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On hearing you might transfer

| Tuesday, January 20, 2015

To a student of color, on hearing you might transfer:

Dear Student,

Recently we learned you have become so disheartened by racism at Notre Dame that you are considering transferring to another school.

We were told you and other students received several racist messages on Yik Yak, the social media app that allows people to post anonymous messages for others to read. We don’t subscribe to Yik Yak, but one of our students shared one of the messages you saw.

We were sickened. The message was racist, and it was infuriating. As awful as it was, we understand this may not be the only instance of racism you have encountered on the Notre Dame campus. So we can understand why you might want to leave. And we support, categorically, your right to make decisions that will enable you to feel safe, to flourish and to be happy — whatever those decisions might be.

We write this letter to share our thoughts with you and other students of color as you consider the future. We want you to know:

  • Your faculty and staff care about you. We want to do everything we can to help you learn, grow and thrive at Notre Dame. We want to teach you, and we want to learn from you. And we will do all we can to help you feel that Notre Dame is truly your home.
  • You have allies among your fellow students. As tragic as it is that some Notre Dame students are so lost in personal webs of ignorance and fear, many more students believe in the Notre Dame mission of promoting learning in the service of justice.  The student who showed us the racist message was distraught at the thought you might leave. That student and others like her are your allies and your friends.
  • You make Notre Dame a better place. Diversity in all of its expressions, whether racial, ethnic, economic, linguistic, aesthetic or other forms, makes for a stronger, smarter, more wholly human community. While it is not your responsibility to make Notre Dame a better place, we want you to know that your presence in this university matters.
  • You belong here. When you received your letter from the admissions office telling you that you had been accepted to Notre Dame, this became your university.  The library, the dorms, the classrooms — these are your places. The quads, the lakes, the Grotto — they are here for you. No one has the right to take these from you, and no one can. Let the haters leave, if that’s what they choose. We will wish them better days and hope they someday learn to love others as God intended. Notre Dame belongs to you, not them. Why should you leave?

As you well know, a hallmark of the United States’ past is institutionalized racism; and the struggle for justice and equality continues. The racist message you received makes clear that that struggle is taking place, too, at Notre Dame.

We write as Notre Dame faculty members to say your struggle is our struggle. We will stand beside you, and we will denounce all forms of hate speech as intolerable and unacceptable.

We wish you everything good as you consider your bright future, and we offer you our support.


John Duffy, English

Francisco Aragon, Institute for Latino Studies

Doug Archer, Hesburgh Libraries

Zygmunt G. Barański, Romance Languages & Literatures

Katrina Barron, Mathematics

Ted Barron, Film, Television and Theatre

Kevin Barry, Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning

Laura Bayard, Hesburgh Libraries

Judy Benchaar, Romance Languages & Literatures

Ann Primus Berends, Education, Schooling and Society

Mark Berends, Sociology

Anne H. Berry, Art, Art History, and Design

Patricia Blanchette, Philosophy

Emily Block, Mendoza College of Business

Susan Blum, Anthropology

Catherine Bolten, Anthropology and Peace Studies

Melissa Marley Bonnichsen, Center for Social Concerns

John Borkowski, Psychology

Jay Brandenberger, Center for Social Concerns

Karen Buranskas, Music

Kevin Burke, Alliance for Catholic Education

Joseph A Buttigieg, English

Elizabeth Capdevielle, University Writing Program

Bill Carbonaro, Sociology

Kevin J. Christiano, Sociology

Patrick Clauss, University Writing Program

Aedín Clements, Hesburgh Libraries

Annie Gilbert Coleman, American Studies

Robert R. Coleman, Art, Art History, and Design

Jessica L. Collett, Sociology

Brian S Collier, Institute for Educational Initiatives

Philippe Collon, Physics

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

Mary R. D’Angelo, Theology

Jetaun Davis, Recruitment and Communications

Antonio Delgado, Physics

Margaret Doody, English

Dennis Doordan, School of Architecture

Julia Douthwaite, Romance Languages & Literatures

Kevin Dreyer, Film, Television and Theatre

Liz Dube, Hesburgh Libraries

Kathy Eggleson, ESTEEM and Center for Nano Science and Technology

Russell Faeges, Sociology

Stephen M Fallon, Program of Liberal Studies and English

Larissa Fast, Kroc Institute and Sociology

Robert Fishman, Sociology

Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Philosophy and Biological Sciences

