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Notre Dame student senators undergo diversity training

| Thursday, September 8, 2016

Student senate convened Wednesday night for Diversity and Inclusion training with Rachel Wallace, the Diversity Council representative to the Student Union, and assistant Africana studies professor Maria McKenna.

McKenna said diversity is especially important at Notre Dame.

“Diversity gets thrown around a lot, and many think it just means race, but I want you guys to think about it more broadly,” McKenna said. “We want you guys to keep talking about this — we’re not just here to preach at you; we’re trying to start a conversation. Notre Dame has never been as diverse as it is in this moment.”

Wallace said it was important to pay attention to implicit biases — subtle, unconscious judgments.

“I feel like a lot of times people judge me unfairly, and sometimes, I judge people unfairly,” she said. “And it’s definitely a real thing that we deal with with implicit biases, and it’s very much an issue at Notre Dame.”

Microaggressions have also become more important to pay attention to at Notre Dame, Wallace said.

“Microaggressions are things that look harmless on the surface, but actually can be hurtful or based off an unfair assumption,” she said.

In addition to listening to other’s perspectives, Wallace said it was important to validate other’s experiences.

“[It’s saying], ‘you’re allowed to feel that way’ … and that really just goes a long way,” she said. “It’s ok to say the wrong thing, but when that happens, it’s important to recognize that as well.”

McKenna said that, as student leaders, everyone in the student senate has a responsibility to make Notre Dame feel like home while not impeding difficult conversations. 

“When Ann Coulter was here a couple years ago, everyone was up in arms, including me, but not for a second did I want her uninvited, because we do want to keep this conversation going, even when it’s hard,” McKenna said. “We want you all to stand up and be able to say, you know, that’s not okay to say, and here’s why. Keep an open mind about where you have that conversation and how you keep that conversation going.”

In addition to diversity training, student body president Corey Robinson opened the floor to questions about and critiques of the new SafeBouND program, formerly known as O’SNAP.

“We’re getting back to the basics here,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to reduce the number of [SafeBouND] requests so the people that actually need to use the program can use the program.” 

Senate parliamentarian Monica Montgomery said that, according to a number of studies run last year, the former O’SNAP program was not used for the right reasons.

“There would be people that would wait upwards of an hour to get a ride, which we think really is unfortunate because they really did need that ride,” Montgomery said. “The system really was overused and abused.”

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall and is currently serving as an Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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