New president, vice president of student body elected for 2015-2016
The Notre Dame student body’s new leadership team for 2015-2016, Bryan Ricketts and Nidia Ruelas, will begin their term as respective president and vice-president on April 1. Running under the slogan “Passion. Unity. Identity.”, the two juniors have attempted to fashion these keywords into a platform based on addressing students’ needs.
Voting on Wednesday, February 4, resulted in the election of Ricketts and Ruelas by a 51 percent majority (1,908 votes), according to the email to the student body from the Judicial Council. Neil Joseph and Noemi Ventilla, the opposing ticket, garnered 41.62 percent of the vote, while a further 7.38 percent abstained. In total, 45 percent of eligible undergraduates voted.
Ricketts and Ruelas have articulated in their platform (which is available online) an ambitious set of goals for their time in office. One innovative goal is to “[l]aunch an online forum that connects students directly to student government departments and school administrators where collaboration provides solutions to student-voiced concerns.”
“The forum will elevate student voices to give us knowledge of the issues that campus cares most about and to show us the voices that are often unheard, sparking student government responses and collaboration across campus,” Ricketts and Ruelas explained to the Rover. “We are currently meeting with administrators to discuss the possibilities that the forum will open for campus.”
Their top priority is to confront the issue of sexual assault by providing peer support.
“During the first six weeks of school, statistically the most dangerous for new students, we will promote resources and support the bystander training initiatives of the Gender Relations Center,” Ricketts told the Rover.
The Rover also asked the new president and vice president to address their perceived role in the ongoing curriculum review.
“We believe that the core curriculum is an essential part of the University’s holistic approach to education in which ‘the Mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the Heart’ (Blessed Basil Moreau),” they commented. “We will be sure to bring student’s concerns to the administration throughout the evaluation process to ensure we keep the core values of wholeness and meaning as a part of our University education.”
In their platform, Ricketts and Ruelas also expressed a desire to evaluate the mental health resources available for students on campus.
“We are aware that many students on campus do not feel their needs for mental health resources are being met,” they told the Rover. “We will work with the University Counseling Center and the McDonald Wellness Center to achieve this.”
Ricketts served as a two-term president for PrismND and as a peer educator for the Gender Relations Center. Ruelas served as Vice Chair of the Diversity Council. Their respective backgrounds with emphasis on diversity and inclusion have led them to formulate additional goals, including to “employ inclusive language that recognizes all gender and sexual identities” and to “endorse the implementation of the 21 points in the Diversity Recommendations from Student Affairs.”
“My work in PrismND and the GRC has focused on hearing the voices of communities and finding solutions that meet their needs,” Ricketts commented to the Rover. “The experience with LGBTQ and sexual assault issues will prove invaluable in student government, but the process of listening and responding is just as important an asset when it comes to meeting the needs of other communities and of the student body.”
“My experience … has provided me the invaluable experience of serving as a moderator in discussions of inclusion,” Ruelas explained to the Rover. “I take the values of excellence, diplomacy, and fairness with me into student government to ensure that all are included in important conversations on campus.”
Another major focus of their term is to “introduce the discussion on socioeconomic status and how it affects student life.”
“Currently, the administration has taken an active role in discussing the availability of resources for students from various socioeconomic backgrounds,” Ruelas informed the Rover. “It is our job in student government to participate in this ongoing conversation and to continue the work of the administration and students.”
They propose actions such as opening one of the dining halls over fall and spring breaks to accommodate the needs of students who have to stay on campus, providing housing options for international students, and offering peer mentorship to first generation college students.
Ricketts and Ruelas are optimistic about achieving their goals: “We see Notre Dame’s greatest blessing in the passions of its students. It keeps us motivated, directs our vision, and provides the fuel for maintaining our identity as a top Catholic research institution.”
John VanBerkum is a junior studying philosophy. He is a connoisseur of goat cheeses. He can be reached at email@example.com.