Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) did end-of-semester housekeeping Wednesday night by discussing what has gone right so far and assessing goals that still need to be accomplished. The executives held individual meetings with the members of the Board and said its members agreed they had succeeded on several fronts: a good team atmosphere, successful commissioners and increased visibility on campus, student body president Rachael Chesley said. “These are things we virtually heard from everybody,” she said. “Most people commented on the foundation of a team. They feel as SGA, everyone is working together as a team.” At the beginning of the academic year, SGA commissioners and executives went on a retreat together to build camaraderie, Chesley said. The Board said this made commissioners more successful in their positions. Chesley said commissioners feel comfortable enough to really “take action” this year. The majority of the Board also said they have improved at “reaching out to the student body as a whole,” Laura Smith, student body vice president, said. “Everyone mentioned they feel SGA is much more visible this year through events taking place and also through emails and keeping the office open,” Chesley said. Kelly Lyons, president of the Class of 2011, said she has seen a huge shift since last year’s SGA. “Last year, I didn’t really know what SGA was or what it was a part of, but I feel like this year, that has changed a lot,” Lyons said. SGA then discussed changes that could be made and improvements that need to be implemented in the coming semester. Members said they need to improve communication between the Finance Committee — which reviews sponsorship requests from clubs and organizations on campus — and the larger board. “Everyone, overall, said they like how instead of spending the whole time on hearing sponsorships and voting who gets what in the larger meetings, we can deal with other things, but you also want to know where the money is going,” Chesley said. Starting next semester, there will be minute-long reports about how the money is spent, she said. Members also suggested a State of the Union address to let the campus community know what SGA is doing and to let “students know this is actually what we’ve been doing and we haven’t been hiding,” Emily Skirtich, chief of staff, said. Finally, the group discussed major projects they would like to see done in the spring. The Board wished to address the technology issues on campus, such as the lack of printers, the possibility of adding bike racks on campus, improving its recently launched website and completing the Le Mans Hall basement renovations, which when completed will be a common area for students. Chesley reminded the Board that the April 1 turnover date will approach quickly when the staff returns for the spring semester. “The projects that we pick, we need to jump on them right when we get back,” she said.
Notre Dame pre-med students face a notoriously difficult schedule with academic and extracurricular activities, a stressful balancing act which reaches new heights when it comes time to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Junior biology and theology major Antoinette Pusateri said she will be one of the pre-med students taking the test this upcoming Saturday. Although she has faced a busy schedule because of the additional task of studying for the MCAT this semester, Pusateri said there are some positive results stemming from the experience of studying for the MCAT. “If anything, what I would take away from the whole pre-med, studying-for-the-MCAT experience would be the art of prioritizing, of time management,” Pusateri said. “It’s definitely been a learning curve, but that’s kind of the college experience for everybody.” Pusateri said she set up a study schedule specifically for the MCAT, and made sure she stuck to it. “I really started hardcore studying after finals fall semester and then really every day since then, with a few days off,” Pusateri said. “[I’ve been studying] at least a couple hours a day,” Pusateri said. Despite stress associated with studying for the MCAT, Pusateri said she feels prepared for the exam on Saturday. “First and foremost, I don’t think anywhere else prepares us better than Notre Dame,” Pusateri said. “I went through the notecards and notes that our professor had us make for organic chemistry and basically, out of all the cards and notes I had, I only needed a fourth of that for studying.” Junior biology and peace studies major Gwyneth Sullivan is electing to take the MCAT in late May, outside of the confines of the semester, but within the upcoming admissions cycle. Though her test date is further away, she said she still has tried to continue her preparation, which started is January. “Ideally, I’m doing two hours of study a night, but realistically if I have a huge exam, like my physics test this week, I’ll push it off a little bit” Sullivan said. “It’s a lot of time management.” A prominent factor in her decision to take the MCAT in May rather than this Saturday is the annual benefit her family hosts in Chicago in remembrance of her brother, Declan Sullivan, she said. “The benefit is actually