Stephen Fredman, English

Agustin Fuentes, Anthropology

Dan Graff, History

Karen Graubart, History

Stuart Greene, English and Africana Studies

David Hachen, Sociology

Darlene Hampton, Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement

Susan Cannon Harris, English

Ricky Herbst, Law School

Charlice Hurst, Mendoza College of Business

Peter Holland, Film, Television and Theatre

Lionel M. Jensen, East Asian Languages and Cultures

Jennifer A. Jones, Sociology

Hye-jin Juhn, Hesburgh Libraries

Michael Kackman, Film, Television and Theatre

Asher Kaufman, Kroc Institute and History

Mary Celeste Kearney, Film, Television and Theatre

Annie Cahill Kelly, Center for Social Concerns

Beth G. Klein, Law Library

Janet Kourany, Philosophy and Gender Studies

Greg Kucich, English

Amy Langenkamp, Sociology

Kyle Lantz, Center for Social Concerns

Daniel Lapsley, Psychology

Fr. Don LaSalle, s.m.m., First Year of Studies

Anne Leone, Romance Languages & Literatures

Omar Lizardo, Sociology

Neil Lobo, Biological Sciences

Cecilia Lucero, First Year of Studies

Maria Lynch, Alliance for Catholic Education

Joanne Mack, Anthropology

Nicole MacLaughlin, University Writing Program

Judy Madden, Alliance for Catholic Education

Collette Mak, Hesburgh Libraries

Julia Marvin, Program of Liberal Studies and Medieval Institute

David Mayernik, Architecture

Laura Miller, Psychology and Peace Studies

Marisel Moreno, Romance Languages and Literatures

Sara L. Maurer, English

Erin McDonnell, Sociology

Terry McDonnell, Sociology

Mary Ann McDowell, Biological Sciences

Maria McKenna, Africana Studies

Mark McKenna, Law School

Gerald McKenny, Theology

Sarah McKibben, Irish Language and Literature

Joyelle McSweeney, English

Rory McVeigh, Sociology

Ann Mische, Sociology and Peace Studies

Monica Moore, Hesburgh Libraries

Leslie L. Morgan, Hesburgh Libraries

Sarah Mustillo, Sociology

Darcia Narvaez, Psychology

Rachel Novick, Biological Sciences

Felicia Johnson O’Brien, Center for Social Concerns

Sean O’Brien, Center for Civil and Human Rights

Atalia Omer, Sociology and Kroc Institute

Kathleen Opel, Notre Dame International

Iris Outlaw, Multicultural Student Services and Programs

Abigail L. Palko, Gender Studies

Rachel Parroquin, Romance Languages & Literatures

Jessica Payne, Psychology

Catherine Perry, Romance Languages & Literatures

Richard Pierce, History and Africana Studies

Dianne Pinderhughes, Africana Studies and Political Science

Pierpaolo Polzonetti, Program of Liberal Studies

Adriana Popescu, Hesburgh Libraries

AnnMarie R. Power, Sociology

Clark Power, Program of Liberal Studies

Ava Preacher, Undergraduate Studies, Arts & Letters

Steve Reifenberg, Kellogg Institute

Gretchen Reydams-Schils, Program of Liberal Studies

Charles Rosenberg, Art, Art History, and Design

Joseph Rosenberg, Program of Liberal Studies

Deb Rotman, Anthropology and Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement

David F. Ruccio, Arts and Letters

Abby Salazar, Campus Ministry

Valerie Sayers, English

Sharon Schierling, Kellogg Institute

Andrea Smith Shappell, Center for Social Concerns

John Sitter, English

Susan Sharpe, Center for Social Concerns

Amy Shirk, Law Library

Cheri Smith, Hesburgh Libraries

Lyn Spillman, Sociology

Jason Springs, Kroc Institute and Sociology

Nancy K. Stanton, Mathematics

Lucien Steil, Architecture

James Sterba, Philosophy

Marsha Stevenson, Hesburgh Libraries

Mim Thomas, Sociology

Maria Tomasula, Art, Art History, and Design

Steve Tomasula, English

Alec Torigian, Alliance for Catholic Education

Julianne Turner, Psychology

Chris Vanden Bossche, English

Ernesto Verdeja, Political Science and Peace Studies

Christine Venter, Law School

Laura D. Walls, English

Robert Walls, American Studies

Andy Weigert, Sociology

Todd Whitmore, Theology

Richard Williams, Sociology

Gayle Carter-Wilson, Africana Studies

Ben Wilson, Center for Social Concerns

Suzanne Wilson, Center for Social Concerns

Michelle Wirth, Psychology

Danielle Wood, Center for Social Concerns

Nicole Woods, Art, Art History, and Design

Maryam Meechka Zomorodian, First Year of Studies

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Letter
  • Nathan

    I’m not faculty, but I whole-heartedly support this letter! God bless, and whatever your decision ends up being, know that there are many here in the student body who support you!

  • Annalise

    This is a beautiful letter and makes me very proud of the intelligent staff we have here at Notre Dame. As a student I share the views expressed in this letter and I selfishly hope that you, the student, choose to stay.

  • MJ

    As an Alum I, too, hope the student addressed stays. Thank you to the faculty that wrote this letter. And shame on the students who behaved in such a cowardly, vile manner.

  • Matt Ryan

    Enthusiastically signed. Please stay. You’re worth a thousand of them.
    Matt Ryan, Portland, OR ’94

  • Get Real

    Whooooooooa pump the breaks, ND faculty. I understand that race is trending in the faculty lounge these days (e.g., Selma, MLK Jr. Day, the Institute for Latino Studies, ND accepting illegal immigrants, etc.), but your letter makes clear that ND’s struggle isn’t institutionalized racism, but rather, encouraging faculty to avoid the low-hanging fruit.

    Your letter gives the impression that ND is pre-desegregation Alabama, which it most certainly isn’t. Think about it: The student in your letter isn’t considered 3/5 of a student, or forced to sit in the back of the bus. Instead, the student read or received a single racist comment on yik yak. That’s it. Period.

    Worse still is your solution. In addition to allowing the student to play victim, you support the student’s desire to transfer. Translation: It’s okay to quit in the face of adversity. How brave and courageous.

    Lastly, faculty, would it kill you to use the oxford comma? So uncivilized.

    • Nathan

      (Responded by paragraph)
      1.) What do you mean “avoid the low hanging fruit”?
      2.) All in how you read it. Didn’t seem overblown to me. Is there a particular part that seemed overblown to you?
      3.) No offense, but I read this no differently as a kid getting shoved on the playground and then getting shunned for going to the teacher. The only people in this affair who I would be decrying for their lack of courage are spineless bullies who use the anonymity of the internet to make others feel low.

      • Get Real

        1) Racial issues are low-hanging fruit. Are there racists in America? Yes. Are racists devastating America’s universities, businesses, or governmental bodies? Absolutely not. We won the battle against racism decades ago, yet people are routinely applauded and labeled as brave for taking the “tough” stance against racism. It just seems a little artificial to me. Frankly, I think it’s irresponsible to argue that a singular racist comment is evidence of institutional racism.

        2) The entire letter is overblown. Again, the student read a singular racist comment on yik yak. Moreover, the letter does state that the comment “may not be the only instance of racism you have encountered on the Notre Dame campus.” Clearly, the signatories want you to believe other instances occurred because that would fit their narrative that ND struggles with institutional racism, but there’s no evidence of that.

        3) No offense taken; I’m not soft. Let’s be clear. The faculty who signed on to this letter wrote that they heard that some students received racist comments on yik yak. There’s no evidence to suggest that the students went crying to the faculty for support. Rather, it appears the faculty jumped at the opportunity to grab the low-hanging fruit so they could be applauded and appear brave. And I agree with you about the internet bullies being spineless. They are, but who cares? Why dignify their actions by publishing a letter? The letter may serve only to incite further singular racist acts.

        • Desi

          I would like to reply to your second point. The letter does indeed state that the comment “man not be the only instance of racism…” While there is no other evidence presented here, as a minority student at Notre Dame, I can attest that there are multiple instances of racism that we face as minorities. ND does indeed struggle with institutional racism. We can ask every student their story and post that in an Observer article, but that would take ages and critics would say that we are whining. While this occurred because of a single comment does not mean that there was only ONE comment.

