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A culture of exclusion

| Thursday, February 13, 2014

It is no secret that the Notre Dame student body is more or less homogeneous. Despite strong administrative recruiting for minority and diversity students in recent years, the vast majority of the student population continues to be white, upper-middle class, Catholic, politically conservative and from the Midwest. What is even more disheartening is that many Notre Dame students do not view this as an issue.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being from any particular race, religion, political affiliation or socioeconomic background. However, it is arrogant and inappropriate to assert one background or affiliation is of greater worth to the University than another. The official University policy aims to promote a Spirit of Inclusion among the Notre Dame community, welcoming all people from different creeds, cultures and experiences to be embraced as members of the Notre Dame family without judgment or ridicule.
Not everyone who attends Notre Dame fits the typical profile I described above, and it is important to remember that “diversity” does not just refer to race. Even though Notre Dame is a Catholic university, many students affiliate themselves with a different religion or with no religion at all, choosing to attend the school based on other factors, such as academic prestige or unique community life. The same is true for many students who identify with other groups considered minorities on the Notre Dame campus, a spectrum that includes racial minorities as well as ideological ones, such as Democrats and homosexuals.

These people are just as important to the student body as those who qualify under the “majority” profile. They bring unique perspectives to student interactions and keep the campus from becoming completely ignorant to the experiences, viewpoints and needs of many kinds of people. They help to create on campus a more accurate depiction of the diverse modern world. Their opinions, contributions, student organizations and events hold an important place on this campus.

However, despite the administrative push for inclusion, these kinds of students are continually made to feel unwelcome at the University by their peers, in both overt and furtive ways.

A timely example was provided in many comments made by Mark Gianfalla in his column, “Missing the Ball on ND Gender Relations” (Feb. 4). Though the article focused on his terrible misreading of Emma Terhaar’s satirical Her Campus article, “ND’s Fabulous Gender Relations: How to Help All the Bruised Male Egos Out There” (Jan. 28), I found his comments on “minorities” on campus to be the most hateful and offensive. (Editor’s note: Terhaar writes for The Observer’s Scene section.)

Gianfalla wrote, “Dissenters of Our Lady’s University’s conservative, Catholic culture should simply leave or accept it.” And after alerting his readers that one of the leading reasons that he chose to attend this school was because of “its conservative, Catholic roots” (while failing to acknowledge that other students choose to attend Notre Dame for other reasons) he makes a rude, asinine and completely unnecessary comment toward “liberals:” “All 20 of you outspoken liberals just rolled over in your lofts.” The intent was clearly to insult anyone with “liberal” views and to belittle them by insinuating that there are very few people on this campus who share them. Gianfalla goes on to compare “a minority attitude running through campus” offensively to “a rat in a New York City subway tunnel: unnatural and unsettling.” Lastly, the author has the audacity to close his article by telling Notre Dame to “stay classy,” though his article full of hate speech and insults exhibits the complete opposite of class.

Telling anyone who holds remotely “different” views, and who wishes to express these views, that they should leave this university is a terrible idea and a just plain hateful statement. If students cannot give enough respect to listen to and be open to another’s ideas, they should, at the very least, not personally insult them or insinuate that there is no place for them on this campus. Notre Dame students should not aim to make anyone who is “different” feel like an outsider. Students should be mature enough to disagree respectfully instead of resorting to childishly insulting another person for their beliefs. Calling a minority position “unnatural” is detestable, especially when the comment comes from someone who is representing our university.

The Notre Dame community has a reputation of being friendly and welcoming, but it also has a reputation of being exclusive and clannish. Notre Dame students should strive to meet the first stereotype, and not the second. It is close-mindedness, hate speech and exclusion — not “different” or “minority” students and their ideals — that do not have a place at Notre Dame.

Bianca Almada is a sophomore residing in Cavanaugh Hall. She is studying English, Spanish and Journalism. She can be contacted at balmada@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

About Bianca Almada

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  • Mark G

    The “vast majority” of ND students are from the Midwest? Hardly — less than half of each class is from the Midwest. Your other points may be valid, but get your facts right.
    The “vast majority” of ND students are upper middle class? Maybe – but how is this different than the student body of most if not all selective universities? And I am not sure that your statement is even true – nearly 75% of the student body receive some form of financial aid, and the average amount of University scholarship for those who demonstrate need is $30,000.
    The “vast majority” of ND students are conservative? Do you mean politically or personally? If the former, then at least ND can say it is different in this regard from the vast majority of other selective universities where there is a markedly liberal to very liberal group think.
    The “vast majority” of ND students are Catholic? Well, that is sort of the point — it is and wants to remain an unapologetically Catholic school. Some of us think that is a good thing.
    If your point is that another writer was being insensitive and narrow minded by asserting a “love it or leave it” stance, then that is a valid comment. But your characterization of ND as being white, Midwestern, upper middle class, conservative and Catholic, as if the confluence of being those things is bad, is itself demeaning.

  • Tom

    Notre Dame actively does and absolutely should welcome students with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. But why would it be in the best interest of the University to admit students who seek to work against or directly undermine its founding principles and mission statement?