this weekend so there’s no way I could have physically taken the MCAT,” Sullivan said. “Especially in the last three weeks, I’ve been doing so much logistical work for it that it’s been hard to study.” Other pre-med students have decided to forego sitting the MCAT during the school year in favor of taking it during the summer. Chantal Berry, a junior anthropology and preprofessional major, is one student who chose this less traditional path, instead opting to take the MCAT in August. “What I found with my friends that were either taking the MCAT this weekend or in May was that it’s been a very stressful semester,” Berry said. “I didn’t really want to have that stress, I wanted to get the most out of my college experience in terms of the academics and I wanted the sole focus to be the academics.” Taking the test later means Berry will not receive her scores in time for the upcoming admissions cycle, but she said she already decided on taking a gap year after finishing her studies at Notre Dame. “I think the decision to take a gap year was partially the MCAT reason but also just because I wanted that time off before once again getting right back into academics and medical school,” Berry said. Contact Henry Gens at [email protected]
With one home football game left on the 2013 schedule, director of game day operations Mike Seamon said Saturday’s Navy game weekend went “incredibly well,” despite the chaos from an influx of visitors to campus. “The Notre Dame-Navy relationship is certainly one of the most special relationships in all of college football, and we think this past weekend was a testament to that,” Seamon said. “Whenever we play Navy at home, we have a very high number of guests visit campus. We see a large number of Notre Dame fans who have a very sincere respect and high level of admiration for the Naval Academy, so they always mark this weekend to visit campus.” Seamon said more than 100,000 people came to campus for the weekend, and one of the highlights was the Blue Angels flyover for the first time this year. “We’ve been working hard with our ROTC programs and the military over the course of the past several months to try to get a flyover for one of our home games,” he said. “The sequester presented a unique challenge to [that]. Thankfully, the Blue Angels were open to coming to the Notre Dame-Navy game to celebrate our special relationship with a flyover. “Two of the six jets were piloted by both a Naval Academy graduate and a Notre Dame graduate. We were grateful that the weather cleared just in time for the flyover and the game.” Friday’s pep rally was the first ever to be held in the Compton Family Ice Arena, Seamon said, and drew a crowd of about 7,000 people. “We decided to take advantage of the hockey team being on the road last weekend and open up the facility to our fans and guests, as many of them had never had the opportunity to visit the new facility,” he said. “We were able to honor and recognize the Blue Angels as part of the rally, [and] we received an overwhelmingly positive response to holding the rally in Compton, as everyone thought it was a loud environment.” The stadium tunnel tour Friday saw a season-high total as well, with 5,190 participants, Seamon said. The Friday luncheon had 1,000 attendees. Phil Johnson, director of Notre Dame Security Police, said despite the early rain, the day turned out well from his group’s standpoint. “Traffic ran smoothly, and there were no crashes,” Johnson said. “Police made two custodial arrests Saturday. One man was arrested for shoplifting and possession of marijuana, the other for public intoxication.” Johnson said police also issued citations for underage drinking to two local young people who were loitering in campus parking lots during the game. Post-game traffic was more normal than traffic at the previous weekend’s USC game, Seamon said. “Overall, it was another special weekend celebrating the long-standing Notre Dame-Navy relationship,” he said. Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at [email protected]
For the first time publicly, former Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo confirmed he was the Irish football player involved in the Lizzy Seeberg sexual assault investigation in 2010.In the fall of 2010, Shembo’s first semester on campus, Seeberg, a Saint Mary’s student, accused a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her in her dorm room. In the coming days, Seeberg reportedly received text messages from a friend of the football player that said, “Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.”Seeberg committed suicide 10 days after the alleged assault and charges were never filed.Shembo’s name popped up online in relation to the investigation but was never officially connected to the alleged sexual assault.After playing four years with the Irish, Shembo is now prepping for a potential career in the NFL and said teams have asked him about the situation.“I just tell [NFL team executives] the truth, I have nothing to hide,” Shembo said to Blue and Gold Illustrated while at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. “No one’s heard from me one time. Do you go off of one person’s story?”Shembo said he was not surprised about the questions because the allegations were a simple search away.“Everyone that does the background check can type my name in and you’ll see all the stuff that people have said about me and have never heard from my mouth,” he said.Shembo said Irish coach Brian Kelly told him he was not allowed to talk on the matter publically, despite his desire to.“My name was going to flames and it just made my name look bad and I can’t even speak,” Shembo said.Notre Dame declined to comment Sunday.Tags: football, sexual assault, Shembo
