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Universitea’ connects women across campuses

Tabitha Ricketts | Monday, October 14, 2013

On Saturday, the Movimiento Estundiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) club at Notre Dame  invited women from Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross to join Notre Dame women at “Universitea,” a tea party discussion about the differences and stereotypes within the tri-campus community.

The event provided a social forum for these women to come together and review their similarities and differences while talking about the barriers that exist between the three institutions, sophomore event coordinator Peggy Tull said.

Participants at the tea party were each handed a pink carnation upon arrival and directed to one of nine tables. If women arrived in a group, the group was divided so that no woman sat exclusively with friends.

A moderator from MEChA sat at each table, and led discussion on a specific topic.

“The people who had volunteered to be moderators … pick[ed] which topic interested them the most,” Tull said.

Topics included expectations prior to and after arriving on campus, the impact of social media, parties and social lif,; society’s effect on the campuses and the influence of men on the interactions of women from the three campuses.

Tull said the idea was to get women talking to see what problems everyone recognized and what they felt could be done about it.

“We wanted to figure out some solutions to the issues on [Notre Dame’s] campus and between campuses and even convey some of them to the administration if we can,” Tull said.

Overall, she said she believed the event was a success.

“Although it generated a lot of good discussion about what people at [Notre Dame] can do, this one event can’t do everything that we want it to,” she said. “There were a lot of things we could’ve talked more about … but if it left people with more to say, that’s always a good thing.”

MEChA hopes to involve more students, including male students, in future events revolving around the same subject. Although the women at the tea party were encouraged not to identify themselves directly with their school, MEChA club member and Universitea moderator Rose Walsh said her group had been mostly from Saint Mary’s.

“We were initially hoping to focus on [female] students,” Tull said. “We felt removing the male presence from an event might make women more comfortable, [although] male students are just as responsible for issues between campuses.”

Tull said the idea for the event arose out of last year’s MEChA event, “Gender Roles at Notre Dame.” The name of the event had been changed, after an initial title referencing “MRS degrees” and “SMC Chicks” provoked a lot of con

troversy. Walsh said she thought the event had Saint Mary’s students in particular very riled up.
Walsh said the moderators  diffused the tension pretty quickly and made some friends,” but the conflict showed MEChA club members there were underlying issues between the campuse  and especially between the women of the community.

Tull said the club’s pillars are family, education and service, with a broad focus on social justice. Universitea was designed to address the breakdowns in the family of the Holy Cross community.

“This event was focused on the family aspect between our schools,” she said. “Right now, that [tri-campus] family is not nearly as strong as it should be.

“Considering how close we are geographically and how involved we are in each other’s experiences, it should be a much warmer, friendlier environment – one that builds and supports each other.”

Strong, healthy relationships with one another is important to creating a unified effort to promote positive change in the community, Tull said

“One thing about MEChA is … we want to help improve the world not just our own campus,” she sai,. .[But] you can’t help anyone else when your own house is fractured.”

Tull said students who are interested should look for MEChA’s five-day event, Semana de la Mujer, this spring. She also encourages students to follow MEChA on Facebook and Twitter, or email mecha@nd.edu for more information.

Angelica Martinez, MEChA co-president, said she hopes other clubs will follow MEChA’s lead in confronting inter-campus issues.

“I hope that we aren’t the only club that’s making an effort to make these campuses a whole community,” Martinez said.

Contact Tabitha Ricketts at trick01@saintmarys.edu