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Double standards: A spooky reality

Viewpoint Columnist | Monday, November 4, 2013

 As the Halloween festivities finally come to a close and the nerd glasses, construction hats and cat ears are tucked away for another year, our attention is quickly directed to the next season of festive Starbucks cups and final exams.
However, as I reflect on the past week, it occurred to me that this Halloween – and its accompanying celebrations – provided me with a disheartening case study of the alarming double standards for men and women of Notre Dame.
Although they are widely discussed by faculty and students alike, both in and out of the classroom, the general consensus appears to go along the lines of “Yeah, it’s not fair. But that’s just the way it goes.” While we all witness these discrepancies regularly, it would be valuable to simply highlight one of the most blatant occurrences, even if only to spark conversation.
Thursday nights for many Notre Dame students mean venturing off campus to the likes of Club Fever in downtown South Bend. While the nightclub holds a strict “21 & Over” policy, bouncers are notorious for accepting fake I.D.’s in exchange for anything from a pleading smile to a $20 bill wrapped around the card. Because of this reputation, scores of underclassmen make weekly (often successful) attempts to gain entrance along with their older peers. This past Thursday – Oct. 31 to all, “Feve-o-ween” to many – proved to be no exception. In fact, the Club Fever hype was intensified with the addition of costumes and general holiday merriment.
This hype brought with it higher stakes and greater risks for the younger crowd, for it was assumed across campus that large numbers of off-duty R.A.’s would be joining the celebration. However, it quickly became clear that this heightened concern of off-campus repercussions was felt by only half of the underage population.
As the younger women of Notre Dame worriedly deliberated and anxiously calculated risk throughout the week – even going as far to plan costumes that included masks and other forms of disguise out of fear. Their male peers confidently chuckled with casual responses of, “I hope I see him there, he’ll definitely buy me a beer!” For nearly all of Notre Dame’s women’s dorms, the instance of coming into contact with an R.A. is almost certain to result in serious disciplinary action, including confiscation of any illegitimate identification, meetings with rectors and meeting with Community Standards. However, if an underage resident of any male dorm on campus is to run into his R.A., he will more than likely be slapped on the back and handed a drink, or ignored (if the R.A. is a real stickler).
There are many problems with this pattern. Worse, these issues can be directly blamed neither on the underage rule-breakers, nor their respective R.A.’s. Rather, it seems that the looming institutions and accepted behaviors are what perpetuate such standards that, when plainly drawn out, should seem outrageous to any logical person. It is not that the male R.A.’s are failing at their responsibilities, nor are the female R.A.’s cruelly exerting excessive control over their residents – all individuals are simply performing what they perceive to be their duties.
While I am sure there is a written rule located somewhere in the depths of du Lac, it is plainly accepted and maintained, at high levels of authority, that male R.A.’s can interact off-campus with their underage students in one manner, while female R.A.’s absolutely cannot. In the case of the underage students, while they are all breaking the law and school policies, the consequences of their actions are so substantially different that there may as well be two separate rules, based fully on gender.
I am unsure of any one solution to a problem based on unspoken realities, but discussion is often the first step. The most important second step is to move past the complacent conclusions of “that’s just the way it is,” and work to make concrete changes.
In regards to my own personal interests, I will enthusiastically refrain from promoting any specific modifications, but the two options appear to be the universal embrace of one of the two current policies: Either all underage students face severe consequences that affect study abroad, further educational endeavors and even job prospects if caught at a 21 and over venue, or a blind eye is turned as long as no immediate harm to self or others is being done. Regardless of the option chosen, either would far surpass the current system, which promotes the horrifyingly sexist and chauvinistic tendencies for which Notre Dame is unfortunately known.

Sarah Morris can be contacted at smorris8@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.