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University must support Solidarity Sunday

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, November 13, 2003

According to Campus Ministry, Solidarity Sunday is “an annual event each fall semester to highlight our community’s ‘spirit of inclusion’ for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students, faculty and staff.”There are two components of SS. First, students, recruited through OutreachND (an unrecognized organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual and questioning students), distribute prayer cards bearing a symbol of “solidarity” at the Basilica Masses and to dorms for Sunday night Masses. Second, the priests at each mass discuss the issue of homosexuality at Notre Dame and the “spirit of inclusion” in their homilies. SS was designated for Nov. 9 this year not only because it was a home football game, but also a parent weekend – the University would be able to demonstrate its “spirit of inclusion” to its extended Notre Dame family. This year, however, SS did not happen.Although Campus Ministry ordered the prayer cards, recruited volunteers to glue 3,000 stickers onto the cards and reserved a room to assemble them, they did not save the date. As a result, Nov. 9 was scheduled as Mission Sunday. The 11:45 a.m. Basilica Mass collection went to Holy Cross missions and the homily praised ministering in Bangladesh. Outside, six students warmed their hands and waited to distribute prayer cards for Solidarity Sunday. Sadly, their efforts were futile.As one of those six students, I distributed cards at four Masses over the weekend. I took charge of the event when I realized Thursday that a sign-up sheet for volunteers to distribute the cards hadn’t been established. On Friday afternoon, I discovered that there were still 500 stickers to glue onto prayer cards but that the office they were in had been locked for the weekend. By Saturday, only five people had signed up to distribute. I assigned them to four Masses (two after Saturday’s game and two Sunday morning). Plans had not been made to distribute cards to dorms. To make a long story short, thanks to frantic delegation, all of the cards were delivered to the dorms by Sunday afternoon. But no one knew what they were for.SS is annual tradition; why did it go so badly this year?In previous years, students with several years of experience with OutreachND and the Standing Committee for Gay and Lesbian Student Needs made the event happen almost single-handedly. This year’s leadership, however, in both OutreachND and the Standing Committee, is largely new and inexperienced. This led to three-way pointing where Campus Ministry looked to OutreachND, OutreachND looked to Campus Ministry and the Standing Committee, and the Standing Committee looked to Campus Ministry to take care of it.So no one did. It is particularly ironic that CM relies on OutreachND to create the event when Student Activities has rejected OutreachND’s applications for club status claiming there is “no need” for the organization.This year Notre Dame was ranked first on the Princeton Review’s list of schools where “alternative lifestyles are not an alternative.” In an effort to disprove this ranking, I suggest the University take full responsibility for SS.The way SS faltered reflects very badly on the University. A more cynical person could claim it demonstrates a systematic and even intentional marginalization of “alternative lifestyles.” The negative atmosphere toward gay, lesbian and bisexual students is prevalent on campus. A true promotion of the “spirit of inclusion” would fight against this atmosphere by assuring Solidarity Sunday is a well-publicized and well-run event. With continued effort by the Notre Dame community, particularly the administration, I believe our football ranking can easily exceed our “no alternative lifestyle” ranking.

Rose Lindgrensenioroff-campusNov. 12