Year in review: 2015-2016
Observer Staff Report | Friday, May 13, 2016
June 22, 2015: College president announces retirement
Since taking office in June 2004, current College President Carol Ann Mooney has loved working closely with the Saint Mary’s students — the very thing she said she will miss the most when she retires May 31.
“One of the great joys of being president at a small college is to be able to interact with the students,” Mooney said. “You are fascinating young women who really are preparing to make a difference in the world. You care deeply about the good of this community, and I trust that will expand to the various communities you will inhabit as you move through your lives.”
During her tenure, Mooney launched the “Faith Always, Action Now” campaign — which raised $105 million for the College — as well as three new graduate programs.
President-elect Jan Cervelli will take Mooney’s place June 1, 2017, after Mooney’s contract expires.
Cervelli, a South Bend native and Saint Joseph’s High School alumna, said she is excited to immerse herself in student life at the College.
“I want to become a part of the class of 2020,” she said. “ … I want to be able to walk the walk with students and see what it’s like to take classes, to live in the dorm [and] to eat the food.”
August 2015: Administration implements new first-year course
Members of the class of 2019 were enrolled in the Moreau First-Year Experience course, a new freshman requirement for the 2015-2016 academic year. The course, which took the place of the previous physical education requirement, emphasizes the holistic growth of the student and aims to ensure a seamless transition for incoming students into the Notre Dame community.
Maureen Dawson, associate professional specialist for the First Year of Studies, said the course, which met once weekly and consisted of approximately 19 or 20 students, is meant to create a platform for conversation about the college experience.
The course was not without controversy, with many students expressing their dissatisfaction in a midterm survey. Dawson said the survey encouraged classroom conversations between instructors and students about how to improve discussions and streamline assignments.
“The student midterm survey gave us a lot of really clear, concise responses from students about what they thought was working, what was uninteresting and what was laborious,” she said.
“I think over time we’ll evolve [our] ability to showcase resources more pointedly. … Now we’re at the stage where we’re sharing information with students, and we’re building a base for reflection and discussion. … With each successive semester, we’ll be able to move students more directly in contact with these resources and opportunities around campus.”
January 2016: Jenkins begins third term in office
University President Fr. John Jenkins’ completed his 10th year in office this school year, following his election to a third five-year term by the Board of Trustees in January 2015.
During his tenure, Jenkins has consistently emphasized Notre Dame’s research efforts for both students and faculty. Jenkins oversaw the creation of the office of vice president for research in 2007 and announced significant increases in research funding the following year.
In recent years, building projects — most notably the Campus Crossroads project — have become another defining characteristic of Jenkins’ presidency. In addition to Campus Crossroads, the University is currently building two new residence halls and several new class buildings, including Jenkins Hall, which will house the new Keough School of Global Affairs.
Jenkins said he plans to continue efforts to make Notre Dame an example for the world and a leader in the Church.
“I think we need to continue to make progress,” he said. “I do think … our Catholic mission is something we need to continue to talk about, especially at this time. It’s a challenging time, but I think there’s no institution placed like we are to speak to really serious issues in the world about the environment, about economic inequality, global solidarity.”
January 13, 2016: Housing announces dorm changes
This year was the last year freshmen women were eligible to be placed in Pangborn Hall.
In an email sent to the student body, University administration said residents of Pangborn Hall will be moved to the new female dorm that is currently under construction east of Pasquerilla East and Knott Halls, while Pangborn Hall will serve as a “swing dorm” for residents of Walsh and Badin Halls, which will undergo renovation during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years, respectively.
The new male dorm currently under construction in the same location will be filled by application.
Heather Rakoczy Russell, associate vice president for Residential Life, said the addition of new dorms and the renovation of existing ones is a continuation of the residential master plan that began in 2006.
“That residential master plan was largely aimed at what we call ‘decanting,’ or un-crowding the undergraduate residence halls,” Rakoczy Russell said. “A room, for instance, that’s a triple might become a double, doubles become singles and so reducing the configurations. Some of you probably live where [the] study room have been converted into student rooms, so we, to the extent that we could, reversed that.”
January 17, 2016: ND celebrates Walk the Walk Week
The University hosted the inaugural Walk the Walk Week, taking new steps to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The week began with a march around campus the night of Sunday, Jan. 17, followed by a candlelight service in the Main Building.
“So many people worked together to make this happen,” senior Chizo Ekechukwu, chair of Diversity Council, said. “A lot of different groups throughout campus came together in collaboration to create conversations about this topic.”
Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, who, along with Alicia Garza, started the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as a response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, delivered the keynote address for Walk the Walk Week.
“We have a long history in the black community of disruption, a long legacy,” Cullors said. “What we’re doing here is we’re adding to that legacy and we should be proud of it and embrace it. The only way we’ve seen systemic change happen in this country is disruption.”
