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IN FOCUS: Committee to fight violence against women

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, April 6, 2006

Responding to two months of debate surrounding “The Vagina Monologues” that magnified the issue of violence against women on Notre Dame’s campus, University President Father John Jenkins said Wednesday he will form a University ad hoc committee to address the issue.

The committee is one of three initiatives – the others being a student-written production entitled “Loyal Daughters” and departmental guidelines for sponsoring academic events – outlined in Jenkins’ closing statement on academic freedom and Catholic character Wednesday.

Jenkins will chair the committee, which will include administrators, faculty and students.

The group will be “charged with fostering a wide-ranging discussion of gender relations, roles, and ways to prevent violence against women,” according to Jenkins’ statement.

“In many conversations with students and faculty, it was clear to me that it’s important to address issues about and of concern to women in a way that’s thoughtful, that’s responsible, that addresses those questions,” Jenkins told The Observer Wednesday afternoon.

“I really want to have a conversation that doesn’t include people of just one point of view, but includes people of a variety of points of view to come together and have a serious conversation about those issues, to enhance and advance that conversation.”

Jenkins said he personally selected the committee’s members, such as Vice President and Associate Provost Jean Ann Linney.

Linney said Wednesday she believed the committee was put together to “reflect the range of perspectives on campus and also to reflect different roles on campus.”

She believed the committee would first “formulate ways” to address problems of gender relations and violence against women, then strive to see those ways “translated to activities and actions.”

While Linney did not know of the committee’s official title or if the first meeting had been scheduled, she said her secretary may have received the information.

History professor Gail Bederman said she was also asked by Jenkins to serve on the committee.

“I just found out who was on it in the statement,” Bederman said. “In terms of what he has in mind, he says what it’s going to be about in the statement.”

Emily Weisbecker, a junior and co-organizer of this year’s “Monologues” production, said she was not apprehensive about serving alongside top administrators and faculty members.

“I would have been before,” Weisbecker said. “I wasn’t sure the first time I met with Jenkins. Now that I’ve met with him I feel much more comfortable. … I’m definitely ready for that kind of group. Not intimidated.”

The other administrators that will serve on the committee are Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Ann Firth, Director of the Gender Relations Center Heather Rakoczy and Executive Assistant to the President Frances Shavers.

Besides Bederman, theology department chair John Cavadini, law school and theology professor M. Cathleen Kaveny, anthropology professor Carolyn Nordstrom, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Dayle Seidenspinner-Nunez, accountancy specialist Margot O’Brien, Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Ava Preacher and art professor Kathleen Pyne will form the faculty contingent.

Jenkins has also selected students in addition to Weisbecker.

Graduate student Alexandre Chapeaux, junior Gregory Floyd, junior Madison Liddy, sophomore Madeleine Ryland and junior Danielle Thomson will be members of the ad hoc committee.