The Saint Mary’s College Theatre Program will perform the play “Gossamer” by novelist and Newberry Medal recipient Lois Lowry from Thursday to Sunday in the Little Theatre.The play follows a story of magical beings who create dreams. The loving and empathetic “littlest” dream-giver possesses a gossamer touch in giving dreams; however, the dream-giver struggles when sent to help heal a young boy named John.Katie Sullivan, director and associate professor of theatre, said the themes and storyline in “Gossamer” will make the play an enjoyable experience for the audience.“Students will enjoy the good versus evil, the notion that our dreams are gifts to us, that there are truly scary things happening in the world and that we must find through imagination, positive memories and loving relationships the courage to step past our fears and negative experiences,” she said. “It is actually a pretty deep little play by the time we come to the ending.”Sullivan said the play is true to the book, even describing mystical creatures such as the Sinisteeds, dark and terrifying dream-givers resembling horses who rip through walls, breathe fire and disappear back through the walls, leaving only scorch marks.“It’s a challenge to get this on the stage in a manner that is doable but yet conveys the fright and the power that they bring to the story,” she said.Sullivan said stories involving the blurring of fantasy and reality were not foreign to the students working in the production.“College students these days have grown up on “Harry Potter,” for instance, and understand and appreciate the existence of other places, non-human characters, different rules that govern these worlds,” she said.Maria Welser, a junior portraying John in the production, said she enjoys getting the opportunity to relive childhood.“I get to be a kid again, and not just any kid. I think John has a lot of swagger and maybe that’s just me, but he’s also best friends with a dog named Toby,” she said. “It’s so fun to just play around and act like a little kid. We as adults don’t really get the chance to do that. Kids get the chance to be anything they want to be.”On a serious note, this play creates a great opportunity to shed light on child abuse, she said.“John comes from an abusive family, and I think it’s nice to give a voice to children from less fortunate households,” Welser said.Song-eun Ma, an exchange student from Korea playing the character “Littlest One,” said preparing for the show has been enjoyable due to a close-knit cast.“They are literally my energy source,” Ma said. “They make me so happy the whole rehearsal time.”Sullivan said Saint Mary’s provides theater students exposure to a variety of plays in both contemporary and classical genres.“Our students need experience at working with elevated language like verse, such as in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter,” she said. “We put on “Henry V” last spring and the Greek comedy “Lysistrata” a couple of years before that.“We also like to produce plays written by women, such as this one was, as we are at women’s college and want to educate our women, both theatre students and the student audience, with playwrights, issues, concerns, that do or will involve them in their lifetimes as women.”Tags: Gossamer, Little Theatre, Lois Lowry, saint mary’s, SMC, Theatre
On the eve of Irish State of Mind Week’s mental health awareness campaign, student government hosted a town hall meeting Thursday evening and answered the questions of senators, hall presidents and other students. “We’re at a different place in the conversation with mental health than we are with sexual assault,” senior student body president Bryan Ricketts said. “We’re just trying to define the problem with mental health in general right now.”On Monday, student government kicks off mental health awareness week with their Irish State of Mind initiative.Michael Yu | The Observer “We decided that mental health awareness needs to be education in tandem with action,” senior student body vice president Nidia Ruelas said. “The idea is that we’re going to release a video next week in conjunction with other ACC schools, with the message ‘Just Ask.’ It means asking really, truly how someone is doing, finding out how they really are underneath the facades we put on in high stress situations, which we obviously have a lot of here.”Ruelas said she has also started to work with a variety of focus groups to determine different and better solutions to student mental health needs.