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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Student government tickets debate policy, deliver platform goals

Student body government presidential and vice presidential candidates went face to face in a live debate Monday night in Duncan Student Center.

The two tickets, Patrick Lee-Sofie Stitt and Sierra Stinson-Dane Sherman, sat on opposite sides of a make-shift stage and answered student-submitted questions under the watchful eyes of an in-person audience.

[Editor’s Note: Sherman is a former news writer for The Observer.]

The debate was moderated by judicial council president David Haungs and vice president Koryn Isa. Each ticket was given three minutes to present an opening statement.

Lee-Stitt spoke first, emphasizing their three main policy points: service, a holistic approach to mental health and bringing back power to students.

Junior presidential candidate Patrick Lee (right) answers a question in the debate Monday night. He is running alongside sophomore vice presidential candidate Sofie Stitt.

“Notre Dame is a university for the students, and we think that we should have a little bit more of a say in how it’s run,” Lee said.

Stinson-Sherman delivered their opening statement afterwards and explained a little more about why they were running.

“Dane and I are running because of our love for Notre Dame,” Stinson said. “Unfortunately, through conversations we’ve had with students since summer and between 50 different students and student leaders, we have found that a lot of students don’t feel a sense of belonging. They don’t feel like they deserve to be here. So, that’s why we created our platform.”

The bulk of the debate was taken up by the general questions section. The 12 questions posed to the candidates covered a wide range of topics — including the University’s COVID-19 response, diversity and inclusion, Campus Dining, Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and mental health.

One question posed to the tickets was, “If you could only accomplish one item on your platform, which would it be, and why is that policy feasible?”

Stinson-Sherman responded by indicating they would focus on expanding the Transformational Leaders Program, which helps first-generation and low-income students adjust to the school’s academic environment.

“I think it’s important that — as we are getting more diverse, we’re getting more students who aren’t prepared for the academic rigor of Notre Dame — we make sure that [we’re] accompanying them in their journey and making sure that we’re preparing them to actually succeed,” Stinson explained. “We want to make sure that nobody feels like they don’t deserve to be here.”

According to Lee-Stitt, their broad mental health plan, spanning from establishing University Counseling Center (UCC)’s dorm representatives to dining hall improvements, is their top priority.

“All of our policies are focused on you guys, but especially our unique and very, very broad mental health policy,” Stitt said. “We hope it’ll make a little bit of difference in your lives.”

Next, the candidates answered questions specific to the presidential candidates, vice presidential candidates and each ticket.

The presidential candidates each answered how they would utilize their executive cabinet departments and Campus Life Council (CLC) to officially address campus life issues.

Stinson said throughout her time in student government as director of academic affairs, she has learned how to push policy and make sure administration responds to it. Stinson said she believes using the CLC to force administrators to view the orders passed by the senate is an “effective way to engage student government.”

Junior presidential candidate Sierra Stinson (left) is running alongside sophomore vice presidential candidate Dane Sherman.

Lee said he would work to incorporate all parts of the student body into his executive cabinet as a way to target voter apathy.

“The main issue that we’ve experienced in this campaign is voter apathy. People don’t know what goes on in student government, and if they don’t know, they don’t care,” Lee said. “What we can do is to invite all members of the student body to apply for these cabinet positions.”

Sherman and Stitt, the vice presidential candidates, were asked how they would lead the senate to be an “effective and productive forum,” and how they would engage with people who have differing opinions.

Stitt said she would bring her personality and enthusiasm to senate and that she “does not care what she needs to do” to ensure that administration will read the senate’s resolutions and act on them.

Sherman said his focus, if elected as student body vice president, would be to make sure senators know how the process of writing a resolution works.

Each ticket was then given four minutes to deliver a closing statement. Both Lee-Stitt and Stinson-Sherman urged voters to place their trust in them.

“The number one barrier that we have confronted in this campaign is students who say, ‘I don’t care. Student government doesn’t get anything done. And if they do, it doesn’t affect my life.’ What I say to those students is: Give us the chance to prove you wrong,” Lee said. “What’s on our platform is attainable, and it affects your everyday life.”

Sherman highlighted his ticket’s experience in student government.

“If you want to get policy done, you should go for Stinson and Sherman because we’ve actually done it, and we will continue to do it,” he said.