to find out what funds dorms could use to improve their gyms.

The goal, though, is not to improve dorm gyms that already have high quality equipment, Dray emphasized. Rather, she is focusing on equity. 

“We’re just going to try to give the dorms the same equipment, so everyone has the same access to the same things,” Dray said.

Additional resolutions

Student body vice president Sofie Stitt then previewed several upcoming events, including a coffee and bagels giveaway with Residential Life on Sept. 23 and a suicide healing and memorial prayer service Sept. 27, before moving on to general orders.

The senate passed resolution SS2223-08, which suspends the elections for first-year class council representatives who are running unopposed.

Senior Madison Nemeth, Judicial Council president, and senior Jared Schlachet, student union parliamentarian, read out the nominations for Judicial Council’s peer advocates and Committee on the Constitution members. After a unanimous vote of approval, the senate congratulated the new Peer Advocates and committee members on their positions.

After the nominations, senators shared updates on resolutions they are currently writing. Sophomore Derick Williams, who is sponsoring resolution SS2223-09 to lower the barriers that limit access to campus recreational programs, recently met with Mark Williams, the director of RecSports, Christine Conway, the director of the UCC, and Consuela Wilson, the director of the Office of Student Enrichment.

“All three parties are in agreement that it sounds like a great idea,” Williams said. “It sounds like they’ll be able to utilize the systems and structures that they already have to implement this program.”

Finally, Stitt introduced a new section of the senate meeting to allow senators to discuss new ideas and collaborations during the meeting. Many senators voiced ideas based on their constituents’ concerns. Notably, senators are looking to address the shortage of bike racks outside classroom buildings given the new rule that scooters must be left outdoors. Senators also discussed gluten free options in the dining halls and petitioning the provost to grant band and ROTC members early class registration.

After closing announcements, the meeting was adjourned.

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‘There’s always another way’: Student Government leaders plan for successful school year

Over the summer, Patrick Lee, Sofie Stitt, Nicole Baumann and the rest of Notre Dame Student Government were hard at work for the student body. 

Lee, the student body president, explained that he stayed in South Bend to plan for the year and build relationships with administrators, other staff members and cabinet directors. 

“I never count the hours, so it’s hard to tabulate, but [my work] was a lot of meeting with administrators, trying to build relationships and paving the way for our initiatives to follow. I think, also, the great majority of the time was spent meeting with Nicole and our directors,” Lee said. 

Baumann, the chief of staff, said she came back to the University for the whole month of August to help Lee with planning and organization for the coming school year after spending the first part of the summer in Los Angeles working with non-profit organizations. 

“With Patrick, that was a lot of strategizing for the year,” she said. 

Stitt, the vice president, was in Chicago completing a finance internship, but she said she contributed to the summer work virtually. 

Lee said the 17 department directors each have five to fine goals for the year, which are outlined on the Student Government progress tracker. The website is set up so interested students can click on each department and scroll through all of the goals. Lee said more information can be found by contacting each department. 

Lee explained that one of the main goals of the progress tracker is to combat voter apathy. 

“The number one thing that we encountered in our election was voter apathy. A lot of times, people don’t know what Student Government is and what we do,” he said. “Now, we have made sure that if anybody ever asks that question, they can reference this extensive guide and immediately know what’s going on.”

Lee, Stitt and Baumann all expressed excitement about the new progress tracker, saying it will help keep the cabinet on track. 

“We think that the progress tracker goes a long way for both accountability and transparency, which are really two of our highest values,” Lee said. 

Baumann, who described the tracker as a “holistic view,” also noted that the tracker and goals may change throughout the year. 

“[The executive cabinet members] are always looking for new ideas from their department chairs, as well as from the student body,” she said. 

Currently, the organization has finished 15 out of the 90 goals outlined, making them 16.5% of the way to completion. 

Many of the completed projects were oriented toward new student engagement, such as “Football 101” for international students and “Flick on the Field” at the end of the first week of classes. 

Two major improvements to student life occurred in the residence and dining halls. 

Safety after parietals was a massive change to Notre Dame student life that was implemented this fall after three years in the works. The final push was brought about by Lane Obringer, director of gender relations, Title IX and women’s initiatives.

The new rules state that if a student feels unsafe in a dorm environment past parietals, they can leave without fear of repercussions, Baumann said. 

