Second female president-elect reflects on experiences
Associate News Editor
At a private Mass presided over by Father Theodore Hesburgh in his library office, Libby Bishop, student body president-elect, sat with Brooke Norton, current student body president and listened the University president emeritus deliver a homily about the importance leading with compassion.
"He talked about how neat it was to have Notre Dame's first and second female student body presidents there, and in his homily he mentioned leading the student body with compassion, which I thought was really nice," said Bishop, who will take office April 1.
Norton said, "People have commented to me that it's unbelievable to have another woman elected so soon. There are no more barriers in that regard. I am confident that she will do a great job. She's been really enthusiastic so far, and it's good to know that the person taking over has good intentions."
Bishop and running mate Trip Foley won this year's student body run-off election by just 211 votes over Brian Moscona, current student body vice president, and his running mate Keri Oxley, current sophomore class president, on Feb. 14.
"The campaign process was grueling," said Bishop. "It was very competitive and very intense because you give 110 percent — especially this year with so many good candidates and no joke candidates."
Had Moscona been elected, he would have continued a chain of student body vice presidents following their running mates into office — as Norton was elected after serving as vice president under Brian O'Donoghue during the 2000-01 academic year.
"[The current administration] has done a good job, but things really haven't changed that much," said Bishop. "Of course we all know that student government doesn't have an all-consuming power to change things, but maybe students feel like there could be more potential, that things have gotten stagnant."
Bishop has served as junior class social co-chair, sophomore class vice president, Junior Parents Weekend sophomore executive committee co-chair and freshman class fundraising chair. She hardly considers herself a student government "outsider," she said.
"The message is there to try something new and take a different approach. So even though Trip and I have been involved and we're not complete outsiders, overall we have a fresher philosophy because we haven't been stuck in the LaFortune office," said Bishop.
In fact, Bishop hasn't even been stuck on campus. She spent last fall in Notre Dame's London Program and credits her decision to run as a product of that experience.
"I really decided [to run for student body president] when I was in London," she said. "I think having been involved in student government I saw that you really could make a difference, but then also having been abroad and stepping back from student government, I realized that a lot of students really don't understand what student government is doing."
Hence, streamlining current programming and increased communication with the student body are two of Bishop's primary goals.
"I think fundamentally things will be a little different because we do want to be so much more responsive to students, and not become self-absorbed into the daily activities of programming and doing what we want," she said. "Half of my job is working with administrators and working to get what the students want, but the other half that has sometimes gotten lost is letting students know that you're being an advocate for them by doing all this."
In an effort to keep students informed about government business, Bishop's administration has appointed a public relations director and three assistants.
"We're hoping to get a lot of people involved in the office. Right now we're still accepting applications. We're hoping we'll get a lot of applicants so we'll have people excited about our ideas and get them implemented," said Foley. "We need to start working now so we can get stuff done by the fall."
By the end of the semester Bishop hopes to have begun work on many of their campaign promises: a "Welcome Willingham Tour" to introduce Notre Dame's new head football coach, Tyrone Willingham, to students through evenings in each dorm; Flex Point reform; planning a week of events for the 30th anniversary of co-education at Notre Dame; and the PASS system for printer paper allotment.
"I want for students to not be so apathetic about student government in general and apathetic in their belief that [student government] doesn't do anything," Bishop said. "I want students to see results and believe that student government has made these little differences and therefore respect it more."
As Bishop begins to undergo transition training with Norton and this year's staff, she too is gaining respect for the dedication required for success in student government.
"I realized how it is so much easier to criticize from the outside," she said. "But I think knowing that ultimately some of these smaller meetings will lead to bigger improvements of student life. That's what drives me, seeing the little details add up into a bigger difference."
"I'm excited to work with Libby, I've known her and worked with her since freshman year," Foley said. "I know she's a strong person and wants to work with the students and get a lot done. She'll do a great job as student body president."
After being elected on a platform devoid of "overarching programming goals" as Bishop called events like all-school carnivals and barbecues, she and Foley aim to make an individual impact on students' lives. Programs like PASS will help Biology majors who have to print more notes than other students and their plans to work with the Admissions department to coordinate an Internet link with the new student government will help incoming students become more aware of campus events and issues, said Bishop.
"[Libby and I] work well together, and at the end of the day it comes down to coming together on ideas and issues," said Foley.
Beyond platform goals, Bishop has been personally involved with the University for more than 20 years. Born in South Bend, Ind., Bishop lived near Notre Dame until she was 5 years old when her father left his job in the University's Admissions department.
Her parents are both 1977 Notre Dame graduates who married after meeting in a first-year chemistry lab.
Since Bishop's father currently works in the Cornell University admissions department, choosing between Notre Dame and Cornell was difficult for her.
"When my junior year of high school rolled around, I wanted to make the decision myself, and even though I think my dad knew all along Notre Dame was the place I should go, he couldn't say it," Bishop said. "But I can totally relate to being the Notre Dame kid."
Bishop also admits she did not originally feel destined to become student body president.
"I was not that kid at the `Graffiti Dance' who said, `I'm going to be student body president.' But I think that's good because I'm doing this for the right reasons."
All News Stories for Thursday, February 28, 2002