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Senate discusses USC game expectations, sexual assault

Mel Flanagan | Thursday, October 13, 2011

Student Senate discussed preparations for the upcoming USC football game, sexual assault and its relation to alcohol and the “4 to 5 Movement” at its meeting Wednesday night.

Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick spoke to the Senate about students’ actions and behavior during the USC night game on Oct. 22.

Swarbrick said one of the reasons Notre Dame has not hosted a night game in 21 years is because of the incidents that frequently surrounded the games. However, he hopes that will change after this game.

“We want to have the opportunity to do future night games because it allows us to promote the University so much more effectively,” Swarbrick said.

On a game day against a popular rival with a 3:30 p.m. kickoff, approximately 2.5 million people watch the game on NBC.

With a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, between 5 and 6 million people will watch, giving Notre Dame a much larger audience for its commercials, Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick, who also spoke in both dining halls during the lunch hours Wednesday, said students should arrive at the Stadium “game ready,” fresh and alert.

“We want to have a spectacular evening a week from Saturday when we play USC,” he said. “We want a stadium full of noise and excitement that helps us win an important game. It should be a day that celebrates Notre Dame and its values.”

In order to encourage intelligent decisions before the game, Swarbrick said the University will hold more activities around campus during the day, including additional musical acts and opportunities to interact with the players.

Director of Game Day Operations Mike Seamon said all post-game Masses are going to become pre-game Masses. The Mass in the Basilica will be held at 4:30 p.m.

For students who are returning to campus after fall break on Saturday, Seamon said NDSP would send an email to the student body detailing the procedures for driving onto campus.

“The only thing I can say is don’t come back late. If you’re coming back that day, come back early,” he said. “As the day goes on, with 100,000 people traffic is always the biggest circumstance.”

Although Seamon is predicting around 105 to 120 thousand people will be on campus, he said there will be close to the normal amount of ushers and University personnel around Notre Dame.

“You won’t see a noticeable increase in [Stadium personnel], but we’ll have enough there to handle the situation,” Seamon said.

Seamon said the focus of the day should be keeping an eye on friends.

“Our biggest network is the people around you who can take care of you,” he said. “Be a network for your friends.”

He recommended the use of Notre Dame’s help line.

On a game day, Seamon said students and visitors can text “Irish” to 69050, along with their location, and University personnel will be sent to that area.

“If there’s an issue, anything at all, whether it’s medical or you’re a visitor and need directions, or there’s someone who’s bothering you,” he said. “It comes straight to the command center and we can dispatch resources to you right away.”

Although senators inquired about the proposed student “green-out,” Swarbrick said the University is not endorsing the wearing of a particular color.

Following the game day discussion, Dr. G David Moss and Sr. Sue Dunn, co-chairs of the Committee on Sexual Prevention, called on students to become more active in the fight against sexual assault.

Moss emphasized the close connection between alcohol abuse and sexual violence.

“On this campus last year, every incident of sexual assault that was taken to ResLife involved alcohol on the part of one or both of the parties,” Moss said.

Moss said alcohol has ingrained itself in campus culture, a fact that inevitably brings up the issue of sexual assault.

“When you have alcohol consumption and a physically permissive culture bad things can happen,” he said. “You have a very slim line between what is sexual aggression and sexual violence.”

Dunn said the key to combating these issues is to hold discussions on the connection between alcohol and sexual assault.

“What we’re really challenging people to do is to engage in honest conversation certainly among closest friends first, and then to start to mix it up,” Dunn said.

The effort to raise awareness needs to come directly from student leaders, Moss said, for they are the greatest influence on their peers.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of you stepping up and saying we’re going to change this culture, we’re going to change this environment,” Moss said.

Alex Coccia, co-president of Progressive Student Alliance (PSA), then brought up another concern of the student body — the “4 to 5 Campaign.”

Coccia and members of PSA recently launched their “4 to 5 Campaign” on campus. The name comes from the statistic that four out of five people aged 18 to 30 support gay rights.

Coccia said another statistic that might affect more Notre Dame students is that among all ages nationwide, 73 percent of Catholics are opposed to discrimination.

“However, the problem is that when polled, those same people believe only one-third of others agree with them,” Coccia said.

The goal of the movement, he said, is to move from four out of five people who support gay rights to five out of five.

Coccia said the organization is currently working on the ally movement and attempting to show people that being an ally makes them part of the majority.

The next steps include a larger campus awareness plan and broader awareness such as addressing the nondiscrimination clause.

“You might think that in years past there have been petitions and they do this every year and it’s never successful,” he said. “But we have had some big changes in the last year.”

These changes include an on-campus office for the Core Council and changes to the sexual harassment clause.

“This is going to be a constant push,” Coccia said. “There’s going to be an event every week, I guarantee it, even if it’s a small event it’s just to get the word out there.”