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NDASK takes right approach

Staff Editorial | Friday, November 10, 2006

Notre Dame Students Against State Killing (NDASK) was formed to “inspire and facilitate informed discussion on capital punishment, fostering increased knowledge of issues surrounding the death penalty.” The message is not new, but the group has breathed new life into the anti-death penalty cause by organizing a weekly lecture series on the topic.

Whether or not students agree with the group’s convictions, they should support the creation of such a body. NDASK has established a common ground and encouraged both sides to debate.

NDASK has brought the campus into conversation about a controversial issue. Instead of the inefficient e-mails, posters and pamphlets that characterize all-too-common “awareness weeks,” NDASK has given its cause a voice. By inviting prominent intellectuals to discuss the death penalty on campus, the group has spurred discussion in an academic setting and propelled students to take life issues seriously. It’s making its cause almost unavoidable.

The point is not that Notre Dame lacks political activism. CLAP actively campaigns for a living wage. Uganda-CAN actively organizes rallies, walks, fundraisers and lectures to educate the campus about atrocities in the region. And students have already actively fought Taco Bell about the inhumane conditions of tomato workers in Immokalee, Fla.

We have activism. But we need more.

NDASK has refreshed the campus by promoting an intellectual discussion which both supporters and opponents of capital punishment can be a part.

Still, it’s important that the lectures do not get stale. A lecture series spanning several weeks risks losing its effectiveness. The series’ success will be largely determined by its ability to stay fresh.

Former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan, who does not oppose the death penalty, will give the Nov. 15 NDASK lecture. During his tenure, Kernan granted clemency to two individuals on death row – the only governor in the 48-year history of the death penalty in Indiana to do so.

Kernan’s inclusion shows that NDASK is not just bringing in another speaker against the death penalty. He is important to the discussion because of his alternate viewpoint. As governor, he questioned the quality and fairness of the legal process in capital punishment and came to his own decision. That’s why groups like NDASK are important. They give the Notre Dame community an opportunity to question an issue, make an educated decision and continue the debate.