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Intellectual environment examined

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Empty seats at lectures and a lack of academic conversation in residence halls spurred discussion in Campus Life Council (CLC) Monday.

The Council discussed possibilities for greater engagement outside the classroom and the intellectual environment on campus.

“We are an extremely intelligent campus,” former student body president Grant Schmidt said. “We are very passionate about our studies. How do we expand on that?”

Members of CLC debated how to bring a more intellectual environment to campus life outside of the classroom that would still preserve Notre Dame’s distinct identity.

“We are getting a sense from juniors and seniors that they are just now realizing that they should be having friendships with their professors,” former student body vice president Cynthia Weber said.

Creating more peer academic involvement during freshmen orientation would be a method to introduce this intellectual environment to students immediately, she said.

Weber suggested that these conversations should could build an “opportunity to pursue service through scholarship” for students at Notre Dame who are looking towards graduate education.

Council members steered away from specifically incorporating academic life in the residence halls around campus by holding more classes in dorm settings.

“Looking at the residential system as a major piece of the puzzle in stimulating the intellectual life on campus is like trying to put out a fire with a water gun,” Sorin Hall rector Fr. Jim King said.

The challenge is making the connection between the residence life and the culture of academia on campus, he said.

Making academic events appealing to students is critical to developing an intellectual environment, members said. The Council identified a lack of interest as a problem rather than a lack of opportunities.

“The value of a forum or of an event like the God Debate is that those stimulate discussion and are not just lectures,” Judicial Council president Ian Secviar said.

Broadcasting important events through television and scheduling programs at more convenient times for students were proposed to engage more of the campus community.

Council members targeted a combination of over-programming and a lack of advertising as the source of low attendance for lectures on campus.

“It is a shame that we have so much at hand and so little being taken advantage of,” student representative John DeLacio said. “It’s frustrating.”