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Notre Dame, Inc.

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A large amount of recent attention has been devoted to the comparison of universities to businesses, and the realigning of many universities’ mission statements towards that of for-profit companies.

Notre Dame is a truly unique place where faith and academia meet to blossom into our home under the dome. Having heard Fr. Jenkins speak on many occasions, I believe he definitely appreciates how special a role Notre Dame plays in defining academic and religious standards on a global scale.

This being true, Notre Dame often shows signs of a Fortune 500 company with corporate speech replacing university jargon and bureaucracy reaching the height of religious hierarchy. At times, the golden dome seems like a Christmas present from some larger-than-life benefactor with the amount of red tape surrounding it, and the SAO-Student Affairs relationship would confuse even veteran politicians.

I read an article this week that compared students to customers, and teaching to customer service, but the problem this article attempted to point out with this philosophy actually missed the point that I think is often too present at universities like Notre Dame. A multi-million dollar operation like Notre Dame is sure to attract some corporate types, but unlike most businesses, our University, like any university, relies on the presence of students.

Unlike replaceable “price-takers” that perfectly competitive markets are known for, students at a university undergo a rigorous selection process, and after being accepted and choosing to attend, I would beg to argue we deserve something in return for our efforts in class and the community. Unfortunately, I and others like me, have noticed many members of the administration and University departments refuse to even meet with students, and are more concerned with their bottom line than the line of diligent students that walk to class every morning and keep the University alive and thriving.

As the president of both a club and a residence hall, I have been denied meetings with senior University employees and have begun to accept that emails just won’t be returned if the recipient is on the payroll and doesn’t have me on their class roster or Rolodex.
As a “student leader” who is invited to fancy dinners every semester and events like TeamND, I and other club officers and campus life leaders contribute hours on end to the Notre Dame community, striving to leave it better than how we found it. I would say it is reasonable to expect the extensions of common courtesies such as meetings or even the return of emails.

Those involved in campus programming can attest to how difficult it is to get approval for events because of the layers of approval and more frequently, disapproval, that lie in the way.

One of the major benefits Notre Dame possesses is its brand of a world-class education, a dedication to the Catholic faith and a desire to be leaders in research. That brand, however, does not have to suffer at the expense of student empowerment.

Some of the world’s premier universities such as Princeton and Oxford have extremely independent student bodies that are given the ability to organize and program with little or no oversight. I’m not suggesting this completely libertarian form for Notre Dame, but I am advocating a more valued approach to the students that make Notre Dame a thriving, branded university, and not a research laboratory.

A university cannot exist without its students; our brand would strengthen with an increased acceptance of that mindset across all offices of the University.

I will, however, commend the efforts of those University administrators who hold office hours and are very accessible to students. That is how higher education thrives.

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About Mark Gianfalla

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  • Deconstruct This

    Mark, because it’s nd, INC. You know the answer. How much money (BIG MONEY)–besides your tuition, room, and board, which doesn’t get you into the Club–have you or your family contributed lately? You are merely a student number.

    ND, Inc. and many other colleges and universities are no longer means to ends (e.g., human flourishing); rather, the survival and flourishing of the institutions in a legalistic, competitive (rankings), risk adverse market is the end.

    Employees down the ladder and students are human resources who are valued to the extent that they aid or at least do not harm the survival/flourishing of the institutions in the market. The management of risk largely defines human relations in the secular, public and professional sphere because the value of people is not intrinsic—it is contractual and contingent. (The “ND family” is a make-believe, feel-good slogan that conveys the illusion that ND is different and you count; it’s really to entice you to donate.) Why do think ND’s Risk Management and Legal Counsel are so powerful and influential?

    Given the market, there must be ongoing benchmarking (“best practices”) against other competitors to reduce liability through standardization, which reduces uniqueness because uniqueness can bring about liabilities, such as sticking-out in the market (e.g., being “too Catholic” or having a unique residential system), which can be risky. All this leads to a regression toward the mean (which is why Zahm is protesting Housing’s eradication of its common rooms [http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/zahm-pledge] and why Fr. Miscamble is protesting the Campus Crossroads[http://www.irishrover.net/?p=5006]; they want ND to be unique).

    Given law, risk management, and other factors today, building real community within educational institutions is virtually impossible because there must always be distance (that’s why you don’t get into offices and why Housing and Zahm’s rector never dialoged with the residents–it’s nothing personal because the system isn’t personal, it’s because you’re a number. You do know your student number, right?); the system is built on distrust, liability, and punishment rather than on trust, love, mercy, and growth, regardless of rhetoric to the contrary.