February 8, 2016: GameDay comes to campus
Hours before Notre Dame overcame a 15-point deficit to defeat basketball powerhouse and then-No. 2 North Carolina in a packed Purcell Pavilion, ESPN’s College GameDay paid South Bend a visit.
Seth Greenberg, GameDay analyst and former Virginia Tech basketball coach, promised a great game, and he delivered on that guarantee.
“This game is just gonna be a good game, and this place is just steeped in so much tradition, to see and experience it in a different way, it’s pretty great,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg, who is an analyst for the show alongside Jay Williams, Jay Bilas and host Rece Davis, said the energy in Purcell Pavilion was vital to outputting a good show.
“What makes a great GameDay show for us is when you walk in and it’s a packed house. When you’ve got that ownership and energy and passion and the students are into it, for me that’s the closest I get to coaching again,” Greenberg said.
February 11, 2016: Keenan Revue marks 40 years
Following in the footsteps of Keenan Hall residents spanning the past four decades, the men of Keenan Hall performed the 40th annual Keenan Revue in February.
Since its inception, the Keenan Revue has tended toward the controversial, poking fun at various Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s traditions and stereotypes and getting kicked off Saint Mary’s campus in 1991.
“The Revue’s slightly controversial nature is exactly why it’s remained such a prominent University tradition,” Ryan Rizzuto, senior producer of the Revue, said. “The beautiful thing about writing comedy is what you can say with it. It can turn a mirror on the student body and the administration and make people listen to arguments that they’d normally tune out.”
“The New Keenan Revue” opened Nov. 6, 1976, founded by then-Keenan Hall resident assistants (RAs) Thomas Lenz and Richard Thomas as an alternative activity to the drinking culture on campus in response to the death of a classmate which occurred after a night of drinking.
“That was kind of the context for people saying, ‘Okay, so getting wasted every weekend is one thing to do, but what else could the dorm do that would contribute to the growth of the dorm spirit and to the health of the community?’” Lenz said.
March 5, 2016: Laetare Medal decision creates controversy
The University named Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner as co-recipients of the Laetare Medal on March 5. According to the University website, the Laetare Medal is awarded each year at Notre Dame Commencement to American Catholics “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”
“In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in the original press release.
The announcement sparked controversy — both on campus and on a national level — and stirred debate on the religious and political implications of the decision.
On March 18, 89 students signed an Observer Letter to the Editor expressing their objections to the University’s decision. Students also held a pro-life service protesting the decision, and more than 3,000 alumni signed a petition voicing their opposition. Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades released a statement condemning the decision for similar reasons: namely, Biden’s stance on abortion and same-sex marriage. Other members of the Notre Dame community expressed their support for the selection of Biden and Boehner as joint honorees, arguing that the decision promotes political unity in an era of partisan division and animosity.
April 9, 2016: Snow leads to Holy Half cancellation
One of Notre Dame’s most well-known traditions, the Holy Half Marathon, was cancelled this April due to icy conditions. The race cancellation altered the plans of the more than 1,500 people signed up to compete.
According to a statement from race directors, safety concerns for the runners motivated the decision to cancel the race.
The Holy Half, which is a charity event benefitting the South Bend community, consists of both a 13.1-mile and a 10-kilometer race run by students and faculty of the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross campuses, along with members of the South Bend community, alumni and fans from across the nation.
Junior Peter Rodgers, president of the Holy Half club, said the planning for the event is divided into a number of different categories including course design, food and entertainment, sponsorships and volunteer recruitment.
“We also do a lot of work with the University Council people, which is the [Notre Dame Security Police], [Notre Dame Fire Department], Student Activities Facilities, RecSports and medical to make sure that on race day, the runners are safe [and] the roads are clear for runners,” Rodgers said.
April 29, 2016: Task force on sexual assault releases report
On April 26, 2015, College President Carol Ann Mooney announced the creation of a presidential task force to address the issue of sexual assault on campus. The creation of the task force followed the release of the CNN documentary “The Hunting Ground,” as well as a private conversation between Mooney and the student body.
The task force was made up of three faculty members, six students, three administrators, the vice president for student affairs Karen Johnson, the College counsel Rich Nugent and Mooney herself. It was split into three subcommittees — education and training, support and processes — which then reconvened as a whole task force to report their findings and make recommendations to the College about how best to improve issues regarding sexual assault.
The task force met throughout the 2015-2016 school year to discuss their findings and to write the report. The final report was published April 29 of this year and contained suggestions on how to improve the handling of sexual assault cases. The report included recommendations for improving and expanding staff and faculty training, as well as access to resources and communications between Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross College.