Dawson Kiser and Maeve Miller pledge support for Catholic identity

The Notre Dame student body elected junior Dawson Kiser and sophomore Maeve Miller to succeed Daniel Jung and Aidan Rezner as Student Body President and Vice President. The Kiser-Miller ticket won 53 percent of the February 8 vote, whereas runners-up Behn-Bowden and Baird-Toth won 26 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. 

Kiser and Miller ran on a service-oriented platform that focused on improving campus resources and making them more readily available to students. Such projects include an artificial intelligence (AI) database for student resources, improving water quality, establishing “Self-Love Week,” spreading information about and subsidizing religious resources, and increasing student involvement in the student government election process. 

In a debate sponsored by Notre Dame Knights of Columbus, Kiser stated that there are “very important things that … we are trying to accomplish, and one of those is keeping the Catholic identity of Notre Dame at its forefront.” The campaign’s effort to highlight the university’s Catholic identity includes not only expanding spiritual resources but also reaching out to pregnant women and the unborn. 

Notre Dame Right to Life described the Kiser-Miller ticket as an “excellent choice” in its voting guide sent to members of the club prior to the election. The guide described them as a “solidly pro-life ticket who are clearly enthusiastic about advancing a culture of life on Notre Dame’s campus.” 

Prior to the election, Kiser and Miller had a conversation with Notre Dame Right to Life in which “they committed to working with Notre Dame Right to Life to spread awareness about pregnancy resources, support the club’s Adopt-a-Mom program, and attend the March for Life,” according to the voting guide. 

In addition to support for Right to Life’s mission, the guide also recommended this ticket because of their support of “subsidized rides for off-campus religious services and increased campus awareness and engagement around the Lenten season.” 

The Baird-Toth ticket received positive feedback from Notre Dame Right to Life as well, being described as a “good choice” on election day. Behn-Bowden did not respond to an invitation to meet with Right to Life.

In an election day message to the Notre Dame Right to Life GroupMe, Kiser wrote, “My running mate Maeve Miller and I are both devout Catholics and certainly pro-life. We promise to work tirelessly to further the culture of life on this campus and to ensure that the Catholic mission of Our Lady’s University is at the forefront of everything we do.”

Kylie Gallegos, President of Notre Dame Right to Life, remarked that “It is important to have a student body president who appreciates and embodies the Catholic identity of Notre Dame. They serve as a representation of us and what we value as a student body.”

Notre Dame’s Catholic identity has also been a central aspect of the previous two administrations, Lee-Stitt and Jung-Rezner. Adding to the sense of continuity, Jung and his successor Kiser attended the same high school in Tampa, FL.

Gallegos stated that Notre Dame Right to Life has “been very happy with the past two student body presidents, who have shown support for our club. Both presidents have attended the March for Life with us.” 

Kiser remarked on this trend in an interview with the Rover: “I think it shows that the Notre Dame student body still prioritizes the Catholic identity and really wants to see the Catholic mission furthered in student government, where it’s really there to serve all of Notre Dame students.”

In 2023, the Lee-Stitt administration hosted Bishop Robert Barron for a talk titled “What Makes a University Catholic?” Similarly, the Jung-Rezner administration plans to bring Fr. Mike Schmitz, host of the “Bible in a Year” podcast, to campus. During Jung and Rezner’s tenure, Notre Dame also partnered with Hallow, the world’s leading Catholic prayer app. 

Kiser and Miller’s platform also outlined other initiatives in the areas of AI, GreeNDot, and dorm life.

On the topic of AI, Kiser noted, “there’s a lot of great resources on campus, but they’re all super decentralized.” To solve this problem, Kiser proposed an AI service that eases the process of searching for different resources: “With ND AI, we wanted to put all those resources into one place.” 

The goal of the initiative, according to Kiser, is to “increase engagement with all the resources.” He continued, “I think the issue is not the lack of resources; it’s the lack of knowledge of resources.”

Another area of emphasis for the Kiser-Miller ticket was improved GreeNDot engagement to help prevent sexual assault. 

Kiser said, “One issue with GreeNDot is that people don’t really fully understand the importance of it. I think something that we’re going to try to do is really make sure that students understand why it’s an important thing, rather than just a required thing to be a student leader.”

In the area of dorm life, Kiser recognized plenty of room for improvement. During his administration, he hopes to “foster more of a dialogue between [RAs and students].” One solution he proposed was the use of “anonymous feedback forms, where RAs can send them out to their section and get a pulse for what’s going on.”

Kiser and Miller’s victory came amid increased voter turnout and with an increased margin of victory. According to Judicial Council statistics, the voter turnout this year was just above 50 percent, higher than the 30 percent turnout in 2023 but below the 58 percent turnout in 2022

After last year’s election, both Jung and Rezner noted the lack of student engagement as a problem that could be improved by “transparency.” But despite the increased voter turnout this year, criticism of Student Government as ineffective has continued. 

In The Observer’s election endorsement, the editorial board expressed frustration at the lack of transparency in student government: “Student government certainly is capable of effecting change on campus. But the current structure encourages students to live in a make-believe political world where they’re focused on building some sort of political legacy or resume within the bounds of what Notre Dame will allow. Platform promises do not frequently align with the work accomplished once in office.”

Junior Caroline York partially agreed with the editorial’s message, but she was optimistic about the newly elected ticket: “I personally haven’t felt very impacted by student government during my time at Notre Dame, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t actively working behind the scenes to improve our campus and community.” 

York continued, “This year, now that Dawson and Maeve have been elected President and Vice President, I know I’m going to see many more visible changes being made, solely because I know and trust that Dawson and Maeve will actively implement their ideas and get things done.”

Kiser responded to this sentiment, emphasizing that the need for “practical change is actually felt by students.”  He continued, “I think there are a lot of things that students feel from Student Government, but just don’t know that they’re done by Student Government. There’s a lot of things that happen behind the scenes and can sometimes take multiple administrations.” 

The new administration will begin choosing their cabinet and preparing for their term that begins April 1.

Daniel Rueda-Ramirez is a freshman from Baumer Hall majoring in business analytics and theology. If you want to talk with him about music, philosophy, or literally anything, you can reach out to him at druedara@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: @dawsonmaeve24 Instagram page

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