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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer


Notre Dame student body president tickets debate platform initiatives

Ahead of Wednesday’s student body election, the three tickets for student body president and vice president debated at Midfield Commons in Duncan Student Center on Monday night. The debate questions were submitted by students ahead of time and the debate was moderated by Judicial Council president Koryn Isa and vice president Ryn Weiss. 

Each ticket was allotted four minutes for opening and closing statements. During the debate portion, the contenders had two minutes to respond to eight general questions, one president-specific question and one vice president-specific question. 

Student body president candidate James Baird and his vice president running mate Abbie Toth started off the debate by sharing their motivations to run for office. 

“We’re running to build a brighter home under the dome. We want to use Student Government to bring positive change, real positive, tangible change to this campus,” Baird said. 

Toth expanded on the pair’s platform by explaining how they hope to be a force for good in the community, and what this looks like during the upcoming election year.

“We’re hoping to bring positive political discourse to our campus by partnering with political organizations on campus and getting people to be informed voters,” she said.

Next, in their opening statement, AnnahMarie Behn and Corey Bowden talked about how they met during their first year on campus in First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership and explained why they feel they work well as a team.

Behn ended her opening statement by challenging the audience to take all three tickets and everything they say and reflect on how this would impact them as a student and their friends and peers. 

“We are a community together and we really emphasize collaboration so we want you to take that and challenge yourselves as well tonight,” she said.

Dawson Kiser and his running mate Maeve Miller were the last of the candidates to address the audience. Miller emphasized how they hope to lead through service and give back to a community they love, while Kiser also acknowledged they want everyone to find their place in the community at Notre Dame. 

Kiser said, “But we also know that the Notre Dame experience is not incredible for every single student and that’s a big reason for why we're here is because we want to make sure that the learning experience is the best it can possibly be for every single student.”

In the first general question of the evening, the candidates were asked what their highest priority would be if elected to office. Behn, who is involved in mental health advocacy on campus through Active Minds, said her focus would be getting more full-time counselors at the University Counseling Center and allocating more resources to support students’ mental health. Kiser focused on their platform’s ND AI initiative which would centralize campus resources in one machine-learning tool for students to access, while Baird emphasized working to institute a student representative on the Notre Dame Board of Trustees. 

Later in the questioning, the tickets were asked how they would make campus more inclusive for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Miller spoke for her ticket and said they would focus on expanding and improving current PrideFest efforts and offer a meet-and-greet for students. 

Behn expanded on this idea and said in addition to contributing to current initiatives like PrideFest, they would also work to add core class attributes to gender studies and queer history courses and start a Safe Zone Project that trains people in how to be effective allies. 

“What this would look like would be [that] professors can be trained in useful language, and how to educate their students and facilitate a very safe and comforting environment that is inclusive for all,” Behn said. 

Baird also discussed LGBTQ+ initiatives in relation to academics. He said he plans to partner with different academic departments to “educate the campus community on the state of LGBTQ+ rights around the world.”

For the final question of the night before closing statements, the candidates were asked what the best thing about Notre Dame is and how they will ensure all students have a great Notre Dame experience. Behn spoke about the power of the Notre Dame community, and the other tickets echoed this sentiment. Kiser highlighted the culture behind the community on campus and how people are always lifting one another up, and Baird said he wants to do something each day to try to make people in the community even just a little bit happier. 

The debate concluded as each ticket had an opportunity to summarize its main platform points and goals. Kiser said as student body president and vice president, they would want student government to operate for students and through students, while Baird discussed how they hope to balance the line between feasible ideas and putting students’ needs first. Behn closed out the debate by speaking about the transparency of their campaign and how their platform has been continuously evolving with comments and feedback from students since its first iteration. 

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