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Student research demands respect

The Observer Editorial | Friday, September 12, 2003

Every time the student body really cares about an issue, the administration shoots it down.

Or that’s what student body president Pat Hallahan said Monday at an unofficial meeting of the Campus Life Council, a Board of Trustees-mandated committee that advises the Office of Student Affairs. Hallahan was referring to the subject of proposed changes to RA training, but his comment hit at the core of adminstration-student relations.

“As soon as we get a hot issue that students care about, we get put down. We get our agenda dictated by a minority of people,” said Hallahan.

And after looking at numerous campus issues – the alcohol policy, parietals and football ticket distribution – Hallahan has a point. Students present definite, well-thought-out opinions to the administration, which then summarily dismisses their arguments.

The topic of teacher-course evaluation publication is the latest to suffer through this frustrating and futile process. The issue figured prominently in Hallahan’s election campaign as he promised to make TCE information available to students. His office should be commended for following through with its promises this year. Junior Jeremy Staley heads the Hallahan TCE committee and has researched the issue from many angles. His arguments for revealing TCEs are convincing and well-supported by facts and statistics. And students are overwhelmingly in favor of TCE publication at Notre Dame. But University officials have ignored student opinions for years, and they have given no indication that their attitudes will change now.

Such steadfast stubbornness and closed-lip policies do not exactly leave students and observers with a favorable impression of the administration. Both the student body and student government have a right to feel shortchanged by the current administrative attitudes. What is the purpose of having elected student representatives if the University refuses to listen to them? Why should students vote, discuss and express their opinions when there is no hope of response?

Notre Dame is a community. The people on campus live, work and pray together. There should be communication, which means give-and-take on both sides. The administration should pay attention to the clear and intelligent arguments made by student government on this issue. The University should not have to give in to every student demand, but by working with students on the TCE issue, both parties will benefit from the more cooperative atmosphere.