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Where is Fr. Jenkins?

| Friday, April 24, 2015

To University President Fr. John Jenkins,

On Monday night, I had the opportunity to cover the “Beyond the Hunting Ground” panel that several University administrators sat on and attended.

To be clear, by several, I mean fewer than eight.

During the question-and-answer portion of the evening, one woman stood up and asked the following:

“Why have we not heard from Fr. Jenkins? I would think this would be pretty high on his agenda.”

With all due respect, Fr. Jenkins, I agree. Where are you?

With the exception of the prayer service at the Grotto on Tuesday, you have not attended any public events concerning sexual assault or “The Hunting Ground” since the film debuted. There have been three separate panel discussions on the Notre Dame campus about the film and sexual assault since Friday, and you have not been to a single one.

You need to know — your absence has not gone unnoticed.

I applaud you for attending the prayer service, but I don’t think that’s enough.

By failing to speak publicly and personally about the film and how this University handles and prevents sexual assault, you are failing to demonstrate to the community at large that protecting survivors on this campus is something you care deeply about.

Saint Mary’s president Carol Ann Mooney attended the College’s April 10 screening of “The Hunting Ground,” and while she didn’t sit on the panel that followed the showing, she did stand up and address the film. She did offer some explanation as to why she declined to be interviewed for it, and she did address some of the statements that former students made about her in the documentary.

So where are you?

In an interview with NDtv that aired Monday night but was taped two weeks prior, you said, “Know that Notre Dame is no more or less than the people that make it up. … So let’s continue together to make Notre Dame what we want it to be. The community we want it to be. The intellectual community. The spiritual community. The social community. I can’t do it from my office; all of us need to do it.”

I think you touched upon an incredibly important issue in that statement, but I respectfully disagree that change cannot come from your office.

As the face of this University, changing and molding the tone and conversation requires not just student voices, but yours as well. In order for all of us to create the environment we want, we need to know where you, Fr. Jenkins, stand.

So please, let’s continue together.

The community I want is one where sexual assault is not tolerated, and where everyone — students, faculty and administration — are on board to stop it.

I think you want that, too, but if you maintain your silence on the subject then we are left guessing what you’re thinking. And with this much on the line, we can’t afford any uncertainty.

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

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About Margaret Hynds

Margaret is a senior Political Science major and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. She hails from Washington, D.C., and is a former Phox of Pangborn Hall. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretHynds

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