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Beware the Notre Dame bubble

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 16, 2006

Since our student body is on the topic of academic freedom and intellectual dialogue, I wanted to express disappointment concerning a disturbing amount of apathy towards the State of the Union address aired over two weeks ago.

It happens once a year and outlines the current administration’s goals for the upcoming year. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, it is an important event for our country. Some dismiss it as a partisan sideshow and justify ignoring it by that rationale. The reality is that it is an important event for our country, along with the rest of the world, and serves as an opportunity to listen to our president’s explanation of the past year(s) and ambitions for the future. Although the State of the Union doesn’t fall neatly under the category of academia, I would argue that the we are somewhat obliged to take note of it – as members of the informed public, students at an institution of higher learning and responsible citizens.

Many students I have come across, however, do not share this view. I expect the primary reason that many did not watch it was general complacency; however, if the hit show “24” was being showed, most would not miss a beat. And although I love Jack Bauer, it is somewhat sad that many have an easier time recognizing a fictional CTU agent than our own Secretary of Defense or newly appointed Supreme Court Justices. I encountered an overwhelming amount of students expressing a purposeful disdain towards the State of the Union, fully aware that it was being aired but writing it off as insignificant because of their dislike of the current administration. Yet still, it is pertinent, fostering healthy dialogue about foreign policy, economics and social issues. Dismissing it as a “waste of time” is downright ignorant.

It underlies a growing problem at this University: the Notre Dame bubble. Students have been discussing “The Vagina Monologues” and Queer Film Festival with fervor because of their apparent importance to the academic integrity of this University, yet many do not care about the agenda of our country. For citizens of other countries, the State of the Union is a hallmark event marked on their calendars. But here, its importance is lost in the shuffle. Although I appreciate the current discussion of “The Vagina Monologues” and Queer Film Festival here at Notre Dame, there’s a big world out there that cannot afford to be ignored. The problem pertains more with our generation than Notre Dame, yet I cannot overlook such a discrepancy from a student body that supposedly craves open, intellectual dialogue.

Matt Sommagraduate studentFeb. 15