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viewpoint

Like Nike says, just do it

| Wednesday, January 27, 2016

My sister recently arrived home after her first semester at Oberlin College, sat down on the sofa, grabbed a cup of tea off the counter and started talking about the importance of choosing politically correct food. I listened as she described a recent student protest against labeling a section of the dining hall “Asian Cuisine” and offering things like General Tso’s chicken, which is obviously an Americanized version of Chinese food. As I sat there listening to her discuss what some might call a rather bourgeois protest, I was thinking all the time about what we do at Notre Dame, or perhaps what we don’t do.

Look, I’m not saying that we need to go out and protest the Asian cuisine section in North and South Dining Halls (but if you want to, more power to you). I’m just saying this is an oddly quiet college campus. Yes, we do have protests, the most obvious example being the #blacklivesmatter event recently. And the protests we do have are incredibly important and should be recognized.

But shouldn’t we be doing more?

I get it. The Notre Dame bubble is a very real thing. And to be honest, Oberlin has a bit of a bubble as well. That bubble can be a blessing as well as a curse. College is one of the only opportunities we will have to really try new ideas. This is one of the only opportunities where we are going to be able to talk about our ideas with other people who care just as much and want to discuss them with us. Going to college is a privilege, and one that we are just throwing away if we don’t do the things we care about.

So why is it that Oberlin students care so much about these things and Notre Dame students are far more willing to sit back and wait out the ride? Many of us at both Oberlin and Notre Dame come from similar backgrounds, and yet for some reason Notre Dame students, many of whom agree with Oberlin students, won’t protest but will silently, with indignation, choose to disagree from afar. Your voice is never going to be heard if you don’t actually put yourself out there.

Now obviously protesting isn’t the only way to do this. Doing service, being on the track team, performing in musicals and writing for The Observer are all ways of getting your voice heard and getting discussions started. There are creative ways of testing the status quo everywhere, so get out and do it. This is one of your only opportunities to just do something.

As a senior who is just about to graduate, I’ve realized the things that I have regretted are the things I didn’t do. Whether I didn’t do them because I didn’t think they were cool, or I was nervous about something, or I just wasn’t in the mood, I regretted the fact that I didn’t just try. I regret not going to more panel events and just listening to a variety of opinions. I regret not going to more protests on campus, and I regret not volunteering for things that I really believed in but was too lazy to do.

You won’t regret it if you do it (you might regret streaking during the bun run, but probably not). You won’t regret the first time you get hungover, but you will regret not going out with your friends (unless of course you have an exam the next day, then obviously study for your exam). You won’t regret going to that protest that all of your friends don’t want to go to for various reasons, but you will regret not standing up for what you believe in. You won’t regret just living your life. Sometimes that means saying no to things, but a lot of the time it means saying yes.

Just do it.

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

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  • Matthew Bartilotti

    I think the biggest difference between us and a lot of other college campuses is that we have a pretty realistic view of the world. Is labelling an Asian food line that only serves americanized Chinese or Japanese dishes incorrect? I don’t know, probably. Where a student at schools like UC-Davis or Oberlin is a fuse waiting to be lit — a rebel waiting for a cause to strike up against, I think we are pretty practical or reasonable at our approach to situations like the asian food line. The average student at ND probably looks at the General Tso’s chicken and says “Wow, that’s not really what Asian food is like. But we are also in Indiana, where not a lot of Asian food is. And traditional Asian cuisine is probably not really that suitable for the buffet environment. Also, is it really that culturally insensitive if the Amer-Asian cuisine was developed by those who came to America from China and Japan?” I think our lack of reactionary zeal when there really is nothing to get that upset about is one of the strongest most sensible traits that we have as a student body.

    • Johnny Whichard

      Amen, brother. If you make the conscious decision to go to school in South Bend, you shouldn’t expect to have culturally authentic food everywhere.

    • João Pedro Santos

      So much privilege and paternalism in this comment. Instead of complaining about people complaining, when don’t you listen to them instead? That would be, using your words, way more realistic and less reactionary.