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Student Affairs refuses to endorse Monologues

Hanna, Maddie | Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Backlash from The Vagina Monologues dominated discussion at the Campus Life Council meeting Monday, a topic that sparked questions about the group’s overall ability to make an impact on campus.In response to the resolution passed in support of V-Day and The Vagina Monologues at the Feb. 14 CLC meeting, Father Mark Poorman, vice president for Student Affairs, sent a letter to the committee stating the Office of Student Affairs did not endorse the proclamation or “the activities of an unrecognized student group.”While Poorman said in the letter that “the University embraces the larger goals of the V-Day campaign and calls every member of this community to participate in making our campus a ‘rape- and violence-free zone,'” he also said The Vagina Monologues was housed under an academic department only.”It is not and has never been the role of the Office of Student Affairs to officially ‘approve’ particular speakers or events hosted by academic departments,” Poorman said in the letter.Poorman also said he saw the CLC’s resolution as seeking “to circumvent the club recognition process by asking the Office of Student Affairs to endorse the activities of an unrecognized student group.””This [Poorman’s response] is no surprise,” said student body president Adam Istvan, who disagreed with Poorman’s statement that the CLC was underhandedly trying to win the administration’s support for a specific group.”We’re not asking them to approve a group, but to endorse an ideal,” he said.Istvan continued to express frustration with the administration’s lack of visible support for the V-Day campaign by describing an explicit reference in the ‘stall notes’ of a men’s dorm he did not identify.”The defense to this type of action, given by the rector, was ‘boys will be boys,'” Istvan said. “I don’t think the administration really gets the problem here.”According to Istvan, this incident was indicative of prevailing sexist attitudes at Notre Dame, and of the council’s inability to combat them.”We have no powers beyond what we did [passing the V-Day resolution],” Istvan said. “I don’t know what we can do from here.”Several members expressed concern that Istvan had placed too much emphasis on a connection between the administration’s failure to endorse The Vagina Monologues and the dorm incident.”I don’t think the two events are as strongly correlated as you make them out to seem,” Cavanaugh senator Jordan Bongiovanni said.Knott rector Brother Jerome Meyer agreed with Bongiovanni, saying, “To say all the administrators of the University don’t understand the problem, that’s a sweeping accusation.”Siegfried senator James Leito said he felt most disheartened with the resolution’s lack of impact.”My fundamental problem with this group is that it’s always been a suggestion box group,” Leito said. “That’s one of the greatest weaknesses of this group as a whole.”Despite this dissatisfaction, other members emphasized the fundamental importance of the CLC passing the resolution.”I think it was an important step to make a proclamation,” said J.T. Arseniadis, co-chair of the Hall Presidents Council. “You have to take the good with the bad. The vulgarities that you mentioned in the stall notes, that’s what we’re fighting – we’re trying to move away from that.”Carroll rector Father Jim Lewis supported Arseniadis’s opinion about the gradual improvements taking place in student government and on campus.”I think as a campus, we’re growing. We’re not necessarily where we need to be, but we’re moving in a healthy direction,” Lewis said. David Moss, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said the council should have considered the administration’s likely response more carefully when members crafted the V-Day resolution.”I think when we brought out the resolution to discuss – was it just there to push Student Affairs in a certain direction, or to have an effect on campus?” Moss asked.He continued, “I saw that the administration would have a problem with The Vagina Monologues … I was a little surprised when that change [striking the Monologues from the CLC’s resolution] didn’t pass.”Moss stressed that members of the CLC would have to compromise with the administration if they wanted to have an impact on campus.Istvan countered Moss’s comment. “I think there’s certain issues you can’t compromise on,” Istvan said. “There’s no room for half-steps towards the goal.”Dillon rector Father Paul Doyle said that for him, the decision to vote against the resolution was simple.”I listen to the bishop – he’s our pastor,” Doyle said. “If it [the play] teaches something contrary to Catholic teaching, I can’t support that, and I don’t know how Catholics can.”Bongiovanni suggested the possibility of Notre Dame taking an approach similar to Saint Mary’s, which created its own version of the Monologues that was deemed acceptable by Bishop John D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese.”Maybe that’s an avenue students want to consider,” Bongiovanni said.Regarding Istvan’s comment on Poorman’s supposed misunderstanding of the CLC’s intended purpose of the resolution, Bongiovanni said that future problems in interpretation could be alleviated if Poorman was present at meetings.”Since we are the advisory group to Father Poorman – shouldn’t he be here?” Bongiovanni asked.Lewis noted that Moss serves as a representative from Student Affairs and Poorman does attend one CLC meeting per year.

In other CLC news:u Members discussed issues involving transition and dorm elections. Senate Judicial Council president Brin Anderson said there had been conflict between Judicial Board members and rectors resulting from miscommunication over election dates.”I don’t see the need for every dorm to hold it on the same day – just tell us when you need it, we’ll get the names to you,” Doyle said.Anderson said it had been hard to find a balance between allowing rectors to choose their own election dates and following the constitution. Further debate was postponed until the next meeting.u The “Flex 10″ resolution has been received by Poorman and director of Food Services Dave Prentkowski, Istvan said.”I can’t give a timetable, but I assume sometime after break we’ll hear back from Student Affairs,” Istvan said.u The vending task force chaired by Leito presented a resolution regarding laundry and vending prices that was passed unanimously after slight changes to certain clauses.