Group's changes produce few tangible results
By JASON McFARLEY
Last year when a Campus Life Council meeting cut into dinnertime, it meant one of two things: Either members had gotten a late start or, more likely, they were tied up in contentious debate and name-calling.
During the spring 2001 semester alone, the group twice tabled discussion and adjourned its bi-weekly meetings after members' bickering over such issues as academic freedom and parietals extensions stretched past the council's self-imposed 90-minute time limit. At its height, the CLC's squabbling led student members to draft a letter to rectors, faculty and the administrator who sat on the body, urging them to end the in-fighting.
That — and some personnel changes — seemed to work. Feuding isn't on the group's agenda this year.
In fact, the campus leaders who comprise the body this year hardly look — or sound — like their counterparts from the 2000-2001 council.
Since September, members' tone has been cooperative, even amiable. Meetings have run efficiently; several sessions lasted between 20 and 30 minutes.
On the one hand, the changes speak to a recommitted CLC that wants to take advantage of its unique powers. The 15-member group can form task forces at its own discretion to examine various areas of campus life. Most resolutions passed in the Student Senate require a stamp of approval from the CLC before Student Affairs officials will even consider them. And whenever it wants, the council may draft its own resolutions and forward them to the vice president for student affairs, who is required to at least send back a formal response to the measure.
But if CLC members this year are in high spirits or are getting out of meetings earlier, that's also a matter of what they're considering in the conference room.
Arguing sometimes rendered the CLC ineffective last year, but the disputes always centered on significant campus issues. Consider: Debate in the CLC last spring about ending parietals at 9 a.m. instead of at 10 a.m. increased hostility at the meeting table but resulted in a resolution approving the one-hour rollback of hours members of the opposite sex are barred from visiting each other in residence halls. University officials, in turn, signed off on the proposal and implemented the change in the fall.
Current members, however, have done little in the way of considering other groups' resolutions or drafting their own. Only the Student Senate has asked for the CLC's approval of a resolution, a measure in November that would allow students to miss three class days per semester to attend job or graduate school interviews. The council passed the resolution and sent it to the Academic Council, where it awaits consideration.
A single resolution doesn't represent the sum total of the CLC's work this year. Fact is, the group exists as more than a resolution-making body with veto power over other organizations' policy initiatives.
When they weren't considering resolutions, members this year were focusing on task force work. Thoughtful discussion at the beginning of the fall semester led the group to create task forces focusing on three areas of Notre Dame student life: alcohol use, off-campus living and social space.
Traditionally, CLC task forces have had short lives, lasting only until task force members arrived at conclusive findings or drafted a resolution. At present, the council has five task forces — the three formed in September and two formed this week that deal with community life and student-administration communication.
At this point, the task forces are essentially tools for collecting information and passing it along to University officials. Significant policy-changing resolutions aren't likely to come out of the task forces.
And that seems to pose a dilemma for the council.
From one standpoint, the CLC's unique make-up affords it the advantage of bringing together representatives from each campus constituency to discuss student life issues.
From another, CLC members are in an enviable position to shape policy — and not just talk about it.
This year's council has taken both tacks and produced relatively few tangible results.
All News Stories for Wednesday, January 23, 2002