          • Get Real

            Argue your premise. You claim that ND struggles with institutional racism. To support your argument, you attest to multiple instances of racism that you and others face as minorities, but you don’t offer examples. You continue by saying we can ask every student their story, but that would take ages and critics would call you whiners. That’s quite an assumption.

            Your claims do not support your argument. Were you denied entry into a class because of your skin color? Were you prohibited from entering a dorm because of your skin color? Were you turned away from career services because of your skin color? That’s institutional racism.

            I think you are confusing singular acts of racism with institutional racism.

          • Guillaume de Machaut

            I think you fundamentally misunderstand the concept of “institutionalized racism” (which is far more complex than you seem to grasp). At least take a few minutes to investigate the premise upon which so much of your argument depends and look the term up in the OED. Here, I’ll even do it for you: “n. racial discrimination occurring habitually or customarily within a society or organization.” So no, it doesn’t have to be built into ND’s rules. It doesn’t even have to be intentional.

            From reading your comments, I suspect you haven’t read so much as an article on institutional racism. If you really want to know why so many perceive ND as having a problem with racism, I’d urge you to try to find out what the reason for this might be (of course, this is pointless if you’ve already decided that it’s because people are self-righteous or oversensitive). If you’re a student here, why don’t you go the library and read a book? Who knows, you might learn something. Shaun Harper’s “Race without Racism” is good place to start, or Ransgasamy’s “Understanding Institutional Racism.” If you’re curious about institutional racism in society as a whole, I’d recommend “The New Jim Crow.” Educate yourself.

            If you think the authors of the letter are presenting this single incident as definitive proof for the existence institutional racism, you’re grossly mistaken. Nowhere is that stated. The incident is merely one example of a culture that almost everyone knows exists, a culture many minorities would be glad to discuss with you if you ever took the time to ask.If you think the letter depicts ND as pre-desegregation Alabama, well, that says much more about you than it does about the letter. If you think the signatories “clearly want” me to believe that this wasn’t the only incident or racism (“may not have been” does not denote “clearly”), again, you’re going to need some evidence. It’s entirely logical to infer that a student who received one racist message may have received another (unless you truly believe this is the only racist thing to happen at Notre Dame since the 60s, in which case I can’t help you).

            Speaking of assumptions, would you reveal the secret of how you know the motivations of all the faculty? Maybe you can write an article yourself: “Why Institutional Racism Doesn’t Exist, with an Appendix on the Oxford Comma” (you might get a spot on Rush). Be sure to use the phrase “argue your premise” at least once a page. Other powerful forms of evidence including saying that your opponent’s position is “trending,” accusing them of singling out white people, and raising questions about the vagina monologues (I’m guessing you think sexism doesn’t exist either), and accusing them of using a thesaurus (do you really need a thesaurus to know what “folderol” means?). You might find out that such techniques don’t work in the real world though.

          • Nathan

            Just to be clear, institutional racism is if the racism is built into Notre Dame’s rules. Racism from lots of people isn’t technically the same thing.

        • Tim

          “We won the battle against racism decades ago”? Really? Then why are Notre Dame students sending racist comments on yik yak? Even you, Get Real, acknowledge that constitutes a “racist act.”

          Your pathetic line of argument makes me sick to my stomach.

          • Get Real

            I don’t know for certain, but I’ll guess they sent the comment because they wanted to. Are they racist? I don’t know. If they are, who cares? It’s not like they’re re-writing ND’s admissions policies.

            If by pathetic you mean logical, reasoned, and based on fact, then yes, my argument is pathetic. You should take a stab at arguing pathetically like me.

        • Nathan

          1+2.) Fruit doesn’t have to be hanging high for the picker to deserve appreciation. People ignore simple courtesies all the time and the world is worse off for it. And lets not take this out of context: it was an editorial in a school newspaper. Still, as the Gandalf quote goes: “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.”

          Also, you’re the only one (apart from desi who commented after) talking about institutional racism. Other racism is still worth calling out as inappropriate.

          3.) An open letter with large numbers of faculty signatures is a good way for the community as a whole to make a symbolic statement that racism is not tolerated in a way that doesn’t make an excessively large deal of it.

          • Get Real

            1+2) Yes it does. Low-hanging fruit is obvious and easily achieved, and therefore, deserves no appreciation. That’s kinda why it’s called low-hanging fruit. To your second sentence, sure, but that doesn’t mean a letter should be published. For example, I held the door for a lady today. Do you think a faculty member would like to publish an article about that? After all, I was doing my duty to keep the darkness at bay, and I should be appreciated.

            Also, all of the signatories are talking about institutional racism. They write, “As you well know, a hallmark of the United States’ past is institutionalized racism; and the struggle for justice and equality continues. The racist message you received makes clear that that struggle is taking place, too, at Notre Dame.” And sure, racist comments are worth calling out, but publishing a letter about one act? Nah.

            3) Sure, if you’re interested in picking the low-hanging fruit. We already know that racism isn’t tolerated. We don’t need a letter from faculty reminding us about something we already know. Seems like a waste of ink. Look, ultimately, the faculty got what they wanted: people like you applauding their “courageous” stance against racism.

    • alpelican

      Lastly, commenter, would it kill you to spell “brakes” correctly?

      • Get Real

        Would it kill you to post a substantive response?

        • Nathan

          Considering you were the one who tacked on the oxford comma complaint, are you really surprised someone made fun of it?

    • Dædalus

      I’m sometimes tempted to think that ND doesn’t have a major issue with racism, but blessedly, every semester I have one or two pooterish students like yourself who graciously (if unintentionally) disabuse me of such hopeless idealism by turning in a piece of crypto-racist folderol poorly disguised as what they laughably consider intelligence.

      Though ND is not pre-desegregation Alabama, it has a bigger problem with racism than any other university I’ve been to. Why, just recently a student of color who dared to complain about racist attacks they’ve received was accused of “playing victim.”

      And let me assure you that tenured professors with international reputations aren’t terribly concerned with receiving applause in a campus newspaper.