“We want to figure out if we’re doing the proper outreach to groups, and trying to figure out how to better respond to all of that,” she said. “We found with racial and ethnic minorities that they responded really well with group setting, so it’s about understanding what our target is and how to best serve them.”Ricketts also introduced a new partnership between student government and the individual colleges to target more specifically the issue. “This summer, we spent a lot of time with the administration trying to figure out the problem with mental illness … we wanted to work with the colleges to figure out how they can specifically help,” Ricketts said. “… It will be different with the Architecture majors than the Arts and Letters majors.” In addition to addressing mental health, Ricketts and Ruelas emphasized their continuing attention to the issue of sexual assault at the University. “We as a community are responsible for what happens in this community,” Rickets said. “… Holding one another accountable has kind of been the underpinning of change regarding sexual assault here.”Last year, student government launched the It’s On Us campaign to help prevent sexual assault.“The It’s On Us campaign all starts by being like, ‘Hey, we’re going to look out for each other. We’re going to be there for each other,’” Ruelas said. “But that doesn’t end with your friends.”The Green Dot program also helps to educate students through training sessions, they said. “You see the difference when we reach out to people to come to trainings for these things, they’ll bring two or three people with them. … We’re holding more people accountable for their actions,” Ricketts said.“… The more conversations we have about it, the better. If you can convince that person, that naysayer, that one person who dwells in the what-ifs, if you can convince them that it’s on them too, that really is tangible change.”Ruelas also spoke about the recent push to make reporting sexual assault a simpler process.“We put out posters at the beginning of the semester describing how to deal with sexual assault,” she said. “It’s simple enough, so that if you see something when you’re out and about, you can say something. It’s a whole part of the culture piece in order to effect change.”Tags: It’s On Us, Mental health, sexual assault, Student government, town hall
Students returned to school this year to discover more had changed than the addition of two resident halls and the introduction of Smashburger in LaFortune Student Center: The insideND portal that was installed in 2004 had been replaced. John Hartman, who served as project manager for the Office of Information Technologies (OIT)’s Portal Replacement Project, said in an email that the old insideND’s vendor told the department that the product would not be supported after July 1. “We had no choice [but to switch], since the old portal was no longer viable from a technology standpoint,” he said. OIT conducted feedback sessions last fall with over 75 campus representatives from all major departments, faculty, staff and students to design a new portal. Hartman said the “top issues” were that there was no search function, the application wasn’t mobile-friendly, defunct links couldn’t be detected, cost and maintenance requirements were high, and high cost and the entire portal required password access. “The old portal required a netID and password to use,” Hartman said. “With the new portal, netID and password are not required until you access a link or function that require authentication. What this means is that it opens the portal, and thus campus services, out to the community. Access can now be made by parents, vendors, or others that require use of campus services but do not have a netID.”Other items OIT sought to address included providing the new portal as a cloud-based application, a responsive design, the ability for campus “publishers” to administer and update content easily, self-organization according to most used services and favorites and adopting a philosophy of “Search, click, done.” The new insideND portal is powered by OneCampus, and Hartman said it is being operated “exactly as it was delivered, without modification,” but that changes will be made if necessary.“What is being changed or added to insideND often corresponds to the feedback we receive from users for changes they would like to see,” he said. “For example, besides the favorites grouping, some campus users have asked to be able to build groupings on their own. This will soon be available.”The OneCampus solution was the result of a “consortium of universities [led and developed by Indiana University] that pooled their requirements and came up with a common solution,” Hartman said. In the first several weeks after its launch, the platform was met with mixed reviews from students.“I don’t understand what they’re going for,” junior Sawyer Williams said. “It looks like it’s supposed to look like an iPhone screen, but it’s not user-friendly.”Junior Aleks Gawronska said she thought the change was good in theory, but could still use some updates. “I feel like they had a good idea with all the tiles because that is a lot simpler than the system they were using before, but I feel like their execution is subpar,” she said. “I feel like there are three tiles that everyone uses everyday and none of them can be found. Even with the favorites option, I think they could have categorized them [the apps] a little neater.” Complaints about the application directed to OIT have been few, Hartman said. “It seems that getting familiar with the new portal is key to tapping into its effectiveness,” he said. ‘This is certainly a paradigm shift in how we access campus services.”Tags: InsideND, OIT
