Candidates for Student Body President Gather at Knights of Columbus Debate

This past Sunday, February 9, the Notre Dame Knights of Columbus Council #1477 hosted a debate for the Student Body presidential election. 

In keeping with the Order’s long reputation as the “strong right arm of the Church,” as Pope Saint John Paul II called it, the Notre Dame Council made Catholicism the foundation of their debate. It is of great importance to the Council that the new student body president be one who embodies Catholicism in its entirety, one who will uphold the faith which built and sustains the greatest of universities, Notre Dame.

For this reason, the debate was opened and closed in prayer. By encouraging all to in attendance to join in prayer, the Council was able to highlight the fact that the University’s “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” faith encompasses all of us in all that we do. It highlighted the Catholic identity of the University and of her students and promoted a bolstering of that faith.

Yet, of the five tickets that appeared at the debate (the Bates-Henry ticket did not appear), only three of them joined in verbally praying the Pater Noster and the Ave Maria with the assembled crowd. Dugan, Mercugliano, and Ingal moved their mouths to the prayer. Whittle and Patidar, a protestant and a Hindu, respectively, sat silent. 

Early in the debate, the candidates were asked specifically about what role they felt Catholicism played in the life of the University. 

For Patidar, this meant that we should strive for a diversity of religions on campus and for religious inclusivity. And Whittle, too, believed that we need to treat this issue with a “listening heart” to collaborate with Campus Ministry to be more accepting of faiths on campus. 

Mercugliano focused on what the role of Catholicism is for the University now, namely, a foundation as it has been for many modern universities. Similarly, Ingal thought that the Catholic identity of Notre Dame “set [the University] apart” from other universities. She also claimed that it allowed Notre Dame to embrace Catholic Social Tradition by being welcoming to all and accepting of everyone.

Dugan agreed that Catholicism is the foundation of the University and that it set Notre Dame apart from other institutions. He also felt that it was necessary to recall the engraving beneath the statue of the Sacred Heart found in the center of the heart-shaped sidewalk which reads Venite ad me omnes, that is, “Come to me all.” Looking to this model, at the heart of campus – the heart of the University – Dugan said that it was necessary to love everyone with the love of the Sacred Heart by making them feel welcome, but also increasing resources for Catholics on campus. This would include increasing prayer services like that for 9/11 or uniting the student body for Masses like those for the late Annrose Jerry.

Later in the debate, the candidates were asked about their stance against sexual assault. Three of the candidates — Whittle, Mercugliano, and Patidar — spoke on similar solutions, including increasing GreeNDot training, adding more blue lights around campus, training local bar staff, and training students during Welcome Weekend.

Ingal emphasized the importance of protecting female students during the “red zone,” a term given to the first six weeks of freshmen year when female students are considered most suseptible to sexual assault. She also would like to see football ushers to be GreeNDot trained and urged the use of an app system like Calisto.

Dugan, the only candidate to be involved with the University’s committee for sexual assault, emphasized the importance of this issue as an issue of the “dignity of the person,” to use the phrase Ingal assigned to Catholic Social Tradition. He provided statistics proving that Calisto will not work as well as SAPA, a program used by other universities in the country, and mentioned that Calisto does not want to work with Notre Dame. Further, he expressed concern over the idea of forcing people to be GreeNDot trained, as statistics show that forcing people to take place in this national program actually reduces its effects.

Between prayers and questions related to faith and Catholicism, the Knights of Columbus debate provided voters with an insight into candidates, their faiths, and how they see the role of faith in the University. All of the candidates did express gratitude towards the Notre Dame Knights of Columbus for their hosting and moderation of the event, gratitude that was felt by all in attendance. 

Patrick Gouker is a sophomore in Knott Hall studying math and theology. He gets greatly hangry when the Editor-in-Chief of the Rover does not order the pizza early enough. That’s right, I’m looking at you Nick! Patrick can be reached at