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The cost of silence: an authentic and vulnerable Notre Dame community

| Thursday, November 9, 2017

Vulnerability.

I believe that if there is one thing a Notre Dame student is more afraid of than a C in a class, it is vulnerability. As students, we have a wide variety of conversations. Educational, insightful, thought-provoking conversations. However, seldom do we have the necessary and real conversations regarding our experiences on this campus. This week, Student Government is hosting the The Cost of Silence Week in order to raise awareness regarding those conversations. There are awkward glances and long periods of silence whenever one begins to discuss issues such as mental health, diversity and inclusion on campus. I believe that the cost of this has fallen upon us, the Notre Dame student body. We are losing opportunities to build a truly authentic and diverse Notre Dame community because so many of us have sipped the Kool-Aid of perfectionism, of the golden Notre Dame experience.

I am not writing this to blast the University or enter into a long rant about institutional failures, but I am writing this from a place of true frustration. My own Notre Dame experience has been far from perfect. I have battled mental health issues and as a minority student, I have struggled to find my own place. At one point, I found it impossible to share these experiences. I felt a strong sense of shame and that I was some how less for not experiencing the same Note Dame that everyone else seemed to. The key word here is “seemed.” When I decided to enter into my own terrifying journey of vulnerability and to share my struggles, I quickly realized that many of my fellow Notre Dame students are on the very same path. It is only with this realization that I have been able to foster authentic relationships and cultivate my own passion for advocacy regarding diversity and inclusion.

More than fancy new buildings or millions of dollars in grants, Notre Dame needs a culture shift in vulnerability. As students, we must open up our hearts and ears to one another’s experiences and create authentic spaces in which we can both celebrate accomplishments and empathize in our struggles. We must abandon our own fight songs of perfection and pressure. It is only then we will have a real, honest and diverse Notre Dame community.

I’m not asking that you sign a petition, demonstrate or demand some kind of administrative change. I am simply asking that you listen. That you approach yourself and fellow students with compassion and that you no longer fear vulnerability.

Contact Deborah Bineza at dbineza@nd.edu

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

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