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40 years and counting

Officers of the Shades of Ebony Club | Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Great things occurred during the week of April 8. There is nothing like tapping into something potentially great; the event, 40 Years and Counting, did just that. However, it was just a tap.
Last week the student organization Shades of Ebony invited students, faculty, staff and residents of South Bend to celebrate 40 years of coeducation at the University of Notre Dame. Shades members and other students enjoyed spending the first day reflecting on the women’s call to service with a trip to St. Margaret’s House, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of women and children in South Bend. On Tuesday, with the help of many sponsors, around 70 students, faculty, directors and other guests met to discuss the experiences of Notre Dame women over the past 40 years and what that experience means for Notre Dame women today and in the future. We heard from panelists Lindsay Brown ’13, Mrs. Iris Outlaw and Kathleen Cesanski-Ferrand and discussed topics such as the intersectionality of identity, girl’s education, work-life balance and women in leadership. We ended the week with a small yet deeply moving prayer service in Ryan Chapel to honor and remember the women in our lives. The speakers taught us how we can all grow through the example of strong women of faith, and find the strength that God instills within us.
We could not have been more proud of this event and the amounts of support we, Shades of Ebony, received in executing this idea. The amount of support could also be due to the fact that, throughout this year, not much had been done to acknowledge this milestone. Overall not many students, including us, knew what life was like for the first class of women. We didn’t know that rectors like Kathleen Cekanski-Farrand fought hard to gain women access to the pools in the Rockne Building. We didn’t know that many did not feel that sense of dorm-life community. We did not know that often many did not feel comfortable in their classes, in which they were the minority. Creating this event, members of our club did not know what kind of impact this week would have on those around us and on ourselves.
This was a unique opportunity to recall the experiences of Notre Dame women first hand. Forty years has not been a very long time. Often we do not get the opportunity to discuss what it means to be a woman, or even a Notre Dame woman (or a Notre Dame male). The discussions that occurred over the three days during the 40 Years and Counting allowed many to express their opinions as well as share their struggles and triumphs. In just 40 years, Notre Dame women are racially, ethnically, religiously and regionally diverse. Their surroundings have definitely influenced them and there is no doubt they have greatly influenced the Notre Dame community. However, we now see that we are not quite where we should be.
The event 40 Years and Counting was a time to celebrate, to reflect, and to look toward the future. If you are interested in being involved, please contact shades@nd.edu. Please look forward to this event next year!

The officers of the Shades of Ebony Club can be contacted at Shades@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.