      • Get Real

        Wow, teach. Where do I begin? Oh, I know. Argue your premise. While you call me stupid and yourself smart, you fail to substantively respond to my claim that institutional racism is not an issue at ND. As I acknowledge in my previous post, racist people exist, but that fact alone doesn’t necessarily mean that institutional racism is prevalent…unless, of course, we’re talking about affirmative action. Are we talking about affirmative action? We should talk about that. We’d have fun.

        Pooterish? Folderol? Self-important and nonsense are perfectly acceptable replacements for the words you chose. And you know what else? Using self-important and nonsense won’t leave you feeling pooterish. Here’s a free piece of advice: don’t use the thesaurus as a replacement for an argument. It makes you look like an idiot.

        Do me a favor, re-read your second paragraph. In essence, you write that recently a student of color (it’s cool to say minority, you know?) who dared to complain about racist attacks they’ve received was accused of “playing victim.” And because of this you conclude that ND has a bigger problem with racism than any other school you’ve been to. Aside from being a terribly weak argument–perhaps you should have leaned on the thesaurus–would you care to elaborate on what you mean by “attacks.” Were students in white masks attempting to lynch the student? Did the student read a comment on yik yak? Did you teach at these universities, or did you merely step foot on their campus. You should be more clear. Oh, and your argument is terrible because you take one instance of racism, and conclude that ND has a bigger problem with racism that any of your other universities. You seem to be reaching. Unfortunately, your thesaurus isn’t in reach.

        These tenured professors with international reputations aren’t terribly concerned with receiving applause in a campus newspaper, huh? Well, being a professor isn’t the reason they want the applause. Instead, it’s that the professors think that their letter is an acceptable substitute for actual action. They’re absolved if they care. Do you know how I know this? They said so in the letter.

        And, finally, are you one of these pooterish professors with an international reputation? I bet you are.

        • what no really

          Do you know why people think Notre Dame is racist? Because a lot of people like you go there.

  • jack

    As an alum, I would say that the institution does not actually care about the individual students who experience discrimination at the university. What they care about is their bottom line as a business. If they spent half as much time caring for socio-economic minorities (parents make <150K annually, non-whites, non-catholics) as they do covering athlete-rapists, saving face, and assuming that minority students can "figure it out for themselves" (a direct quote from a ResLife director), this letter would be completely unnecessary. Instead, they hold the hands of "students-athletes" that belittle the fact that the university is supposed to be an institution of education: "a force for good in the world". Instead, that initial dream has become a veil that needs to be maintained through letters and public statements like this. The letter of acceptance alluded to in the bullets above isn't a statement of unconditional acceptance and support, but rather a notice that the university will take your money (a whole lot of it), and set up hoops for you to jump through to get the resources you paid for, so that they will have a better chance of making a profit on your tuition. Talk is cheap. ND loves to talk about institutional equality, but when it comes down to action they make a better ROI investing in football players and children of wealthy white parents who could pad the endowment.

    • Nathan

      A few points:

      First, is that people are pretty awful online as a general rule. Go to the comment section of any yahoo news articles and you’ll wonder how humanity hasn’t died out. While it appalls me that this seems to apply even to people at Notre Dame, I don’t buy the idea that there’s any level of engagement by the administration that would completely stamp out stuff like this

      Second, you seem to have a lot to say about how Notre Dame fails its students. Do you have any concrete suggestions of what ACTIONS it could take to do better?

      Third, I’ve never understood how onlookers can always manage to take an example of people doing a good thing to complain about how they should be doing better. It always reminds me of the people who sue the guy who rescued them from a car crash because they were injured in the process.

    • Jeff Majerek

      You are aware that alum is a chemical compound and not a former student or pupil of a school? I, on the other hand am an alumnus….. if you are a female it is possible that you may be an alumna. We together would be alumni.

    • jack

      Jeff- I believe you’re referring to the periodic abbreviation Al. As an alumnus with a chemistry degree, I apologize for the confusion. I thought that it was obvious what I meant to abbreviate, since it was used in a previous comment.

      Nathan- Those are fair points. I wouldn’t be where I am now without my education from ND. They do a lot of things right. It is easy for me to criticize from the sidelines, nevertheless I felt the need to raise the issue in a public forum.

      While it probably is impossible for stuff like this to be completely eradicated, there are measures that could be taken to invest further in minority students. These measures could take similar form to programs in place for student-athletes. Proactive recruitment for tutoring, career counseling, or work-study are low-hanging fruit to start with. For example, as a student qualifying for federal work-study subsidies, I found it difficult to even find the hours needed to earn the $2,000/semester that the fed would have paid for instead of ND (I got close a few times, but the effort of searching for additional jobs didn’t seem worth the payout). I’m sure there are minority students worse off than I was.

      In no way is this meant to say that ND is failing at their mission, but it seems that the admin is willing to overlook issues for minority students such as these, as long as the school is in demand and their bottom line is in tact.

      • Nathan

        Good suggestions, particularly the one about work study. I actually just did some quick math assuming about $7.40/hr pay, and you’d have to work ~2.25 hours a day (including weekends) to make $2000 dollars a semester. That’s insane.

        Also I hope I didn’t come off as too abrasive. In a lot of other articles I’ve posted in people were often heavy on criticism, but light on suggestions/alternatives. Thanks for being gracious about my bad manners, and for the excellent points.

    • Tee

      You do realize that a lot of these student-athletes that you seem to disdain are the same “parents make <150K annually, non-whites, non-catholics" that you speak of, right?

    • Matt

      While I applaud the faculty here for their beautiful letter to students of color at ND, I can’t help but agree with Jack here. I chose to transfer not only because of the financial reasons mentioned above, but more out of ideological conflict. The university’s image belies life at the university regarding treatment of non white, heterosexual, males. I, as a white, heterosexual, male, refused to be part of a group that willingly and so often chose to refer to my black and gay classmates with perjorative slurs. That seemed to view women as a collective apendage to life at the university whereby they were to be seen but not heard. While it is admirable of the faculty to emplore these students to stay, it is unfair for anyone to expect any person seeking to expand their minds to stay at a place where a majority wants to keep minds closed.

  • bob

    Yik yak is modern bathroom graffiti. No one should be made to feel this way, but we should also stop taking something so dumb so seriously

  • Nathan

    As Get Real pointed out to me, I had actually missed the part of the letter where the faculty indicated concern that institutional racism remains a problem at Notre Dame.

