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Representatives discuss report

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, February 3, 2005

Discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Student Senate revolved around the wording of the sexism section of the Office of the President’s report to the Board of Trustees.

During the podium portion of the meeting, Meghanne Downes, managing editor of The Observer, read and distributed a letter that voiced objections to a portion of the report that used the gender of The Observer’s editor-in-chiefs as an example of the culture of sexism at Notre Dame – specifically, that the last female editor-in-chief was in the 1999-2000 school year. The report went on to speculate, using these statistics, that “[these statistics] could possibly be a reflection of how women often fill supporting roles rather than top leadership positions.”

Though the letter supported the student government’s effort to address the topic of diversity, it took issue with the implication that The Observer’s hiring practices were discriminatory, and that all those positions under the editor-in-chief could be classified as “supporting roles.”

“It is The Observer’s belief that the numbers cited in the report were not put in the proper context, or researched with the proper diligence, to accurately assess the culture and operations of The Observer,” read the letter. “It is also The Observer’s belief that it should not have been selected as the report’s single statistical example among campus media for this type of ‘under-representation,’ especially considering The Observer’s diverse leadership composition as described above.”

In defense of the report in open discussion later in the meeting, chief executive assistant Dave Baron pointed out that it also critiques student government for its lack of female presidential leadership, and indicated that the editor-in-chief of The Observer is an “extremely high figurehead” on campus.

“No intent of offensiveness was made including these figures,” Baron said. “We’re just taking an honest look at what we are at Notre Dame. This is a statistically accurate description.”

He also emphasized that the entire report is about the culture of discrimination at Notre Dame, and not a criticism of an individual organization.

Baron then offered to remedy the situation if senators felt it necessary. The majority of senators who took part in the subsequent discussion suggested the authors of the report offer a letter of apology to The Observer, and if necessary, make specific reference to the situation during today’s BOT meeting.

Baron agreed to write a letter of apology, clarifying that The Observer’s hiring practices are not deemed sexist, and recognizing the importance of those in roles other than the editor-in-chief. The letter from The Observer will be distributed to Father Mark Poorman, Vice President of Student Affairs; Bill Goodyear, chair of the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee; and the Council of Representatives.

In other Senate news:

u Judicial Council president Brin Anderson addressed election and campaign issues during her time at podium.

She noted that the primary debate was tonight in the area of LaFortune by the Burger King, with a meet-and-greet session at 6:30 p.m. and the actual debate at 7 p.m. All tickets will have the opportunity to give an opening statement and answer as many audience questions as time allows. The debate will end at 8 p.m., at which time there will be an “O.C.” watch with refreshments provided by the Judicial Council.

The primary election is Monday, and students can vote online as well as in voting booths that will be open in LaFortune from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Anderson also told senators to remind their dorm’s Judicial Board representative to attend the hearings on campaign violations. Two violations went without being heard because there were not enough members at each meeting to secure quorum, and there is a 36-hour time limit on violation accusations.

Junior Trevor Gass presented a video on “Challenge Day”- a program that brings together a diverse group of youths in an intense six-hour discussion about issues ranging from drugs and alcohol to bullying and abuse. Gass proposed that Notre Dame facilitate a Challenge Day next semester, with University students leading a group from the South Bend area schools. He encouraged any of the interested senators to attend a Challenge Day in Detroit this weekend, all expenses paid, to get a better feeling of how the program works.