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Not so friendly

Emily Stetler | Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The organizers of the so-called “Family-Friendly Petition” have presented rationales for their movement that rely on inadequate theological paradigms. Married graduate students, they seem to believe, represent adults who epitomize Catholic values. Thus Peter Campbell’s observation that students who come home to children are “a perfect symbol of the kind of values that the University wants to instill in its undergrads” (“Graduate students to file petition,” April 16). Really? Shouldn’t a Catholic university want its undergraduates to become adults who can creatively and critically challenge injustice and live compassionate and moral lives regardless of their marital status?

Jamie O’Hare says that “at a Catholic institution many [married graduate students] will be bearing children, or they’re not following Church teaching. I think it fits with Notre Dame’s Catholic mission to not make following Church teaching a burden.” In other words, it’s the responsibility of a Catholic school to take care of its good Catholics. This proposition, in itself, is frightening; for it is the responsibility of any institution to care for its employees and students without requiring them to meet any criteria other than the specific criteria of their jobs. In the case of graduate students, that means meeting academic standards, not living according to Catholic teaching. Moreover, though, I find terribly insulting the implication that married students, by virtue of their marital and parental status, are superior Catholics. Campbell describes himself and his peers as “devout Catholics doing what the Catholicism tells them to do: Have children.” Let me assure Campbell that Catholic teaching exhorts so much more, such as ministering to the lonely, working for economic justice and respecting natural resources. Do we expect the University’s financial support in following all of these teachings, as well?

For recruiting reasons, Notre Dame should offer packages that make graduate student life viable for its students, both married and single. The petitioners, sadly, rely on insidious rhetoric that goes beyond simple pragmatic concerns and promotes a social hierarchy in which people with children are seen as holier and worthier of support than

those without.

Emily Stetler
graduate student
April 20