    I will admit that I’m generally a bit oblivious to racism, but do people generally think of Notre Dame as having institutional racism (which I understand to mean racism built into the rules/laws)?

    • Get Real

      I appreciate the honesty. However, missing the faculty’s claim that institutional racism remains at ND means you missed the essence of my argument. That’s dangerous because you jumped on board with a letter you didn’t truly understand.

      You’re likely oblivious to racism because society eradicated much of it decades ago. Sure, racist people exist, but almost no one pays them any attention. Hence my previous comment. And finally, no, I don’t think people generally think of ND as having institutional racism. Unless, of course, we’re talking about affirmative action. That’s institutional racism ND has in common with every institution. I’m happy to debate.

      • Nathan

        See, I disagree though, because I see the letter as having value regardless of whether the point about institutional racism is correct or not. I’m glad that you pointed out the element that I missed, but I still disagree with your broader conclusions.

        • Get Real

          The letter can’t have value because the letter purports to denounce something that doesn’t exist. I get it you, though. You agree and feel good about the idea that racism is wrong. Who, other than racists, isn’t on board with that?

          • Nathan

            It also attempts to encourage someone at a low point in their life and highlights positive ideals (inclusiveness, empathy, etc) that Notre Damers can be proud of

          • Get Real

            Sure, but at what cost? The positive ideals are great, but the letter leverages those ideals to lend a voice to far more dangerous ideals, like self-victimization and false-accusations of institutional racism. Any changes stemming from those ideals are fruit of the poisonous tree.

          • Nathan

            I mean, in this case though the student WAS actually a victim…
            Neither of us are actually disputing that the student was exposed to racist comments, correct?

          • Get Real

            I dont agree that the student is a victim, though they were exposed to a racist comment. Labeling this person a victim denigrates the real struggle experienced by those pushing for actual civil rights.

          • Nathan

            I think we’re going to have to just agree to disagree on this one. I don’t see either of us making any headway and we’ve probably taken up a third of the comments in our various back and forths.


          • Get Real


  • KachitaB

    Oh man. As someone who wanted to leave, filled out the applications and was ready to leave for Winter break and never return, I do not regret staying. It was a tough 4 years, but the highs were much higher than the lows were lows. In large part because of the people I was blessed to have in my life. I don’t regret staying. I am proud of the strength I found. Do not let them run you out. I used to say, “Their ignorance is not my problem. It is not my job to educate them.” But I guess in the end, I’m glad for the people I did change. Hold out. Get the 4 years I wish I could relive.

  • Rebecca Davidson

    “Institutional racism” isn’t only what is written into an institution’s rules and customs, but what is commonly allowed — often uncontested — by most people at an institution. It’s true that racism is not as overt as it once was, but it still exists in smaller — still offensive and hurtful — ways. Granted it was ten years ago, but I heard many stories of racist “micro-agressions” and worse during my seven years on campus as a rector.

    What counts as “racism”? Is it racist for white students to make fun of a classmate’s food from home because “Asian food smells funny”? Is it racist for a professor to call on a single black student to express “the African-American perspective”? Is it racist for someone at the Basilica to refuse to shake the hand of the one person of color who sat nearby while greeting others with a sign of peace? Is it racist for someone to ask an African-American administrator which sport he coaches? Is it racist for a student to tell another student that she “talks well, for someone from her background”? Is it racist for a white student to assert that “we” don’t need to study people of different identities because “we have already done that for years”? Maybe you do not want to characterize all of these incidents as “racism,” but they all imply a superiority or individuality of white people, while making generalizations about people of color. All people deserve to be known as who they are, not as a “type” based on the color of their skin, on their sexual orientation, or on their (perceived) gender.

    • Nathan

      Aren’t you being a bit stereotypical to assume that the listed comment would be an example of implied superiority of WHITE people? An African American is just as capable of saying that “Asian food smells funny”, just as an Asian American is capable of asking an African American administrator which sport they coach. If I were a white person, particularly a white person who works hard to not be racist, I might find that offensive and hurtful. Isn’t that the sort of micro aggression that you’re denouncing?

      Now obviously this isn’t your intent, but it represents the biggest issue I have with the idea of micro aggressions. Some racism is very true to intent, but from experience I know that it’s very easy to misread malicious intent in actions/statements, especially when you’ve already been the target of actual harassment (your church example, unless they actually deliberately refuse to shake hands, is a great example of innocuous behavior that can be easily be misinterpreted).

      • Rebecca Davidson

        Nathan — Those are good points. I guess I should have described each situation more clearly. All of those situations took place on campus. For example, the white woman who refused to shake hands made some comment about it that clearly implied race was the reason (although I cannot remember exactly what the student told me it was). The African American administrator was approached by a young white man who, upon learning that he was an administrator, said, “Oh… Congratulations…” and quickly averted his gaze and walked away. I suppose that if one has these things happen on a semi-regular basis on campus, one starts to view them as signs of a larger issue.
        I did not mean to imply that all white people are to be characterized as racist, the same way that not people of color shouldn’t be characterized as being one way or another. You are right that minorities can be mean to one another, too — which is a sort of power play within that context. Some people would call this racism because the offending parties lack social resources in the larger society.
        I agree that it’s easy to misread malicious intent, but I think that even actions that are not willed can be clearly discriminatory. I recently saw an article about our unknown biases: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/08/across-america-whites-are-biased-and-they-dont-even-know-it/. I think that white people, myself included, have to work hard to root out the biases that our society passes along. It’s those biases that I would call “institutional racism.”
        I have to say that I am pleased about the seriousness and consideration that have been shown by most of the people in this conversation. It’s easier to shout one’s thoughts or respond in an off-hand manner and not really give a damn about the interactions. Thanks to all who have taken the “higher road” in this exchange.

        • Nathan

          Like I said, I was intentionally being obtuse with my white person remark. I knew that wasn’t your intent, just as I was reasonably confident that the examples you gave actually did come from white people. I just wanted to use it as an example of how even well intended comments can be misread as micro-aggressions depending on the listener.

          • Rebecca Davidson

            Point taken.

    • Get Real

      I’m with Nathan on this, except I think your intent was to single out white people. It’s trending.

