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State of the University

Andy Ziccarelli | Wednesday, January 27, 2010

At 9 p.m. tonight, President Barack Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address to the rest of the country. His speech is guaranteed to cover all of the topics at the forefront of the public’s collective mind, especially health care reform, the economy, unemployment and his strategy for the wars we are fighting overseas. Using this as a guide, I think it is important that we use this opportunity to not only look at the topics that affect all of us nationally, but to focus the discussion to Notre Dame-specific topics and policies that directly affect us daily. In that spirit, I am proposing the inaugural State of the University Address.

In light of recent events published in these very pages, the topic that has been at the forefront of everybody’s mind is the treatment of and the culture surrounding GLBTQ students at Notre Dame. Now, the topic has been hashed and rehashed several times already over the past few weeks, by people far more qualified to talk about it than I, so I will do everyone a favor by not recapping it again. We all know the issue. I can, however, speak to the importance of the issue to the student body. A forum is scheduled to take place soon to openly discuss the issue, and all students and faculty are invited to attend.

This is a wonderful first step, a necessary first step, and I can only hope that there are members of the administration in attendance to listen. Obviously, I am in no position to tell the University what to do, but it should give those in Main Building pause, and make them think about exactly who they are here for. If there is such a strong, seemingly unified push by the student body over a single issue, at the very least, there should be an opportunity where the students have a chance to interact with the powers that be. Because if they aren’t here to look out for the students and what we think is important, then what are they here for?

The next issue that needs to be discussed is the issue of off-campus safety. For whatever reason, a significant portion of upperclassmen decide to move into the South Bend community, away from the Notre Dame bubble. And, as we all know, there have been some safety problems in student neighborhoods. Just last week, a student was assaulted on Notre Dame Ave. while waiting for the free TRANSPO (which, this incident notwithstanding, is an excellent idea). This is just the most recent incident in a long string of violence, theft and intimidation directed at Notre Dame students in South Bend. I realize that the University has no jurisdiction over what happens outside of the campus bubble, and the responsibility does not necessarily fall on them. So we, as students and responsible young adults, need to take that responsibility and find ways to interact positively with authorities and neighbors in the community to protect ourselves and make everybody’s life better, not just ours.

While it may seem trivial in light of other topics, the health of the Notre Dame football program can and should be a major topic on campus. Those who think that football is not important are ignoring the impact that a successful team has had on the status of the University historically. To be blunt, without championship football over the years, Notre Dame would not have developed into the nation’s preeminent Catholic university. And, like it or not, football is permanently a part of our heritage, and to let it wallow in mediocrity would be doing the university a tremendous disservice, not only to future students, but especially to our past. Recognizing this, a leadership change was made late last year. While we won’t know the result of this change for quite some time, we should embrace and support coach Brian Kelly, knowing full well that a return to glory makes the entire University a better place.

And just because today happens to be my day to write, I took the liberty of writing this address. This by no means, however, should be the final word on any these topics, and the discussion should not be limited to what I described above. Don’t let me speak for the entire student body. If any of you out there have a concern or would like to raise an issue, do something about it. Start a Facebook group, gather signatures for a petition, or write a Viewpoint Letter to the Editor (it really is the best way to start a campus-wide discussion). The ImproveND survey that was just sent out was a great first step. Now go make your voice heard.


Andy Ziccarelli is a junior majoring in civil engineering. He can be reached at aziccare@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.