Local businesses will offer more discounts for students shopping and eating in the South Bend community as early as fall break in an effort to engage students better with the surrounding area, off-campus concerns chair Emily LeStrange said.
"We are taking a step towards acknowledging the possibility for embracing the college town environment in South Bend while respecting the community at the same time," student body president Catherine Soler said.
The program, officially titled Students for South Bend, will allow Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and Holy Cross students to find discounts at local venues after presenting their student IDs, Soler said.
"This is our cohesive attempt to reach out to the community in all different ways," LeStrange said. "Students for South Bend is definitely a key component of the beND program."
The beND campaign is student government's initiative to foster better community relations between South Bend and the Notre Dame student body.
Student government began a list of more than 60 businesses it approached to offer discounts, and that list will continue to grow as student representatives work with Downtown South Bend and the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph's County, Soler said.
"We are looking especially for local places so students really have the chance to go into the real South Bend community," LeStrange said.
LeStrange said the vendors will display a window decal in their storefront to let students know that they offer discounts.
"This program really benefits smaller local places," LeStrange said. "It gets their names out and attracts student business that might not otherwise be there."
Some proposed venues include Studebagels, Ritter's Ice Cream, Five Guys, Granite City, Papa John's and Uptown Kitchen.
Student government from Notre Dame, Saint Mary's and Holy Cross will also present the discount plan to businesses such as Target, Isabella's Boutique, Meijer and Ten Thousand Villages, LeStrange said.
"We can let [South Bend] know that the student body does not just want to stay on campus," LeStrange said. "We want to be in the community too."
Advertising these discounts through offcampus.nd.edu, the student government website, and hall staff in residence halls would be a critical part of the project so students can know what is available to them, LeStrange said.
"A lot of places like Between the Buns already issue discounts but students do not really know about them," LeStrange said.
Discounts would not apply to alcoholic beverages because of standard University policy, LeStrange said.
The idea behind Students for South Bend began when student government tried to investigate applying Domer Dollars and Flex Points to off-campus venues, Soler said.
Students overwhelmingly preferred discounts at local businesses than having Flex Point access in these restaurants and shops, she said.
Past programs sold discount ticket booklets with coupons that students could present at local venues but the Students for South Bend program would avoid this option, LeStrange said.
"Students do not want to pay for a discount," LeStrange said. "And to a certain extent I feel like you should not have to in a college town."
LeStrange said vendors would have the option of choosing when and how to offer the student discounts so they can participate in the program on their own terms.
"We want the vendor to feel comfortable too in this program," LeStrange said. "We do not want them stuck in something that they do not want."
Sophomore Catherine Hermann said accessing these local business and restaurants would present a challenge for some students.
"Finding transportation is time-consuming for me," Hermann said. "But for students who have a car here [off-campus discounts] would be really nice."
Underclassmen that do not have cars on campus would be less motivated to go into South Bend to use the discounts, she said.
"If discounts were applied to deliveries then I would definitely be more inclined to take advantage of them," Hermann said.
Junior Jack Dobmeier said he thought discounts in local restaurants would be beneficial to him because he lives off-campus and eats out for many of his meals.
"I never used fourteen meals in a week when I had a regular meal plan," Dobmeier said. "I would order pizza or Jimmy John's when I got sick of dining hall food."
Incorporating the University in local business by offering student discounts would definitely continue to develop an atmosphere of a college town, he said.
"During my freshman year I did not think of [South Bend] as a college town, but it does seem to be becoming more of that now," Dobmeier said.