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Faculty, staff speak on the ‘Cost of Silence’ on college campuses

| Friday, November 10, 2017

Members of the Notre Dame faculty and administration discussed their experiences with diversity and how the Notre Dame community might encourage it on campus during the Cost of Silence Faculty and Staff panel Thursday night.

Timothy Matovina, the chair of the theology department and former co-director of the Institute of Latino Studies, said people should not make assumptions about others, especially Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students and Latino students.

“Don’t presume because someone is here from a certain background that they’re a diversity admit or that they have a lower SAT score than everyone else,” he said. “ … In my experience, they achieved at the very highest levels at the schools they’re in, which is our policy.”

Matovina also said students should consider the implications of politics on some students’ personal lives, especially in light of last year’s national election.

“The political is very personal,” he said. “ … [Students who came to talk to him] had no idea what the repercussions would be, and there’s still a tremendous fear. It wasn’t just a matter of political disagreement.”

Brian Collier, the director of the American Indian Catholic Schools Network, said disrespecting Native Americans and their culture is not something of the past, as evidenced by two students dressing as Native Americans for their Halloween costumes during a football game this season. The students’ costumes included the headdress that is a religious symbol in some cultures, Collier said.

“It’s not that people want trouble,” he said. “People don’t want their religious symbols appropriated.”

Collier also said students should say something whenever they see someone misusing a culture’s symbols.

For the LGBT community, Sara Agostinelli, the assistant director for LGBTQ Initiatives at the Gender Relations Center, said things are “just okay” for LGBT students on campus.

“Something I hear a lot is that here at Notre Dame students feel very tolerated,” she said. “There’s not these daily acts of hate or things we might see at other institutions across the country, but there’s not a sense of welcoming, embrace and celebration.”

To remedy this problem, Agostinelli recommended that students recognize the importance of allies and to reach out to students to check in on how they are doing, especially when hateful acts happen on other campuses.

For an admissions perspective, Don Bishop, the associate vice president of undergraduate enrollment, said Notre Dame has made great strides in becoming more diverse due to new recruiting tactics. These tactics, Bishop said, include expanding the spring visitation program, going to new schools and working with community-based organizations.

“Rather than waiting for kids to instantly know enough about Notre Dame and apply, we’re trying to go out and seek them and get a conversation with them,” he said.

As a result of these efforts, Bishop said Notre Dame is on par with diversity with the average of the top 30 most selective private institutions in the U.S. He said the only categories in which Notre Dame falls behind is with Asian Americans and international students.

Mary Galvin, the William K. Warren Foundation dean of the College of Science, spoke about her personal experiences. Though she is an accomplished scientist who has a Ph.D. from MIT, she said she oftentimes felt stupid since a third-grade teacher had told her parents she “wasn’t college material.”

Due to her background, Galvin said she understands that many students who come to Notre Dame from schools that may not have offered AP science classes may begin to feel they are falling behind in their science and engineering courses. She said students must share their experiences with others to help them not feel bad about themselves.

“If you went through the struggle of not thinking you were smart but then got out of it, be willing to talk about it,” she said.

Jay Caponigro, the director of community engagement in the Office of Public Affairs, said to help solve social issues today, students must build relationships with others. To develop these partnerships, Caponigro said you must listen to people and ask them about their stories, especially by asking the question, “Why?” Caponigro also said allies must teach others to do things for themselves as well.

“An ally isn’t someone who just does stuff for other people,” he said.

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About Alexandra Muck

Alexandra Muck is a Notre Dame sophomore majoring in business and economics. Originally from Dallas, she currently lives in Howard Hall.

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