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The waves of white

Joey Falco | Wednesday, October 8, 2003

This summer, after sifting through the bombardment of Notre Dame e-mails concerning the remarkable diversity of the Class of 2007, I half-expected to arrive on campus to see a rainbow of skin colors joining hands in front of the Golden Dome and singing “We Are the World.” On the contrary, one of my very first Notre Dame musical experiences consisted of about a dozen white kids squeezing bagpipes outside of the LaFortune Student Center.

Clearly, this University’s definition of diversity bears absolutely no resemblance to that of any contemporary dictionary, which tend to stress words like “difference,” “variety” and “mixture.” Unfortunately, on a college campus where a large part of a student’s education is expected to develop through peer interaction, diversity in the form of Confirmation name, favorite du Lac guideline or desire to perform a colonoscopy on Bob Davie are not the preferred social backgrounds for spurring the erudite, multi-ethnic discussions characteristic of a University of such prestige.

Frighteningly enough, it seems as though the only true diversity to be found in South Bend is in the beverage sections of the North and South dining halls, where a Texan, an East or West Coaster and a Midwesterner can spend hours fiercely debating the differences between Coke, soda and pop. This, however, does not constitute diversity. Actually, it is merely a misconception on the part of Texans who associate the drinking of Coke with a former illegal habit of their hometown hero, President George W. Bush.

Administrators are quick to point out that members of the Class of 2007 come from all 50 states and 36 different countries, thereby ensuring nothing more than that a wide variety of beers will be served at most campus parties. However, learning the subtle differences in taste between the beverage of choice in these varying Caucasian nations is not the type of diversity that is necessary to create a truly open-minded and cultured student body, even if it does add some spice to a game of Beirut.

In addition, with a high percentage of Notre Dame students coming from similarly Caucasian Catholic high schools, most of the student population has still managed to avoid opening their eyes to a world that does not revolve around a prosperous family lifestyle, Sunday Mass and white homogeneity. I would be extremely interested to know how many Domers have ever sang along to the horah at a Bar Mitzvah, had a traditional Hindu mother cook them a Tandoori Chicken or danced the Spinning Cone Dance with a citizen of Benin, Africa – all of which can be incredibly enlightening experiences.

Consequently, some changes must be made to one of the worst examples of a Notre Dame misnomer – “The Sea of Green.” This apparently verdant coming together of the student body in their corner of the football stadium may include the occasional green face on anyone who had a little too much keg with their egg. Generally speaking, though, one cannot deny the fact that “The Wave of White” would be a much more accurate representation of the tint in Notre Dame Stadium every football weekend.

John Kennedy once said, “The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed, but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men.” Why then, has this supposedly transnational campus chosen to forgo riding Kennedy’s metaphorical “wave of the future?” Why then, has it chosen to leave behind its aspiring leaders of America by depriving us of the “diverse energies of free men?”

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this is a University rich in age-old tradition, including strong Catholic heritage, incomparable athletic pride and support and first-class academic excellence. Unfortunately, along with these noble remnants of the past lie the far more disturbing traditions of white, male-dominated homogeneity. It took 105 years for this college to graduate its first black which, in 1947, was a long time coming compared to other top-tier U.S. universities. (Harvard’s first coming in 1860, Yale’s in 1874, and even Georgetown, America’s other most notable Catholic university, had an African American President as early as 1874.) Likewise, Notre Dame’s decision to admit women in the early 1970s came nearly 100 years after most other major colleges did so. It seems as though this University is always just a little behind the times when it comes to diversification, and the time has come once again for it to either catch up to its competition, or risk falling behind permanently.

According to an excerpt from the Multicultural Student Programs and Services section of du Lac, “At Notre Dame, we believe variety is the spice of life.” Well, if that’s the case, then maybe this campus needs a little more Tabasco sauce.

Joey Falco is a freshman marketing major. His column appears every other Wednesday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.