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Last Lecture’ a success, could use more space

Staff Editorial | Friday, November 21, 2008

Notre Dame students are often called apathetic when it comes to their awareness of the goings-on on their campus and in the world. Talk of “the bubble” aside, students on this campus are busy people with busy lives, and that preoccupation can translate to a lack of involvement on the part of those students when it comes to campus organizations or events.

Without dwelling too much on the stereotype, it’s safe to say that it’s an ongoing task for those planning these campus events to get students involved.

Which is why Bob Reish, Grant Schmidt, the Academic Affairs Committee and Student Government deserve praise for the very successful beginning to their “Last Lecture” series, a featured lecture by Anthropology professor James McKenna.

The “Last Lecture” concept – asking professors and faculty to give a hypothetical final lecture on what matters most to them – is not new. It garnered nationwide attention in 2007 when Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science and design at Carnegie Mellon, gave a similar lecture titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Pausch had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year prior, and his message and lecture have since been published and inspired a nationwide audience.

This year, the Reish-Schmidt administration decided to bring the Last Lecture series to Notre Dame. Through polling and surveys, one name repeatedly came up: Professor McKenna, the University’s Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. chair in Anthropology and an expert in mother-child co-sleeping and primate behavior.

This feeling was reflected in the high attendance at McKenna’s “Last Lecture” on Nov. 12. Students crammed into the Coleman-Morse lounge, most standing and crouching to see and hear McKenna’s lecture. Some students were unable to stay and listen, due to a lack of space.

The choice in venue would have encouraged a more intimate setting for the lecture, an idea which has merit. However, with the high level of attendance, it was impractical and cramped.

Student Government should be encouraged for the stellar attendance levels at the first event in the “Last Lecture” series. It’s clear proof that no matter how apathetic students may appear to be, their attention can be successfully grabbed by compelling events and speakers. Planning the lecture series took initiative and creativity, and that spirit should continue in other Student Government efforts as the academic year continues.

We also want to encourage the student body to continue to support the efforts of Student Government by attending these types of events when they’re offered each semester. The best way to break the apathetic stereotype is to pop the bubble yourselves.