      While institutional racism extends beyond an institution’s rules and customs, the discrimination must limit that individual’s or group’s rights. In other words, the discrimination must prohibit that individual from accessing employment, education, or housing, etc. You’re moving the goal posts to support your conclusion.

      Is it racist for white students to make fun of a classmate’s food from home because “Asian food smells funny”? No, that student prefers food that isn’t Asian.

      Is it racist for a professor to call on a single black student to express “the African-American perspective”? No, who should the professor call on to express the black perspective, the white kid?

      Is it racist for someone at the Basilica to refuse to shake the hand of the one person of color who sat nearby while greeting others with a sign of peace? Maybe, but we need more information. Did that someone refuse to shake hands solely because of skin color? There could be other reasonable reasons.

      Is it racist for someone to ask an African-American administrator which sport he coaches? Not necessarily. That administrator may look really athletic, and be wearing team gear.

      Is it racist for a student to tell another student that she “talks well, for someone from her background”? Mayyyyybe, but what if that person moved from China three months earlier? Could be impressive.

      Is it racist for a white student to assert that “we” don’t need to study people of different identities because “we have already done that for years”? No, they’re just close-minded.

      As an aside, do you think the vagina monologues is offensive to those who perceive themselves as women, but don’t have vaginas?

      • Rebecca Davidson

        Get Real: my intent is not to “single out” white people as culprits of nefarious acts but to give examples of what people of color experience at ND. Each of those situations comes with more context — which, if I had detailed it, as you rightfully indicate, would give us more of a basis for evaluation.
        Maybe I should call the situation of three or four students making faces and saying “Ewww…” about some food, and characterizing all Asian food as “smelly,” one of subtle biases coming to the surface and a display of ignorance (that was hurtful to one student). But, if no one in that situation says something like, “I don’t think we can say that all Asian food has a smell that we consider unpleasant, since we aren’t familiar with most Asian food. And, maybe what we consider to smell unpleasant is not universally considered ‘smelly,'” then, there’s reason to believe that the context or culture is biased against one student’s race or culture.
        I do not think that racism must have obvious social consequences for individual experiences of racism to be real. I think that smaller acts of bias can add up, especially if no one challenges them, and can corrode one’s spirit. It may be a sociological context that has a psychological effect on individuals. Nonetheless, the effect has ramifications throughout individuals’ lives, including physical well-being and sense of belonging. So, just because the offense is less overt or even not intended does not mean that the effect is less than pernicious. That, in short, is why I don’t think I’m “moving the goal posts.” I see the pain, discouragement, and alienation these actions cause as having a major effect on the well-being of our society. (That is why I am grateful that this dialogue is taking place.)
        As for calling on one person to express the perspective of a whole group of people, I believe it diminishes the person — the person is seen as an example of a homogenous point of view instead of an individual who may or may not have been influenced by that one dimension of their being. I wouldn’t want to call on just one Cuban in Florida or one Salvadoran refugee in Los Angeles to give the “Latino perspective” on immigration, since there isn’t ONE perspective even among people of the same country. If the others in the class are treated as individuals, then all should be treated as individuals. Does that make sense?

      • Rebecca Davidson

        Get Real: I didn’t respond to your aside at the end of your comment: “… do you think the vagina monologues is offensive to those who perceive themselves as women, but don’t have vaginas?”
        First: I have never thought about it. I guess the Monologues look at vaginas as a key aspect of being a woman, so, there may be some room for a transgender woman to object that not ALL women have vaginas.

        Admittedly, I’m just starting to come to terms with the realities of transgender people. It’s not a comfortable area of conversation for me yet, although I am trying to learn what I can and seeing how much I can empathize with people who do not feel at home in the body (and social characteristics) they were given at birth.
        At the same time, I will be interested to see how the language about “women” and “transgender women” and others changes to better describe individuals’ experiences.
        I have wondered what ND will do when there is a transgender student who comes in as a first-year Domer. Where will that person live?! What changes will ND make, if any, to be welcoming?

    • Joepalooka1

      while it’s certainly important to remain aware of the potential for racism, in your ‘what counts as racism?’ inquiry I read a lot of baseless innuendo and unlikelihoods …In my opinion, people are waaaaaay too sensitive if the majority of your ‘what ifs’ are classified as being racist (insensitive, or unaware, maybe). I do however suspect there is a high probability of a racist mindset in the Yik Yak posts being properly criticized here.

  • Sachi Seilie

    Hey fellow domer of color! I also considered transferring out my first year, following several odd and racist comments I received (in addition to other things). I’m with you a hundred percent, and so are the many other students who are your allies. Do whatever it takes, but know that there’s also a place under the dome that will make you feel safe. we are here for you.

  • Quote Investments LTD.

    Im a student of color at ND, and I can honestly say that regardless of what you do here, nothings going to change, lol. All this call for ‘acceptance’ is not going to change the type of people Notre Dame attracts. Black students specifically bear much of the burdens here. There are more foreigners ( Hispanics and Asians) on campus than real African Americans. How can we fit into a school that would rather comfort foreign individuals than give you a chance to develop a community. Also do not believe the ‘statistics’ about diversity on campus, especially the bullshit that they feed to you during SpringVis. When they calculate diversity, they consider Hispanics ( whom at Notre Dame also join the ranks as Caucasians) to inflate this percentage. In return, on paper we have that this school is somewhat diverse but in reality, the social atmosphere here is 98% white, 1% Tolerant, and 1% Black. This means that you will most likely never find someone to relate to, especially if you do not come from suburban Catholic America. Do yourself a favor and strongly consider your options. Im not saying that you should not come to Notre Dame, all I am saying is that you should not believe the hype before doing your own research. All of these benefits that Notre Dame has to offer is again given to those who are entitled to it. Not those who do not belong.

    • Indigenous1

      Pfffft try being Native American under the dome. That went well.

  • Tony Whitlow

    The day you step on campus, you become part of a larger family. Families
    aren’t perfect. It is the behavior of the wider family in consoling
    hurt members and reining in the bad behavior of others determines the
    goodness of that family. This is a good family that you are a member of.
    T. Whitlow ’97

  • As an alum of our “fair” University, I agree with most of the comments here. And the spirit. purpose, and intent of the letter.

