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viewpoint

Do LSES students belong here?

| Tuesday, October 24, 2017

During my freshman year, I maybe attended one football game the entire season. When asked about my absence, I offered an excuse of an overwhelming workload in the form of exams or imaginary papers that may or may not have existed at all. The truth was too embarrassing to admit: I couldn’t afford the tickets. Tickets aside, I couldn’t even surmount the $20 price tag of “The Shirt” until about three games in; one game day, my roommate’s family friend gave me $20 and told me to go buy one, not taking no for an answer. This was a piece of my freshman experience at the University of Notre Dame.

The following year, having received a generous sum of scholarship money that, after moving off campus, I was able to utilize for things such as books, a partial meal plan, The Shirt and, finally, football tickets. At last, I could scream and ride the emotional roller coaster that close games give its fans, just like all of the other students. And as all the students went arm-in-arm, singing the alma mater, I finally felt truly a part of the Notre Dame community, something that I previously was not fully able to enjoy. This may be my personal story, but my dependency on the University’s financial resources is far from unique.

My name is Selwin Wainaina, and with Paul Kwak, I am the copresident of 1st-G ND, a student organization that works with the Office of Student Enrichment to help meet the needs of the University’s first-generational students and students of low socioeconomic status. As part of this organization, I have heard students give many similar narratives. We have heard of students being unable to afford necessities such as textbooks and winter coats, requirements such as club dues, or even tickets to social and athletic events such as the awe-inspiring football games. With its abundance of resources, including financial aid, what has the University provided for its students within these groups?

As of last year, we now have the Office of Student Enrichment (OSE). Through a small, hardworking staff, this office is designed to provide every student with the full Notre Dame college experience. The office was created to provide services such as peer mentoring, financial literacy courses and need-based funding for individual needs (e.g., a winter coat or a laptop). Interestingly, this office is not funded by the actual University; rather, the OSE depends on donors to assist in providing their services to the Notre Dame community. The Office of Student Enrichment originally opted to utilize donor funding as opposed to the University budget, allowing them to increase its agency in supporting the student body. As a result, while other offices may operate with relative agency in their respective sectors, the Office of Student Enrichment must be concerned about reaching out to the Notre Dame population, cautious that it may not possess the resources to provide services to everyone who seeks their assistance. If the OSE was created to provide the full Notre Dame experience to all students, shouldn’t they be provided the necessary tools to do so?

There are possible solutions to address inequalities of opportunity between the average Notre Dame student and low socioeconomic status (LSES) student on this campus. To put the first domino in motion, the University could begin to provide proper support for the Office of Student Enrichment. Naysayers may claim “At least they gave you the OSE, so stop complaining,” or as recently referenced, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” But to create the OSE without all necessary resources is like aiding a low-income family saying “Please help, we are starving and need food” with an air-filled McDonald’s bag with fry crumbs. If the administration truly wants to support the numerous communities that make up the broader “Notre Dame community,” it can’t just stop at fry crumbs. Otherwise, the University caters to a feeling of neglect by this minority group and breeds a lack of belonging for students who fall into this category.

Selwin Wainaina

junior

Oct. 23

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

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  • warmupthediesel

    All for supporting low-income students and promoting scholarships etc.

    “Otherwise, the University caters to a feeling of neglect by this minority group and breeds a lack of belonging for students who fall into this category.”
    This sentence can easily be reworded as “Unless the University starts giving LES students more free stuff, they will prove they are actively contributing to making LES students lives more miserable.”

    This is broken/flawed entitlement-fueled bullcrap. There’s nothing wrong with promoting programs to help out Domers from low-income families….but there is something heinously wrong with attacking the hand you are demanding things from.

    • James L. Weitzel

      Sorry, but I’m having a hard time seeing how the sentence easily jumps into what you proposed^

      If you can clarify a bit, that’d be great ^_^

      • buster01

        warmup the diesel is just some jerk trying to ruffle feathers. The clown is a divisive little punk that needs attention.

    • Selwin Wainaina

      No. Not once in the article did it say that the university should give LSES students “more free stuff” in order to make their lives less “miserable.”

      1. Absolutely no one said that LSES students had miserable lives at Notre Dame. To be honest, my freshman year was pretty nice and the only miserable parts were the sleepless nights trying to keep up in Gen Chem, Orgo, and Calc…

      2. The article was not “attacking the hand” that is “feeding” these students, but critiques the university’s support in assisting those who depend on or would benefit from service such as the Office of Student Enrichment.

      Slight correct: I am not “demanding” anything from this ominous hand. The system in which the OSE, financial aid, and the university operates does not allow me or any student to “demand” anything.

      The purpose of this article, at the end of the day, was to point at how the university still has a lot of room to grow in terms of inclusion. The original structure of the university was very biased and exclusive. Since it’s beginnings, the university has made great leaps and bounds such as finally permitting the first group women to enroll in the university, including cultural programs and offices to assist and guide its minority students, hiring diversity & inclusion commissioners to help diversify the faculty and host inclusion training, and developing offices such as the Gender Relations Center and allowing them to meet the needs of its students of different genders and sexual orientations, to the very introduction of the Office of Student Enrichment last year! I hope that that run-on sentence just shows you that the article was simply to say that the University, Office of Student Enrichment, and many other sectors of the ND way of life need tweaking, growth, and correction. Not “free stuff”, but a levelled playing field for all of the students who make up the Notre Dame community.