Former Notre Dame football player Max Redfield was denied a plea agreement Tuesday after failing a drug test, according to a report from WNDU. Redfield and four other current Notre Dame football players were pulled over in Fulton County in August and arrested on charges of marijuana possession. Redfield was additionally charged with possession of a handgun without a license. Redfield pleaded guilty to all counts in November, and had agreed to a plea deal requiring no jail time and mandating a 180-day probation period. However, at his sentencing hearing Tuesday, prosecutors withdrew the deal because he tested positive for marijuana during a court-ordered drug test, Fulton County Deputy Prosecutor Michael Marrs said in an interview with the South Bend Tribune.According to the article in the Tribune, Fulton Superior Court Judge Wayne Steele ordered the drug screen as part of the county probation department’s pre-sentence investigation.The defense attorney for Redfield, Randy Fisher, said he was “completely blindsided” by the results of the test, according to the South Bend Tribune. “I question the validity of the test,” Fisher said in a phone interview with the Tribune. “We had Mr. Redfield tested independently the same week as part of a substance abuse program he entered on his own, and he tested negative for any drugs prior to the court-ordered testing.”Redfield’s next court date is set for Jan. 3, and both lawyers are currently working on a new agreement, according to the Tribune.Following his arrest in August, Redfield was dismissed from the football team and subsequently expelled from the University.
It was a busy summer for student body president and vice president Becca Blais and Sibonay Shewit. Between securing a bike-sharing program on campus, improving their diversity and inclusion initiatives, executing a Flick on the Field event and laying important groundwork with University Health Services, they’re ticking items off their to-do list every day.But as the year actually gets started, Blais said she is excited to focus on the students.“I think the biggest thing … is just a growing presence of student government in people’s lives,” Blais said. “What I want is, at the end of the day, if you pluck a random student off the sidewalk and say, like, ‘how does student government help you?’ they’ll be able to name something. We’re just doing small, tangible things.” Eddie Griesedieck | The Observer Seniors Becca Blais and Sibonay Shewit are focusing on connecting with the student body over the course of the upcoming year.That starts with her team — Shewit, her vice president and Prathm Juneja, their chief of staff, most immediately. “The three of us have been working together really well,” Blais said. “It’s very different from any partnership between a president, vice president and chief of staff before. We work in a very unique way. I like it a lot.”The camaraderie between the three, Shewit added, has led to enthusiasm about new ideas for the year.“We just complement each other and get so excited about things,” Shewit said.This excitement about the upcoming year is particularly evident every time they start to talk about their long term plans.“A big thing we’ve talked about is going back to how it was when we were campaigning — really reaching out to different student groups, getting input, getting more ideas,” Shewit said. “We did that a lot last semester and I think we just want to push that more, especially with the freshmen coming in.”The enthusiasm extends to the rest of the cabinet, and Shewit said they have “not slowed down” all summer. “They’ve been so on top of everything, they’ve made our lives so easy, too,” Shewit said. “With pretty much everything we’ve put on the platform, they’ve been able to give us really good updates, which has given us more time to focus on where student government is going as a whole and the big picture, too.”This pace has allowed for Blais and Shewit to stay on track toward their goals, and they’re “right where [they] want to be” as the year kicks off. “You always kind of freak out — like, ‘Oh no, are we where we’re supposed to be?’ — but the minute we talk to one of our cabinet members, we’re exactly where we need to be,” Blais said. “They all got what they needed to do done.” Continuing to form and strengthen a relationship with the University’s administration has been “super helpful,” Blais said. “The administration has been super awesome about working with us and helping us get these things done. Even working with the administration, they’ll say like, ‘We trust your judgement on this, and we trust it because we’ve worked with you for the past two or more years.’ So that’s been really nice,” Blais said.