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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame student body election tickets debate policy and ethics

Three tickets for student government president and vice president debate Sunday evening in Duncan Student Center.
Three tickets for student government president and vice president debate Sunday evening in Duncan Student Center.
Three tickets for student government president and vice president debate Sunday evening in Duncan Student Center. From left to right: Aidan Rezner and Daniel Jung; Griffin McAndrew; and Pablo Oropeza; and Derick Williams and Hunter Brooke.

In a two-hour debate before a live audience in Duncan Student Center Sunday evening, the three tickets up for Wednesday’s student body president and vice president election fielded a catalog of questions from Judicial Council president Madison Nemeth and vice president for elections Koryn Isa, who served as moderators. 

Contenders were allowed four minutes to deliver opening and closing statements. During the debating portion, each ticket had two minutes to respond to 14 student-submitted general questions and one president-specific and vice president-specific question. 

Student body president candidate Daniel Jung and his running mate, Aidan Rezner, got the ball rolling by supplying their campaign rationale.

“It really started this past fall when we decided kind of on a whim to apply for the communications department [of student government],” Rezner said.

Rezner recalled the pair’s first assignment in the communications department: asking undergraduates what they knew about student government. Rezner said he was shocked about how little students actually knew. Jung then outlined their goal to bridge the information gap between student government and the student body.

“We want to listen to you,” Jung said. “We want to serve your needs. Your concerns are our concerns. That’s going to be something that's going to be really important for us… if we are elected in our administration.”

Next, presidential candidate Pablo Oropeza, current vice president of Stanford Hall, delivered his ticket’s opening statement next while drawing upon his own experience finding a home within Stanford’s community.

“What has driven me these last few years I’ve been here is a want to help all others find their place there at this university and find what makes this place home for them,” Oropeza said. “And that’s why we want to run.”

Derick Williams, the last of the three presidential candidates to speak, rose to his feet to address the crowd in Midfield Commons.

“We’re going to hear a lot of talking tonight, so I promise I’ll keep it brief, I’ll keep it fun and I'll keep the light,” Williams said. “That’s kind of Hunter [Brooke] and I’s style up here.”

In the first general question of the evening, candidates were asked how they would ensure all Notre Dame students have a great college experience. Oropeza placed the emphasis on allocating more funding to dorms for amenities, while Williams mentioned finding ways to cut out waste within the executive cabinet and student government as a whole, which has an annual budget just shy of a million dollars. Rezner switched gears — proposing a fine arts week and leaning into the University’s service mission.

“I have never seen another university that has a mission statement that wants everyone and all people to be a force for good in the world,” Rezner said. “And I think that's something that is really, really special to us, and we want to make sure that every student has every opportunity to make the most of their passions, their goals and their dreams.”

The next general question asked for the competitors’ two highest priorities. Jung stressed his campaign’s hope to increase transparency regarding University Title IX policies and procedures. Williams, calling upon the background of his vice presidential choice Brooke, who works for South Dining Hall, accentuated his campaign promise to improve food quality. Oropeza clarified his plan to amend the University’s nondiscrimination clause. 

“What is unique to our platform is the advocacy for the amendment of the University’s notice of nondiscrimination to include sexual orientation, gender identity and religious affiliation,” Oropeza said. “We feel like these groups should and need to be added in order to foster a community that is accessible and loving and accepting of all rights.”

Jung cited the “StuGov Scoop” on Instagram, a creation of his and Rezner’s in the communications department, as evidence the Jung-Rezner ticket could effectively listen to constituent feedback. Oropeza’s running mate, Griffin McAndrew, a senator from Knott Hall, pointed to his platform’s broad leadership experience: both inside the student senate and out in residence halls. Brooke deferred to his ticket’s bilateral student senate experience, diving into how conversations with fellow students around campus help keep themselves as elected officials accountable.

Later in the questioning, concerns about student union funding and political polarization were brought up. Rezner said that his ticket would make it a priority to segment student union funds properly at the start of its term.

“For example, the communications department is a little under budget, and some of that money could be used to go to the clubs in the CCC that genuinely need them because ultimately, that money goes to you,” Rezner said addressing the students. “You guys are the clubs. You guys are the students who are in the clubs who are going to see the benefit from that.”

The final general question of the night had to do with how the tickets would exemplify ethical leadership in the student union. Oropeza spoke about student government’s stereotype as an “elite club.” Rezner said that a “huge part” of ethical leadership is receiving feedback directly from students to know when policies are not working.

Williams thought that building up a “strong student government” with cabinet members who work well alongside each other would aid in keeping his ticket accountable. 

Finally, the three presidents were asked how they would “effectively utilize” executive cabinet departments and campus-wide council to remedy campus life issues.

Jung reiterated his ticket’s position about fostering open communication between students and the executive cabinet, while Williams said he’d appoint passionate people like himself willing to put in the “countless hours.” Oropeza added he would prioritize making his executive cabinet an accurate representation of the Notre Dame community. 

“I want my executive cabinet to look like Notre Dame,” Oropeza said. “I want it to feel like Notre Dame.”

During the final statements of the evening, Williams repeated his team’s willingness to “roll up our sleeves” and “use our willpower” to boost campus groups and dorms. Rezner stated how his campaign’s motto, “Listen, grow and flourish,” applies to student resources.

Before the debate broke off, Oropeza took the opportunity to bring up ethical leadership a second time, seemingly referring to the impeachment proceedings last semester against Brooke.

“We promise to follow the rules and not go for impeachment like some others,” Oropeza said.

Election day is Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. An email from Judicial Council on 8 a.m. Wednesday will contain a link to NDCentral where students are able to log in to vote.