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In defense of The Rover (No, seriously)

Andrew Nesi | Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Andrew Nesi Presents “Real Men of Genius”


Today, we salute you, Mr. Irish Rover writer. (Mr. Irish Rover writer.)

No matter the topic, you take offense. As a white, Irish Catholic kid from a suburb of Chicago, you truly know what persecution feels like. (But my best friend is a black Jew.)

1-5? Maybe we should hire more devout Catholic football coaches. Then God will be on our side. (He can make Arrelious Benn transfer.)

Vagina Monologues? Queer Film Festival? Heck, you think we should still be all-male. (God likes men better!)

So crack open an ice cold Bud Light, Mr. Irish Rover writer. Or don’t. You wouldn’t want to disrespect your God-given body like that. (Mr. Irish Rover writer.)

I have a confession to make: I read The Irish Rover. I don’t read it (just) for the comedic value. I don’t read it (just) for its attempts at sarcasm. I don’t read it (just) to find the poor grammar and giggle about it with noted Rover critic and Observer Scene editor Tae Andrews.

I faithfully read The Irish Rover because The Rover does this campus a service. It engages issues from an ideological perspective that, like it or not, is essential to a productive campus discussion. Of course, Rover writers are not universally “real men of genius.” But they represent an important section of Notre Dame’s population that must be engaged.

The Rover’s Web site, outlines the publication’s goals: “1. Defend the Faith and honorable traditions of this great University; 2. Articulate conservative principles; 3. Engage in collegial debate.” It is not a newspaper per se; its claim to the “news” is tenuous at best. But that’s not what The Rover purports to be. It fashions itself as a “watchdog” that defends our University from itself.

And it does a good job of it. According to its web site, The Rover believes that “Notre Dame’s Roman Catholic identity has come under attack, due to controversial campus events as well as a steep decline in Catholic faculty.” These have become The Rover’s pet issues. It consistently bemoans decisions that oppose The Rover’s understanding of Catholicism. In doing so, it accurately represents the views of a large number of Notre Dame students and an even larger number of Notre Dame alumni (or so alumni feedback on previous columns about abortion and gay sex would suggest).

Of course, The Rover can be unnecessarily polemical. It is self-righteous. It fails at most of its attempts at humor. At times, it pretends to report news – think the front-page report on the University Club closing – but is written with a clear ideological perspective. Reporting and commentary mix. It is the Fox News of Notre Dame.

And that’s a good thing. The Rover’s writers provide an opinion and voice too often dismissed as illogical, uninformed, and ignorant. Whether any of those is true should not matter – The Rover provides a soapbox for a viewpoint that is thriving both at and beyond our campus boundaries. It is an important viewpoint to consider, to learn from, and, at times, to confront.

I believe the ideology behind The Rover is wrong about many – perhaps most – issues it approaches. I believe a Catholic university is better served by a diversity of viewpoints that can have serious discussion about the meaning and future of Catholicism. But I also believe that this widespread diversity will undermine Notre Dame’s institutional Catholicism – at least as The Rover seems to understand it. I don’t think that is a bad thing.

But it is this desire to change that causes me to embrace The Rover. The issues they raise are issues we must hash out. If we dismiss The Rover while we embrace a liberalization of Notre Dame’s Catholicism, we undermine the ideal at the core of that liberalization.

It’s time the University funded The Rover. The newspaper should no longer have to disclaim, “IrishRover.net is not in any way affiliated with the University of Notre Dame.” We need to legitimate The Rover – not only for the sake of The Rover, but also for the sake of those who disagree with their views.

By giving a legitimate backing to The Rover, the quality of discussion will improve. It’s precisely because The Rover exists as the embittered cousin of The Observer that we don’t get any real discussion, instead reverting to cheap shots and chipped-shoulder jokes.

Rover articles will sound less bitter and we’ll get a more serious discussion of the merits of ideas.

It’s time to engage The Rover as an equal. It’s the only effective way to confront the ideology that drives it.

Andrew Nesi is a junior American Studies major from Fairfield, Conn. He did not play Kevin Arnold in The Wonder Years. He can be reached at anesi@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.