    • HolyHandGrenade

      Why should Notre Dame admit students knowing they will be hamstrung the entire time, both academically and socially? On one hand, undergrads are customers paying for a degree, yet at the same time, they are products of the university both as alumni and donors. It’s entirely sound rationale to embrace the idea of subsidizing ticket costs and more importantly textbooks to improve the success and social well-being of the student body. But you see it as your role to play devil’s advocate to every article ever published by The Observer.

  • conway0516

    As a donor to the University who steers a majority of my donations toward financial aid, I am not pleased to read this Viewpoint. Although hotly debated in various circles, I support the use of financial aid in order to attract and retain students to Notre Dame. I was a recipient of financial aid while I was a student and always felt that if I could pay it forward someday, I would, and I hope that those who receive my support today will do the same if possible. While I’d love to see the tuition arms race agree to an armistice, I know that is a tall order. But I don’t agree with the statement that only the rich should go to college. In my opinion, if you’re academically qualified, you’re qualified. That said…

    I looked at my receiving financial aid as the result of someone else making a sacrifice for me. Someone else sacrificed the use of those funds which could have been steered many different ways to benefit the donor, their family, or others in need. But instead, they elected to throw me a bone. They helped out a kid they didn’t know and quite frankly, didn’t receive much in return. Today, it is difficult for me to even come up with the right words to say to those persons in order to express my gratitude.

    However, as they made a big sacrifice for me, I feel that while in school, I too, had to make some sacrifices. It meant prioritizing. It meant getting a job to pay for the things my tuition didn’t cover. Dates, dinners with friends, activities, football tickets, gas money, etc. If I couldn’t afford it – I didn’t get it. I didn’t petition to a special office to provide funds for me to have the “full experience.” No, I was thankful someone was covering the huge nut known as my tuition that I’d just figure out a way to pay for the rest, should I want to. And those things that didn’t make the cut…well, they had to be sacrificed. I guess it never occurred to me to turn to the university for ancillary things and say that my scholarship money just isn’t enough.

    Now you’ll be quick to say “oh being poor doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy.” No, it doesn’t. But you should figure out what makes you happy and what is important. I think having someone cover the largest personal expense you’ll likely ever have while at the same time giving you a tremendous leg up in life is worth more than not being able to afford the shirt or football tickets.

    As for the comment about leveling the playing field…it is level. Everyone comes into school and earns grades according to their own merit without bias. You are welcome to participate in activities as you wish. Very little is only open to certain groups. What you do outside of that is your business. You describe a level playing field like a socialist utopia where everyone receives the same thing simply by showing up. Life doesn’t work that way.

    Like someone said below, I do look at this as attacking the hand that feeds, and it’s quite honestly discouraging me from continuing support of the financial aid program. The university is free to allocate funds within the financial aid office as they wish, but maybe I should look to have more control over it.

  • conway0516

    Reposting as somehow this was reported as spam. It is not spam, it is a reasoned viewpoint for those interested to read.

    As a donor to the University who steers a majority of my donations toward financial aid, I am not pleased to read this Viewpoint. Although hotly debated in various circles, I support the use of financial aid in order to attract and retain students to Notre Dame. I was a recipient of financial aid while I was a student and always felt that if I could pay it forward someday, I would, and I hope that those who receive my support today will do the same if possible. While I’d love to see the tuition arms race agree to an armistice, I know that is a tall order. But I don’t agree with the statement that only the rich should go to college. In my opinion, if you’re academically qualified, you’re qualified. That said…

    I looked at my receiving financial aid as the result of someone else making a sacrifice for me. Someone else sacrificed the use of those funds which could have been steered many different ways to benefit the donor, their family, or others in need. But instead, they elected to throw me a bone. They helped out a kid they didn’t know and quite frankly, didn’t receive much in return. Today, it is difficult for me to even come up with the right words to say to those persons in order to express my gratitude.

    However, as they made a big sacrifice for me, I feel that while in school, I too, had to make some sacrifices. It meant prioritizing. It meant getting a job to pay for the things my tuition didn’t cover. Dates, dinners with friends, activities, football tickets, gas money, etc. If I couldn’t afford it – I didn’t get it. I didn’t petition to a special office to provide funds for me to have the “full experience.” No, I was thankful someone was covering the huge nut known as my tuition that I’d just figure out a way to pay for the rest, should I want to. And those things that didn’t make the cut…well, they had to be sacrificed. I guess it never occurred to me to turn to the university for ancillary things and say that my scholarship money just isn’t enough.

    Now you’ll be quick to say “oh being poor doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy.” No, it doesn’t. But you should figure out what makes you happy and what is important. I think having someone cover the largest personal expense you’ll likely ever have while at the same time giving you a tremendous leg up in life is worth more than not being able to afford the shirt or football tickets.
    As for the comment about leveling the playing field…it is level. Everyone comes into school and earns grades according to their own merit without bias. You are welcome to participate in activities as you wish. Very little is only open to certain groups. What you do outside of that is your business. You describe a level playing field like a socialist utopia where everyone receives the same thing simply by showing up. Life doesn’t work that way.

    Like someone said below, I do look at this as attacking the hand that feeds, and it’s quite honestly discouraging me from continuing support of the financial aid program. The university is free to allocate funds within the financial aid office as they wish, but maybe I should look to have more control over it.