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Notre Dame Political Groups Receive University Funding

This story was written by Joseph McMahon, The Observer

The Notre Dame Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday allowing the College Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians to use university-allocated funds to support the nominated candidates of their respective parties.

While the groups cannot directly donate to any candidate and any appearance by a political speaker must follow the guidelines which apply to all speakers, the new resolution allows the clubs to hand out promotional materials such as T-shirts and bumper stickers, as well as post signs around campus.

"When [Student Body President] Bob Reish and I were campaigning, a lot of students said the campus wasn't political enough," Student Body Vice President Grant Schmidt said. "We wanted there to be access to the candidates themselves."

Schmidt said he and Senate Oversight committee chair Ian Secviar spent a great deal of time meeting with university officials to develop the amendment.

"A lot of my work has been working on this amendment This is something for the 2008 election, and we wanted to get the ball rolling because it is already Sept. 17," Schmidt said. "I think this is a great step in the right direction for students to engage in this dialogue and not be stifled."

The amendment also allows the three groups to use their funds to transport students to political rallies. This amendment comes soon after members of the College Republicans were forced to use their own money to attend a John McCain-Sarah Palin rally in Sterling Heights, Mich.

"I really agree with this," Alumni Hall senator Zach Reuvers said. "A lot of members of College Republicans approached me after the Student Activities Office didn't allow them to go to the rally [using university funds.] I think it's just common sense."

The amendment stipulates that only the three clubs directly associated with political parties may support a specific candidate, and other groups which may have political interests, including the campus's Right to Life and NAACP clubs, cannot endorse anyone running for office.

Senate Social Concerns committee chair Gus Gari said it made sense for only the three political clubs to have the right to endorse a candidate.

"Right to Life is not exclusively affiliated with the Republican Party," Gari said. "We kind of had this laid out because their groups are based on the parties. Personally, I'm happy we're going to have a more politically-aware campus."

Schmidt said student government must give all three clubs the same funding, which is $2,606.04.

"All three groups must have the same resources," Schmidt said.

Senate Campus Technology committee chair Devin Fee, who previously worked on the allocation of funding for clubs with the Club Coordination Council, said this new stipulation will affect how much money CCC chooses to allocate to the clubs in the future.

Not every senator was pleased with the idea that tuition money for campus organizations was going to be used to support candidates in Indiana. Carroll Hall senator Nick Ruof said he thought the idea was great for the presidential election, but that he didn't like the idea of tuition money being used to support local candidates.

"I feel like the student body is not all from Indiana and our money could be used for something greater on campus," Ruof said.

After passing the resolution, Schmidt briefly mentioned that the student government-sponsored Mock Election is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 8. But he said it may be pushed back until after Fall Break. Schmidt said student government needs to decide whether students would cast their votes online or at designated booths.

In other Senate ews:

Reish said he is working with Notre Dame Security Police Director Phil Johnson and has planned a meeting with South Bend Police Department spokesman Capt. Phil Trent to discuss student safety during tailgates and while off campus. Reish said he wanted to make sure people understood policies regarding alcohol at tailgates.

"We're hoping to become more transparent regarding regulations concerning tailgates," he said.

Fee said in the past few weeks he has met with representatives from the Office of Information Technology several times to discuss campus cell phone service. He said they were encouraging companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile, who have not yet upgraded their service on campus, to do so. The OIT is also preparing a student survey to find out where service is weakest on campus, Fee said.

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