    However……….and with all due respect to those who signed this letter – some who I encountered as a student while at Notre Dame – the letter troubles me, for several reasons. Again, I’m insulted by what the student experienced, by people who down-the-road I will have to call “fellow alums”, but taking a step back, thinking about and praying on bigger and smaller pictures, several things trouble me.

    1.) For starters, this Yik-Yak hate speech is probably not the first such insult this particular student has received, so a pattern does exist – this probably is not an “isolated incident” the student has experienced, whether it’s a “humorous” attempt by a caucasian to “imitate” the race of the student or something more insidious. And anyone who denies that this undercurrent exists on Campus has not spent time outside of classrooms, has not spent time in dorms, dining halls, RecSports, bars, etc. All those good Meghans and Patricks walking Campus, who I walked and studied and ate alongside of, there’s a LOT of ugliness outside seminar rooms that I saw/heard/experienced while a student – and also, sadly, still experience when gathering with fellow alums – and one letter, unfortunately, will probably not go a long way towards deprogramming 18 years of subtle, and sadly not-so-subtle, racism (and homophobia and classism and religious intolerance and…) all the Meghans and Patricks have had at the hands of good ole Mom and Pop.

    2.) I also have a major issue with one aspect of the letter specifically: “You make Notre Dame a better place.”

    This admonition is not only wrong-headed, its hubris is shocking. There is a very large sense of entitlement and…passive-agressive reproach embedded in this remark – who gives one person, or group of people for that matter, the {moral} right and authority to pressure another into being a martyr? To the folks who’ve been at Notre Dame for several years who have signed this letter, answer this: Hasn’t this SAME MENTALITY been foisted on others over and over, Over and Over, OVER AND OVER again in the past – be the first of “your kind” to stay, to “make a point”, to “fight the good fight”? And how many of these people – students and faculty – have left because not only has the environment not changed but also, and more insidiously, all the promises of change never materialized? How many faculty members have been chosen to join the ranks of faculty only to leave because once here, they were not only abandoned by their so-called “colleagues” once here but no more of “their kind” were subsequently hired? From what I recall from my time as a student, often from the mouths of some people who signed this letter, this is something at the faculty level that has happened repeatedly in the past.

    To the point: Who has ever asked most of the people who have signed this letter above to be a martyr, to wage everything for a “cause” that historically has only been given lip-service?

    3.) Relatedly:

    Who, presumably an “adult”, would have the gumption, the arrogance to ask an 18-22 to be this martyr? To be a poster child for tolerance, acceptance in an effort to make Notre Dame “a stronger, smarter, more wholly human community”? Granted this is added, “While it is not your responsibility to make Notre Dame a better place,…”, still, as a (hopefully) adult, I would NEVER ask another, especially a young person, to carry a cause on her or his shoulders – it is up to me to carry that cause, to do what I can to guarantee that that cause doesn’t exist in the first place.

    Which brings to mind this: How much of all of this is a vacuuming of one’s conscience? A not-so-invisible effort to assuage one’s own inadequacies at challenging the racism that does exist on Campus? A kind of collective guilt catharsis: “Gee, we let another one get away. Guess we all didn’t do enough, did we? Oh well, we promise to do more again in the future.”

    This is, in a certain theological perspective, more of a sin than the sin which is presumably being railed against.

    And lastly,

    4.) Perhaps, just perhaps, Notre Dame isn’t “right” for this person? Who’s to say what college or university is “right” for someone, other than that someone? People transfer colleges and universities all the time, for all kinds of reasons. And Yes, my GOSH, this happens at Notre Dame. Wow! Who would have thought, huh?……..But seriously, maybe our University isn’t “right” for this person? I don’t mean that in a racist why, even if it comes across like that. Maybe there are other issues, too? And this one trumps, contains them all?

    Sorry for going on so long folks. I’m sickened by what this particular student experienced – I hope she or he is okay. I’m praying for her/him and her/his family.

    I’m also upset by this letter, too. And I’ll try to be succinct and direct as to why:

    Who gives someone/a group of someones – someones, without putting to fine a point on it, who are in positions of power and authority and who are, by the way, members of a firmly protected class – the right and authority to ask (subtly demand? guilt? shame? coerce?) another to act to “prove a point”, to make a place “better by your presence”?

    This is what troubles me about the letter.

    And to that question about power and authority addressed to the letter writers, I would also pose this:

    Does this particular student need to remain at Notre Dame to make it a “better place” because your contributions to Our University have been so lacking and ineffectual at not being able to change the conditions that are causing the student to contemplate departure in the first place?

    Again folks, I’m not “for” hate speech. The tone of this letter rubs me the wrong way – there’s a lot embedded in it, and being asked of the recipient, that, in my mind, is inappropriate.

    Action speaks louder than words. And perhaps the letter writers need to reassess their actions, past and present, put their careers and positions into the mix, to stand as martyrs alongside the student, to walk away from Notre Dame themselves, if they feel so strongly about what they write.

    Perhaps if this were to happen, then students like this one would see real change, real progress, and feel truly welcome AND partnered is her/his struggle. When the protected are willing to sacrifice their seats at the table, and then act to sacrifice those seats, much can be accomplished.

    This is what Jesus would do. This is what “Catholic Teaching” teaches us. Correct?

    Action is a great antidote to cowardice. Act first. Make points, proclamations, speeches, entreaties and appeals to action – of others – later.

    • Nathan

      Your martyr comments make no sense. The authors were very explicit, particularly in the “you make Notre Dame a better place” section that: “While it is not your responsibility to make Notre Dame a better place, we want you to know that your presence in this university matters.” The section is meant to point out that the student is valued by the university, regardless of what punks online say, not that they’re obligated to stay and suffer against their will.

      And I’ll follow that up by asking the same thing I asked Jack earlier (his response was very good): you’re calling for action at the bottom. What are some CONCRETE steps that you feel should be taken to deal with racism?

      • Happy New Year, Nathan.

        Quickly, I can think of four, all related to before people even step foot on Campus:

        One, and this is based on things I remember some faculty members telling me when I was a student, stop trotting out faculty of color (and LGBTQ faculty) when faculty are being recruited to Campus. To show how “enlightened” “we” are. It presents a false sense of diversity, especially to people just looking for their first jobs. It’s like, from what I remember being said to me by my professors, the same group of “minority” professors are shuttled, literally, from job interview to job interview. It’s like an assembly line! Which is completely whack! I mean, how real is that a representation, when the same people are being counted multiple times? Start when people are being recruited here – be honest about just what the population really is at Notre Dame.