“It’s skipping that learning curve and the getting-to-know-you process and just getting straight to the work,” Shewit added. “We feel really comfortable being open and honest with them.”Over the summer, at the request of many students, student government was able to get LimeBikes on campus, Blais said. “So [LimeBikes] have been worked on from a couple of different angles,” she said. “Student government people have been pushing for it to happen, so we partnered with the people in the office of sustainability, as well as different marketing classes, which was basically all of these people together. So they launched it in South Bend, and then we got 175 bikes on campus, for 175 years [since Notre Dame’s founding].”Shewit said she hopes to get more ideas from students just visiting the student government offices. “It’s very much like a think tank, with open discussion and creative spaces,” Shewit said. “It’s just so great because it goes beyond just the 22 people up here. You’ll just see people coming in and out of here, bringing their own ideas.”Tags: blais-shewit, LimeBike, Student government
April 17 may not mean much to most undergraduate students, but some of these students have taken it upon themselves to participate in tax season via the Vivian Harrington Gray Tax Assistance Program (TAP), which has helped local, low-income South Bend and Mishawaka community members fill out their federal and state tax returns since 1972, when professor Ken Milani started the program.Colleen Creighton, associate teaching professor of accountancy and the program coordinator for TAP, became a professor and joined TAP in 2016. Creighton said participating in TAP has been a “tremendous learning experience” for her and “enlightening” for the students who volunteer.“It is very eye-opening for a lot of people, figuring out how privileged we may be,” she said. “I had one student tell me that they were looking at a tax return for a family of four, and they made just a little bit more than they made over their summer internship.”Steffen Timmer, TAP’s student program leader, said he originally joined TAP because of the additional credits one can earn from taking the class, as students need 150 credits for the Certified Public Accountant exam. Still, he said being a part of TAP during junior and senior years has been a rewarding experience.“I like being able to talk to people and get to know them, help them with their problems and issues, even if it’s something as little as tax returns.” Timmer said. “It can make a big difference for these people that the program serves, because the other options like H&R Block or firms like that might charge 200 bucks or something for doing a tax return, and when your income’s not that high, that can make a big difference.”In the community program, undergraduate juniors and seniors studying accounting can take TAP as a two-credit pass/fail course after they have taken Federal Taxation. First they learn the tax filing process, then from Feb. 13 to April 14 they periodically work on location in the South Bend and Mishawaka area filing taxes.“Initially I think it’s to get the practical experience, but I think they really enjoy providing help,” Creighton said. “And most people are just so anxious for the help … the idea that someone is there to help lessen that burden is very helpful and they’re all very, very grateful.”Creighton said the “real live client” experience is an invaluable lesson that’s difficult to learn in the classroom.Timmer said he found that working with real-life clients helped him apply classroom concepts to the real world situations.“You actually work with clients, so when you start working you have some experience of how to communicate with people and help them out,” Timmer said. “Sitting in your accounting classes you’re not getting a lot of actual interaction with people like who you’re going to be working for in the future.”This year, the community TAP program made the shift to electronic filing. Not only did this increase efficiency, but it also benefits the clients, who get their refunds anywhere from four to six weeks sooner.“Particularly for the community that we’re dealing with, this tax refund has a tremendous impact, so the ability to shorten that and get them their money much faster has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm,” Creighton said.Besides the community program, TAP also includes an international program where students in Mendoza’s Master of Science in Accountancy program help international students, scholars and faculty with their taxes.“Most Americans have difficulty understanding their taxes, then you get somebody who’s only here for a short period of time,” Creighton. “So the International Program helps them with any US filing requirements.”Last year, the community program did 834 returns and 1,885 returns total combined with the international program’s returns. This year, Creighton said the program is on track to fill out at least as many returns as they did last year.“Tax returns, it’s nothing extremely challenging for us as accounting students at Notre Dame, but it’s stuff people are confused about,” Timmer said. “People don’t know tax laws, like an accounting major would, so it’s good to use what we know to help people with that.”Tags: April 17th, IRS, TAP, Tax Assistance Program, tax season