The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



We, as a community, need to talk amid tough times and tough topics

Editorial Board | Friday, April 8, 2011

Over the last two weeks, these Viewpoint pages have been filled with letters arguing the merits of no-meat Lenten Fridays as well as the pros and cons of wearing leggings.

These two arguments have sparked light-hearted debate across campus.

Last night, before hundreds of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students, two renowned theologians debated, “Is good from God?” This coming Wednesday, again before hundreds of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students, four heavyweights in the national education realm will discuss what they consider a failing educational system.

Last night’s debate sparked legitimate, serious discussions among students. Next week’s will undoubtedly have a similar effect.

Both lighthearted and serious rhetoric have an important place in our lives. As members of a college campus, we find ourselves in the unique position crossing the line between adolescence and adulthood. This position allows us, as a campus, as a community, to discuss both casual and serious topics.

Yet, in the past two weeks, as a campus, as a community, we have passed on the opportunity to discuss two personal topics, topics that have stunned our campus, our community.

In the March 30 issue of The Observer, a Saint Mary’s student wrote a Letter to the Editor discussing her personal history of multiple sexual assaults. One week ago today, we all learned of the self-inflicted death of sophomore Sean Valero.

The Observer’s Viewpoint section is by no means the perfect litmus test, but nonetheless, in the last two weeks a total of three Letters to the Editor have been submitted acknowledging the two tragedies. One, a letter from the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention printed April 1, urged sexual assault victims to know they are not alone. The second, “A community that listens,” printed April 6, urged anyone suffering from mental instability to seek help and support. The third, “Remembering Sean Valero,” printed April 7, asked students to take some time to think about the loss of one of our peers.

Three letters in two weeks. While these letters were well-intentioned and very much appreciated, none of them directly addressed the issues at hand.

The silence is not simply in these pages. The silence fills the dining halls, amid discussions of no-meat Lenten Fridays. The silence fills the hallways of DeBartolo, as leggings pass jeans and jeans pass leggings. The silence fills our campus.

For many of us, our stance on sexual assault is a combination of feeling helpless and detached. Until it strikes closer to home, it is simply easier to push it to the back of our minds and pretend sexual assault does not happen.

For many of us, we are still inexperienced at facing the travesty of the death of a peer. Quite frankly, we are not sure how to handle it.

Perhaps talking, together, is the best way in both instances.

This is not a call to end sexual assault or prevent suicide — though both would certainly be ideal. Rather, this is a call to acknowledge them, break the silence and discuss them.

Are we not mature enough to discuss how and why sexual assault happens on our own campus? The discussion about whether females wearing leggings symbolizes their own self-respect simply skirts the greater issue at hand.

Let’s take the next step.

Are we not mature enough to discuss how and why one of our peers committed suicide, even though a discussion debating if good comes from God could very easily, and possibly should, tie in to such a grave topic?

Let’s take the next step.

We are, as a campus and as a community, together, mature enough. So let’s discuss. Let’s talk. Let’s take the next step.