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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

Next President: Polls indicate students want Olinger to fill ND vacancy

When Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy announced he would step down as 16th President of Notre Dame during a press conference on April 29, 2004, he and the Board of Trustees also named Fr. John Jenkins as his successor. 

On Oct. 13, Jenkins announced he would step down from his role, but more than a month has gone by and the 18th University President has not yet been named.

Selecting the next University President takes time. Before the Board of Trustees announced Jenkins as the 17th University President, it took four months to find the right candidate. The next President of the University is selected through specific standards set out in the University bylaws

According to the bylaws, the President must be “elected by the Trustees from among the clerical members of the Congregation,” meaning the President must be a priest or brother from the United States province of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.

The bylaws specify that the Governance and Nominating Committee must request recommendations for the office of the President from the Provincial of the Congregation before submitting nominations to the Board of Trustees for election. According to the U.S. Congregation of Holy Cross website, the current Provincial leaders are Fr. William Lies, Fr. Peter Jarret and Fr. William Beauchamp.

Despite these stipulations, the student body could still have some influence on the selection process. The bylaws say “the Governance and Nominating Committee may also receive recommendations from any other interested person or persons.”

While the choice is ultimately up to the Board of Trustees, The Observer surveyed students to figure out their own opinions and thoughts on the matter.

Google Form Poll Results

The first poll was a Google Form given out to students at South Dining Hall during lunch and dinner early this week. The form listed five options — Basilica rector Fr. Brian Ching, associate provost Fr. Daniel Groody, associate provost Fr. Robert Dowd, Student Affairs vice president Fr. Gerald Olinger and theology professor Fr. Kevin Grove — along with a write-in option. In total, this form received 70 responses with a large cross-section of students based on class-year and place of residence.

The poll also included a free-response section with two questions. The poll asked students why they think their chosen candidate will be the next University President. Additionally, students were asked to identify what qualities matter in the selection process of the next University President.

Olinger is in the lead at 31.4% with Grove close behind at 30%. Tied for third place are Ching and Groody polling at 14.3% of the vote.

As the priest-in-residence for Alumni Hall, Olinger had a polling advantage among Alumni Hall residents. Sophomore John Peterson claimed being a member of Alumni Hall was both why Olinger should be the next University President and the most important quality for a potential candidate to have. Other Alumni Hall residents inputted the iPhone goat emoji as the reason why Olinger should be University President. Another Alumni Hall resident claimed his face-to-face interaction with Olinger influenced his vote, positing a demonstration of “care for the students of the University” as an important quality.

Likewise, many students emphasized the importance of the next President's care for the student body and willingness to involve the student body in his decision-making. Students wrote that the next President should be “personable,” prioritize “student connection,” care “about student happiness (and therefore, football!)” and engage “with students on important issues.” Others said that he should have “commitment to hearing students voices” and take “full account of student perspectives and opinions.”





Broken down by year, freshmen and sophomores have a preference for Grove, juniors prefer Groody and seniors prefer for Olinger. Underclassmen voted for a more diverse range of candidates, while seniors voted more homogeneously. 

Freshmen cited faith as a qualifying factor more than any other class, but this did not seem to be a deciding factor for who they voted for.

Freshman Oliver Puccini claimed “a genuine relationship with God” made him vote for Olinger. Freshman Theresa Lalli said the next University President should “uphold the Catholic Church values in the institution while continuing to be a force for good.” She voted for Grove. Freshman Ben Koberlein cited faith as well, and voted for Ching.

Regardless of grade level and dorm, students valued personability and leadership skills across the board. Other notable qualities were commitment to the University's diversity and academic excellence.

“Commitment to academics, religion and investment to the future,” wrote senior Robbie Donahue, a resident of Baumer Hall.

“Intelligence, conservatism, approachability, well-spokenness and leadership,” are qualities that matter to sophomore Thomas Smith. His pick for president is Grove. “He’s an extremely intelligent, faithful man who can connect to students on a personal and broad level,” he wrote. “His experience with guiding large groups in his large section classes would make him a great leader.”

Jake Miller, a senior living in Baumer Hall, picked Olinger. “He has proved himself enormously qualified in his role as [Student Affairs] vice president and has consistently engaged with the Notre Dame student community,” Miller wrote. He added the most important University President qualities are “engagement with students on important issues, communication, honesty, integrity and accountability.”

A single Notre Dame student suggested himself, Kacper Szyller, for the next President of the University. In regards to what qualities he possesses in order to qualify for the job, he wrote “I’ll grind buddy.” Other students used the write-in option to vote for their fellow classmates: junior Maxine Zamora and senior Kian O’Connor.

Instagram Poll Results

The second poll was conducted on The Observer’s Instagram account to reach a wider audience. The total amount of respondents was 274. The poll feature on Instagram only allows up to four spots which were filled with the following options: Fr. Ching, Fr. Groody, Fr. Dowd and Fr. Olinger. They were the chosen options as they are currently the most widely speculated candidates for the office. There was also a write-in option on the Instagram story. 

Olinger received 41.2%, Groody received 23.7%, Ching received 16.4% and Dowd received 14.2% of the votes. There were a number of write-in responses for eligible candidates such as Campus Ministry director Fr. Pete McCormick and professor Fr. Kevin Sandberg.


There were also a number of write-in responses for campus celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Notre Dame football running back Audric Estime.

Aggregate Results

The front-runner for the position among the student body is Olinger with 40.2% of the vote. Other popular candidates are: Groody polling at 22.3%, Ching at 16.4% and Dowd at 12.2% of the vote.