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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Erin Hoffmann Harding discusses Campus Compact, spring semester changes during special senate meeting

Vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding joined a special session of the student senate to discuss the newly announced Campus Compact and address changes to surveillance testing and due process for the spring semester Wednesday.“Everything that we have been reflecting on since you’ve been away from campus has been designed to do what we can to keep that community safe and well and to do even better than the fall,” Hoffmann Harding said.  “If there is one thing that [University President] Fr. John [Jenkins’] group and I know this sentiment was shared by students, really hopes to achieve this spring differently than the fall, it is fewer cases of COVID on campus.”The town hall was called so members of the senate could ask questions about several newly announced changes for the spring semester — including weekly surveillance testing and the Campus Compact, an addendum to du Lac which details COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for all students. All students are required to follow the compact or they will be subject to discipline from the Office of Community Standards with no ability to appeal or right to a hearing (except in the case of COVID dismissal from the University).“The compact is itself designed to be our best effort at what we’re asking of students for the course of the spring semester,” Hoffmann Harding said.When asked how expediting the judicial process for COVID violations would help keep the community safer, Hoffmann Harding said it would allow administrators to address safety issues sooner and more efficiently.“It is in no way, shape or form designed to surprise students, but simply to allow us to address the behavior that might be a concern to all of us from a safety standpoint in the campus community a little bit quicker,” Hoffmann Harding said.Hoffmann Harding also said the University is working to create more spaces for students to socialize safely in order to promote connection and help prevent students from being isolated.“We have heard that students need more spaces and opportunities to connect with one another,” Hoffmann Harding said. “So we’re working really hard again, balancing what we think we can responsibly offer to keep our community as safe as possible, but also be really mindful of the mental health toll and the need to not be isolated among students.”In regards to the stricter disciplinary actions for COVID policy violation under the Campus Compact, Hoffmann Harding said that harsher consequences such as suspension or expulsion are only on the table after multiple violations.“It is not my wish, Fr. John’s wish, anybody in the administration’s wish to have students expelled,” she said. “And in fact, a long and important debate was at what point might that make sense? … Testing perhaps is the most tangible example. If you read through the code, it is the third time through for a student with a human intervention before we would even contemplate that a student might be dismissed and sent home.”In response to a question about whether having students report on each other might create a harsh environment or lead to false accusation, Hoffmann Harding said the administration wanted students to have the option to express concern, but that there are processes in place to verify allegations.“[The process] is designed to be swift, but not robotic or automatic, but to provide more transparency there,” she said. “But that’s why that response by a student is an opportunity. We thought it was really important to have them.”Following Hoffmann Harding’s forum, the senate moved to an emergency: former Judicial Council President, junior Matthew Bisner, submitted a letter of resignation Jan. 20.

“In February, I’m strongly considering petitioning to run for Student Body Vice President alongside [junior] Allan Njomo, so my resignation comes out of a desire to maintain the Judicial Council’s independence throughout the process,” Bisner said in a statement to The Observer.

Sophomore Thomas Davis, who was previously serving as student union parliamentarian, was appointed by the Judicial Council officers to replace Bisner. The senate was called from recess to appoint a new Judicial Council president in time for petitioning for student body president elections, which begins Wednesday.“As we enter a period of time when the Judicial Council is incredibly active and the president has many constitutional duties to fulfill, it is of paramount importance that Judicial Council proceed with a senate-approved president to best ensure the student union operates ethically and with the Constitution of the undergraduate student body of the University of Notre Dame du Lac,” Davis said in a letter written in his capacity as parliamentarian to the Senate.Davis was approved unanimously by the senate.“I’m quite honored,” Davis said. Following Davis’ unanimous appointment as president of the Judicial Council, he nominated sophomore Madison Nemeth, who previously served as deputy student union parliamentarian, to replace him in his role. Nemeth was unanimously approved by the group.