    No, ND, Inc. is not a means to human flourishing; rather, it is the end, and you and others are meant to serve it. It is a fabricated fetish. It must be protected and worshipped. The Fascist architectural style of the Campus Crossroads Project shows its triumph and glory.

    You want a meeting? Pay the price. I’m sure you’ll get face-to-face time in the new luxury seats in the Campus Crossroads Project.

    • Francis

      I get it now. The Campus Crossroads becomes the symbolic center–crossroads–of ND, Inc. The football field–representing the business of ND, Inc.–is the holy of holies within the crossroads, which is enveloped by façade buildings that house the façade of ND, Inc. (e.g., music, psychology, and student affairs romper rooms). At the top, overlooking the football field or holy of holies are the “donors” in the luxury seats who pay the price (they donate themselves, including their names that appear on buildings) to Notre Dame, Inc., which is why they get the best view of the holy of holies. The architecture is done in a Fascist flair to show that ND, Inc. has overcome Fr. Hesburgh’s Notre Dame, of which the Sacred Heart Basilica and Main Building were the center. Wow. The Campus Crossroads truly makes a statement.

      • Mandi

        Hmm. So ND, Inc. doesn’t want Zahm to have their own common rooms that they furnish and control because the men housed in Zahm are making this about some Hesburgh-era notion of community and uniqueness (such a naive, pre-modern dream really). ND, Inc. wants Zahm to have sterile, generic, standardised, waiting room style “University Lounges” that the men have no control over and use for so that the men understand that all students and halls are interchangeable in the eyes of ND, Inc.–they are numbers and a cog in the machine. The halls, then, are not meant to be unique communities but rather where the impersonal student numbers are provided with impersonal, standardized accommodation like a hotel because the students are guests of Notre Dame, Inc. That must be why Oberkommando für den Housing (https://twitter.com/FatherSorin/status/446695102967083008) dictates to the halls and low-level managers (a.k.a, “rectors”) now.

        • Anonymous

          I think that a part of this issue is the University’s willingness to casually discard highly respected traditions that collectively have defined what it is to be a Domer. And also symptomatic of this is the University’s acceptance of the HHS mandate to provide birth control for employees. Rather than deal with the liability and costs associated with fighting a lawsuit against a mandate that restricts religious freedom and the Catholic identity of the University, the administration has chosen to merely accept defeat without putting up a fight.

          • John

            Zahm’s common rooms do not make it a less safe hall than other male halls.

            Here are statistics for the last five years from NDSP’s public daily crime logs (http://www3.nd.edu/~ndspd/nwsb….

            ALLEGATIONS of rape, sexual assault, and sexual offence were claimed to have taken place in the following men’s halls (2010-2014):

            08 Keough
            04 Knott
            04 Stanford
            03 Alumni
            02 Carroll
            02 Sorin
            02 Zahm
            01 Dillon
            00 Fisher
            00 Keenan
            00 Morrissey
            00 O’Neill
            00 St. Edward’s

            Number of ambulance calls for intoxicated students in men’s halls (2010-2014):

            19 Dillon
            19 Morrissey
            14 Stanford
            13 Alumni
            13 Keough
            12 Zahm
            09 Keenan
            08 Duncan
            08 Knott
            06 Fisher
            06 St. Edward’s
            05 O’Neill
            03 Siegfried
            03 Sorin
            02 Carroll

            Counts of batteries and aggravated or simple assaults committed inside men’s halls (2010-2014):

            06 Dillon
            06 Siegfried
            03 Keenan
            03 O’Neill
            02 Alumni
            02 Fisher
            01 Duncan
            01 Stanford
            00 Carroll
            00 Keough
            00 Knott
            00 Morrissey
            00 St. Edward’s
            00 Sorin
            00 Zahm

            Counts of drug violations inside men’s halls (2010-2014):

            07 O’Neill
            05 Carroll
            05 Dillon
            04 Saint Edward’s
            04 Siegfried
            03 Keough
            03 Morrissey
            01 Alumni
            01 Fisher
            01 Keenan
            01 Knott
            01 Stanford
            00 Duncan
            00 Sorin
            00 Zahm

  • Amy Winehouse

    Life is all about money. accept it or get run over. You wanna be ethical? be ethical on your own damn time. money makes the world dance and even the prestigious, Catholic Notre Dame can’t escape the grasp of money. OUT