Lee said he was happy about finishing a movement started by previous departments and about how they collaborated with administrators. 

“Certainly credit to the previous administrations, but it’s been our approach since we took office that the administrators that we worked with on safety after parietals, and as well as most administrators, actually share goals with our organization,” Lee explained. “We approached those conversations at first with a cooperative mindset, as opposed to an adversarial mindset.”

Stitt emphasized that, although the cabinet has completed the initiative, they will continue to promote those resources to the student body. 

Another one of the campaign’s main goals was to bring back healthier options for students in dining halls. The cabinet accomplished this by not only bringing back vegan and vegetarian options for every meal and carving stations on Thursday, but also by changing the dining hall hours to be open until 8 p.m. on weekends. 

Coming up, Baumann said she is excited about bringing back the Sustainability Cup, Race Relations Week in October and the suicide memorial prayer service, among various other programs in the works. 

Some of the goals for the cabinet won’t be completed until the end of their term, such as Pridefest 2023 and Back the Bend.

Baumann noted that this year, Back the Bend will hopefully be a national endeavor, with alumni clubs joining throughout the country. 

The leadership team also said they are working toward better communication in the coming year. They will start to implement better social media engagement and a podcast called “Pod, Country, Notre Dame.”

Stitt said they encourage interested students, especially first-years and transfers, to get involved in Student Government by coming to their weekly coffee chats and reaching out to department directors. 

“We’re just really excited for [everyone] to be here. We cannot wait to serve them this year,” Stitt said. “We really just encourage [new students] to get involved on campus, whether that’s with student government or with clubs or intramural sports or in the dorm.”

Lee, echoing Stitt’s sentiment, called for any interested students to bring them ideas. 

“I think I can speak for the three of us in saying there’s really nothing that we wouldn’t do for the student body,” Lee said. “If anybody wants to see anything or they have any ideas, come chat and we’ll make it happen.”

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Senate discusses ‘Lake Dillon,’ class council elections

The Notre Dame student senate met Wednesday evening and approved orders regarding the suspension of first-year class council elections and the future renovations between South Dining Hall and Dillon Hall. The senators also discussed proposals on the addition of sustainability points toward the Hall of the Year competition and subsidizing student RecSports passes. 

The senate’s second meeting of the semester was led by junior and student body vice president Sofie Stitt. Stitt put forward a new format designed to streamline the meetings and a new minutes approval voting process. 

After a unanimous vote, senators announced upcoming campus-wide events, including the South Bend Farmers Market on Friday and a new initiative called Cookie Chats. The chats are an evening version of coffee chats aimed at connecting students with student government leaders.

The senate quickly approved Judicial Council president Madison Nemeth’s order SO2223-07 to suspend first-year class council elections if there is a candidate running unopposed. 

Resolution SS2223-08 covered the upcoming renovations between South Dining Hall and Dillion Hall intended to fix the largest puddle on campus known as “Lake Dillon.” The sidewalk maintenance is scheduled to start and finish during fall break. The approved order is meant to thank the Office of Facilities Design and Operations for their efforts in listening to students’ complaints about the sidewalk and ensure that the construction is finished before students return to campus after break. 

“In the meetings that I’ve had with quite a few senators they have talked about that, that’s huge,” Stitt said of the final phases of the renovation.

Senators touched base on the progress of their resolutions during new business. 

Senator Derick Williams said he will soon meet with the necessary administrative employees to make RecSports more accessible to students. 

“The Office of Student Enrichment seems very open to subsidizing some passes,” Williams said. 

The resolution also aims to address mental health concerns across campus. Williams said he plans to discuss with the University Counseling Center a way to offer RecSports passes for people interested in using them as “mental health rejuvenation.”

Additionally, the senate covered a resolution discussing the addition of sustainability points to the Hall of the Year competition.

Transfer student and senator Luca Ripani said he is working on a resolution to call for amendments to the transfer student course requirements and registration process. Ripani shared his struggles as a transfer when registering for University requirements such as philosophy and theology — courses that are not required at public universities. 

The meeting ended with senators promoting upcoming events on campus they are involved in. Lewis Hall is hosting their annual LHOP on Friday from 9 p.m. to 1 p.m. and the first Acousticafe will be held on Thursday from 8:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. on Library Lawn. Finally, first-year class elections are tomorrow.

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