        Two, talk about diversity beyond Athletes. Can someone only be a non-white at Notre Dame as an Athlete? This is probably going to come across as evil, it’s not meant to be, but it’s always something that’s troubled me from when I was a student. I’m thinking of African-American Students: if one were to remove demographically African-American Students from the entire pool of “non-white” students, how many African-American Students would be in the general student population as students only? This also sends an incorrect message about just what the makeup is of Campus, this time of the student population as a whole

        (Relatedly: If you look at the racial demographics of student populations at Notre Dame’s peer institutions, you see Notre Dame’s is not very good when it comes to African-American Students. Latino/a is much higher, with the “built-in” connection to the Catholic Church skewing these numbers of course. Which brings another, whole different level of “diversity” into the discussion: The Catholic Church and “diversity”. Something, perhaps, for another time.)

        Third, look at the Board of Trustees – how many are people of color? And, within that percentage, what is the breakdown by race – Asian, Latino/a, African-American, Native-American? What’s the collective face look like of those “wise souls” who, presumably, run the show?

        Fourth, enact real consequences for infractions of hate speech. Loss of financial aid and on-campus housing for students, etc. And enforce those infractions.

        There are other things, too – all money related, which “Jack” suggests – that are good, too. But if one wants to change a culture, then that culture has to be changed from the ground-up before people are brought into that culture.

        And lastly, Nathan: I still stand by my suggestion that if those who under-signed the letter are serious, they need to put their places here on the line, too. Directly and unambiguously. If enough adults of consequence walk, and walk publicly as to why, there’d be change. To this point, “Jack” is right: Our University will take a hit financially if this were to happen, people walking — in real dollars and in soft/pr dollars to our peers. But until that happens, a loss of dollars real and soft, the culture on the ground won’t change much.

        And in case you’re wondering, Nathan: Yes, I’ve done the same in my professional career. Walked from 2 jobs in fact, both with different organizations, that once I was on board after a period of time, I saw that both were acting not only inconsistently to their own mission statements but also against my conscience. And things have worked out just fine. And me asking an adult to walk from a job is very different than me…….nudging a younger person to do the same.

  • Timothy J. McCorkle

    “a hallmark of the United States’ past is institutionalized racism;” Really? i suppose the whole emancipation proclimation and those amendments to Our constitution that delt with it are just… what? … Politics?

  • Joepalooka1

    this type of anachronistic, ignorant (being generous) hate speach simply doesn’t belong at the University of Notre Dame…my God what ignorance among intelligent people; amazing and sad. Find the culprits and educate them to the limits of free speech or they should simply be removed from the University.

  • Molehead

    This letter makes me sad.

    Some students received anonymous, racist messages, and this group of preening faculty members treat it like a call to arms. You might want to have a little more proof before releasing such a self-righteous public display. Ever heard of Duke’s Group of 88?

    Do we know ANYTHING about these messages? Motivation, source….anything at all? Presumably, no. Are they for real, or were they crafted by someone trying to ‘prove’ the existence of racism at ND?

    This line is especially rich …. “As you well know, a hallmark of the United States’ past is institutionalized racism”. Yes the United States, an oasis of racism in an otherwise pristine, pure world. I would amend that line to read “As you well know, a hallmark of the United States – like every other country on this planet – is institutionalized racism”.

    And to our privileged, overly sensitive students, is this what you are made of? You receive anonymous texts…..and consider leaving? Good luck finding that place where you will never be offended and completely shielded from racism.

    Personally, I hope you leave. Notre Dame is about persevering, overcoming the odds, fighting for justice, lifting your brother and sister…..not declaring yourselves victims and running.

    I weep for my beloved Notre Dame.

    • what no really

      Oh for the love of god. I am still somehow amazed at people’s ignorance when it comes to issues like racism. Notre Dame has a reputation for a reason. You’re perpetuating it. Please stop.

  • Adam B.

    Let me first state that I am reluctant to comment on this because, well, people on the internet suck. I’m a class of 2007 alum, and I almost transferred out of ND for similar reasons. Although, I attended before the days of Yik Yak, when people just said offensive things to your face — things like: “how does it feel knowing you took the spot of a more deserving white student?” and “You really like that fried chicken, eh?” *wink* wink* Someone mentioned that the Yik Yak comment probably isn’t the first instance of racism that that student experienced. You are probably right. My first racist encounter happened during Freshman Orientation. While shooting around on the basketball courts outside of the dorm, a family drove their van right into the middle of the court, sat their bags down, and then argued among themselves whether or not it was my job to take the bags to his room. Let me repeat that, “argued among themselves.” No one even bothered to talk to me.

    For me, it wasn’t about the comments. I scored high on the SATs, I had a good GPA, I knew I belonged at ND. It was the systematic treatment. It was people blatantly ignoring me. It was women clutching their purses and bags. It was girls steering their friends away from me, and roving packs of drunk white guys making racist statements directly to me to try to bait me into a fist fight (which happened WAY more often than anyone probably realizes). It was people assuming, despite my age and dorm apparel, that I was a ‘townie’ and a worker. It was people checking to make sure they had all of their belongings after I left the room, and, worse still, confronting me about stealing, only to learn that nothing was actually missing. The point is that it wears down you, and it’s everywhere. My best friend at Notre Dame, a white guy, was the only reason I didn’t transfer out. Before the end of sophomore year, I stopped being friends with him, too, because his group of friends was always making race jokes, and I was the lone minority in the group. Statistically, I was less of a minority at ND than I was in law school, but ND made me feel like more of a minority than the people at law school ever did.

    Ultimately, I am glad I stayed. I made some of the best, real friends anyone could have, eventually, and there’s no beating the ND reputation. Lastly, a tragic joke that I use to describe my experience at ND — My little brother came to visit me at ND. A guy walk walking down the hall say, “Hi, Adam.” My brother says, “I’m not Adam.” The guy responds, “Oh, Sorry, Peter (other black guy in the dorm, also not my brother),” and keeps walking down the hall.

    • Thanks for the serious/humorous/eminently thoughtful and intelligent reflection, Adam. Be Well.

  • Richard Williams