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An education by leadership

| Wednesday, November 5, 2003

As a Program of Liberal Studies major, I found Joe Trombello’s Nov. 2 article about the issues of utility and academic engagement here at Notre Dame to be very thought-provoking. I think that that the overwhelming majority of students here do not see the relevance of their studies – in order to “get something” out of these four years they secure a career. This disconnection between school and life manifests itself in the ridiculous amount of business majors we have here (32 percent of undergraduates compared with 7 percent of undergrads in business at the top-20 universities), and the rampant political apathy on campus, because politics is all about understanding relevant issues. I know my major has not prepared me for any particular career, and I am fine with that. Did you waste four years and a lot of money? That is the question. What do you value – understanding or utility, books or Benjamins, arts and letters or business?

Somehow associate dean of the Mendoza College, William Nichols hit it right on the head in Monday’s Observer when he said, “Notre Dame students are bright, and bright students are curious about life issues.” True, most of the students I know here are interested in the world and in life issues: Limits, chemical reactions, social patterns and most especially gender studies. Unfortunately, I would say that most of the investigation thereof is done with alcohol in hand.

Ultimately, I do not think the fact that our student body is not “academically engaged” can be pinned entirely on the students. The faculty and administration need to do a better job of enticing us to learn, encouraging us to understand, of leading us to a point where, at least we realize how much we do not know, à la Socrates. Then our foot will be in the academic door, so to speak.

Maybe leadership by example would help – if the administration would treat us as intelligent young adults and not as subjects, we would come to understand our own intelligence and constituency differently. If the prevailing attitude among the administrators of this University were less functional and more academic, the priorities of the student body might change as well. It seems to me that the administration needs to focus their attention on the development of other things than land.

Nevertheless, we as students are not excused by the shortcomings of the administration. Our separate journeys of awakening as individuals have led us all to this Catholic university to question our lives, our cultures, our gods, and ultimately ourselves, and that is a task from which we will never be relieved. This is the essence of the liberal arts education we are here to receive, even in Mendoza, and just like duLac on spring break, all the rules apply all the time.

Patrick CrottyseniorDillon HallNov. 4