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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Observer Editorial: The Observer endorses Ingal-Galbenski

Over the last week, six pairs of students have been hard at work campaigning for the role of student body president and vice president in anticipation of Tuesday’s student government elections. The six tickets — freshmen Henry Bates and Thomas Henry; juniors Michael Dugan and Ricardo Pozas Garza (Editor’s Note: Dugan is a former systems administrator and news writer for The Observer); juniors Rachel Ingal and Sarah Galbenski; junior Zachary Mercugliano and freshman Aviva Lund; junior Noble Patidar and freshman Connor Patrick and junior Connor Whittle and sophomore Jack Rotolo — each offer distinct perspectives and solutions to various campus issues.

The Observer Editorial Board interviewed all six tickets over the weekend. After weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates, the board unanimously offers its endorsement to the Ingal-Galbenski ticket.

Ingal and Galbenski, along with their campaign manager junior Aaron Benavides, boast a wide mix of experience across multiple levels of student government (Editor’s Note: Benavides is a former news writer for The Observer). Both women have served in a variety of campus roles, inside and outside the student government apparatus. Thus, we have confidence they are knowledgeable, yet multi-faceted enough to offer new ideas and fresh perspectives. We trust in their ability to elevate all student voices through their feasible, thoughtful ideas. We were particularly impressed with their platform’s plans relating to diversity and increased efforts to engage with the South Bend community.

However, our endorsement is not without reservations. One glaring omission from the Ingal-Galbenski platform is any mention of the residential life differentiation policies unveiled in April. As this issue is one of the most important facing the student body, its absence is a cause for concern. Furthermore, in their interview with The Observer, Ingal and Galbenski acknowledged they would have to wait until after taking office to build close relationships with the University administration, owing to their outsider status. Making these connections will cost valuable time.

Nevertheless, this lack of familiarity with Notre Dame’s administration is what distinguishes Ingal-Galbenski most from Whittle-Rotolo. Whittle and Rotolo boast extensive experience within student government: Whittle currently sits in Executive Cabinet as the co-director of student life, while Rotolo is Alumni Hall’s senator. The two men indicated in their interview with The Observer they would lean on pre-existing connections with University administrators to achieve policy goals. While it is helpful they would be able to, as they put it, “hit the ground running,” their closeness to the administration concerns us, as we wonder whether they would stand up to the University when student interests call for it. They also leaned heavily on their association with the outgoing Boyle-McGuire administration. We believe newer voices would be more effective at facilitating change.

Patidar is another experienced student government hand. While his choice of a freshman running mate in Patrick gives this ticket a similar blend of experience as Ingal-Galbenski and this ticket demonstrated a strong commitment to improving diversity and inclusion, some aspects of their platform gave the Editorial Board reason to hesitate. Patidar and Patrick propose a more proactive engagement with the student body, namely through a physical newsletter delivered to dorms. However, in a time when the divide between on-campus and off-campus students is one of the defining issues at the University, this approach presents challenges as it necessarily excludes the off-campus community. The platform, while the most detailed of the six, was also overly concerned with “feasibility.” Though we welcome pragmatism, it should not come at the cost of aspiration.

Depth of experience is also a defining theme of the Dugan-Garza ticket. As the candidates mentioned multiple times in their interview, their team offers a high degree of familiarity with campus policy processes owing to past and present student government positions. This campaign also expressed a willingness to stand up to the University administration when needed, which we applaud. However, their 46-page platform is overly ambitious. We respect the data-centered approach through which their policies were constructed. However, it would be unrealistic to expect all of their lofty goals to be met in a year, despite their numerous protestations to the contrary.

We appreciate Mercugliano and Lund’s fresh perspective and enthusiasm, but their lack of experience is a deal-breaker. Mercugliano transferred to Notre Dame from Franciscan University of Steubenville this year; Lund is a freshman. While these facts alone are not disqualifying, six months is simply too short a time to adequately grasp the issues facing the University. Furthermore, this platform is short and simplistic. Troublingly, it is the only platform that never mentions sexual assault policy. When pressed on their plans to prevent sexual assault and help survivors in their interview, the candidates stumbled through a vague answer.

Bates and Henry represent the annual Zahm freshmen ticket. Among their policy proposals, some standouts included banning crime and climate change, building a bullet train line between Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross and giving every dorm a baby to raise. As always, the purpose of this ticket is primarily comic in nature. We would, however, like to commend the Zahm first years on a few points. They offered legitimately thoughtful answers in response to questions about Moreau First Year Experience, mental health and sexual assault.

The Observer was concerned every ticket offered inadequate responses regarding transport between the three campuses of the tri-campus community. As the only publication serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross, we were disappointed with the platitudes offered and ignorance displayed on this issue. All students deserve a safe, free way of getting home after spending time at other schools.

Experience matters. But it is not everything. For success, candidates must also offer a fresh approach to entrenched issues. The Ingal-Galbenski ticket struck the best balance between these two crucial considerations. Armed with a feasible platform — ideally enhanced with an answer to the “off-campus differentiation” conundrum — we believe they offer Notre Dame the strongest path forward.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.