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Is that a girl?

| Thursday, February 6, 2014

When I wrote this, the elections for student body government still loomed over campus, drawing closer and closer. One night, a girl stopped by my room tonight to campaign for my vote.  I live on-campus in O’Neill Hall, and the first surprise of the night was actually hearing a girl’s voice in the hall when it’s not after 10 p.m. on a weekend night. I immediately assumed she was someone’s girlfriend, since the probability of someone casually hanging out with a friend who is a girl on a weekday night is frighteningly low at this school. My assumption was proved wrong yet disappointingly validated when she came into my room to give me a flyer for her campaign.

She told my friend and me to check out her website so we could see her platform. Rather than investigating the website, I immediately questioned her platform by asking her what her stances were on the controversial issues here at Notre Dame. She asked me what I considered to be controversial, so I named the obvious topics: single-sex dorms, parietals, lack of condom distribution on campus, the quota that 50 percent of our faculty must be Catholic. She replied by saying that the administration would never change and that the administration believes that since I agreed to come to this school, I had no right to complain. In other words, she said that she had no platform on these issues. The impact of the stances taken on these issues is simply a way of life here at Notre Dame. It is not subject to change. So why even bother talking about it?

You might have guessed I think Notre Dame is on the wrong side of every controversial issue I named above. I think it is exceedingly clear that the segregation of the sexes here at Notre Dame is the direct cause of its abysmal gender relations. Interactions with the opposite gender are largely restricted to classes and weekend nights, and the social consequences of it are immense. I think the majority of students here lack adequate gender relation skills. I think many of my male peers here fail to fully respect women because they’ve never had a girl friend whom they are as close with as a guy friend. I think many Notre Dame students lag behind in their social development because of these problems, and I think some students may never catch up. But per usual, a rigid interpretation of the antiquated social teachings of the Catholic Church is more important than the welfare of the student body.

Notre Dame needs change in so many ways. But she isn’t going to change. Far worse than that, we aren’t even going to have a conversation about it. We will not elect a student body president who criticizes university policy. There will not even be an option for such a candidate on the ballot. But I want there to be. I want to talk about these issues. It’s time for change at Notre Dame, and even if you disagree, I hope you can at least agree to talk about it.

Stephen Hawn
O’Neill Hall
Feb. 5

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  • John

    So you’re claiming that gender relations are healthier at big state universities where casual sex is encouraged? What is your basis for that claim other than opinion and anecdote.

    Your dismay over Notre Dame’s decision to actually be a Catholic university verges on the absurd. What are you suggesting – that Notre Dame should not uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church or its founding principles? That’s like going to McDonalds and being upset that they aren’t serving spaghetti.

    You clearly could use a heavy dose of perspective.

    • Andrew

      Well John that would be a terrific point if schools such as Marquette and Georgetown didn’t exist to prove that Catholic universities can in fact have solid gender relations. Sex is by no means encouraged at these schools but they have a solid grasp on the concept of treating students as adults and imposing moderate rules (such as single-sex floors in dorms) that allow for significantly more healthy male-female relationships- even those relationships that aren’t sexual.

      • John

        Show me evidence that Georgetown and Marquette have better gender relations that Notre Dame.

        • Andrew

          Notre Dame referred to sexual assaults as “forcible fondlings” until very recently and requires freshmen to participate in both speed dating and serenading the opposite sex in their first weekend here. Maybe a better understanding of women would curb the many sexual assaults that have occurred this year. There are no official statistics to determine gender relations and I am basing this off of the frustrations of both male and female classmates and friends as well as comparing the official policies of other Catholic universities and the experiences of friends who attend them.

      • John

        And you never actually addressed my primary point.

  • B_2012

    I disagree with the idea that Notre Dame has poor gender relations for the reasons you listed. Many, if not most, of my friends at Notre Dame were guys. I hung out in guy dorms all the time – watching tv, playing cards and board games, doing homework, having heart-to-heart talks, going to dorm Masses, celebrating birthdays, playing video games, etc. And here’s the shocker: I did this without even having a boyfriend there. We just hung out platonically because we enjoyed each other’s company. Sometimes other girl friends of ours hung out with us, and sometimes not. In high school it would have seemed odd for a girl to have so many guy friends, but in college I felt I could be friends with whomever I wanted since we all lived on the same campus, and I took full advantage of that.

    Maybe things are different in O’Neill, but please don’t act like girl and guy friends hanging out at Notre Dame is unheard of or that gender relations are “abysmal”. Do you really think it should be expected that students can’t figure out for themselves how to hang out with peers of the opposite gender at times other than “classes and weekend nights” (which, by the way, is how most people in the real world who have jobs are “restricted”)? Notre Dame is not hurting “the welfare of the student body” by upholding Catholic policies nor by treating you like adults. You want a condom? Buy it yourself. You want a girl friend who will hang out with you? Treat her with respect and show a non-sexual interest in her and her life.

    I agree with John and share the perspective you mentioned:”no one forced you to go here.” Some of the things that attracted me to Notre Dame were those very policies that are in alignment with Catholic beliefs (a reason why I applied to Notre Dame and didn’t bother applying to a school like Marquette), including single sex dorms and parietals and the lack of condom distribution you mentioned. When I was investigating different colleges in high school, I was surprised that more schools did not share these policies. Notre Dame offered me something that other top universities did not, and I am very grateful that it exists as it does. Thankfully and fortunately for me, I was accepted into Notre Dame and absolutely LOVED my 4 years there. I am sorry you do not fully appreciate your school, but do keep in mind that you are the one who chose to attend it. It does not need to, nor should it, change.

    Alumna, Class of 2012

    • Jacob

      I’m happy that you had good gender relations when you were here, but you have to realize that most people on campus would disagree with you. The vast majority of guys and girls that I have met here are dissatisfied with gender relations at ND.

      How could you possibly expect for guys and girls to be as close as they are at a school where guys and girls live together? This isn’t debatable.

      There is definitely a group of students who came to ND for its Catholic values, but there is also a group of students who came here primarily because it is a great academic school. There has to be a way to make everyone happy. And as Andrew said, it involves treating students as adults and not forcing them to abide by strict Catholic values. The author’s request for ND to distribute condoms is excessive, but co-ed dorms are completely reasonable.

      • Q

        Apparently you don’t know what the word debatable means. You have absolutely no evidence that men and women living together improved gender relations. Your opinion about what “the vast majority of guys and girls” think isn’t relevant.

  • P_2016

    You chose to attend the University of Notre Dame (a Catholic university) why? There are plenty of non-Catholic schools you could have attended that have all the condoms, liberal professors, and co-ed dorms you could ever want. Most people are attracted to Notre Dame BECAUSE of the very same values you decry. I can only imagine the dismay you suffered when first arriving on campus for Frosh-O and noticed Mary standing atop the Dome, looking out over the campus of Her university.

    Speaking of change, perhaps it is you who could change. Take some time to understand Catholicism. Two thousand years of thought by the greatest theological and philosophical minds have helped shape these values; maybe there IS something of value in the ideals espoused by the university.

  • Juan

    I agree with you Stephen

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