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Group discusses campus diversity issues

Andrew Thagard | Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Following Student Body President Jeremy Lao’s advice on using the Campus Life Council as a forum for discussion, members debated diversity at Notre Dame during their meeting Monday afternoon.

The debate was initiated when an emotional Leah McGee, a representative from the Diversity Council, criticized what she perceived to be a negative stance taken by The Observer during a series of Viewpoint letters debating the merits of affirmative action.

McGee criticized a column written by Greg Parnell on Jan. 26 that argued against affirmative action and featured a layout with an illustration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The Observer supported it by placing a picture of Martin Luther King in the center,” McGee said

McGee also said she believes that The Observer has taken actions that counter the development of a positive attitude toward diversity on campus, citing a response in Monday’s “Question of the Day” that included the words “Mexi-can” and “Mexi-can’t” in the response and a perceived lack of coverage of diversity events on campus.

“There are a number of instances of insensitivity on the part of The Observer in publishing insensitive materials,” she said.

McGee and other CLC members expressed concern that some of the Viewpoint letters demonstrated ignorance of diversity and were hurtful to racial and ethnic groups on campus.

“When something is written under the guise of affirmative action and instead attacks a specific minority group, it cannot be tolerated,” said Jordan Bongiovanni, a senator for Cavanaugh Hall and a member of CLC.

“It’s clear that a lot of these comments are coming out of a lack of education,” McGee said.

To combat this, McGee said that she and others are working on a proposal to bring before tonight’s Student Senate meeting that would form a task force to investigate the feasibility of mandating a semester-long required course for all Notre Dame undergraduates that would focus on diversity.

Members used the remainder of Monday’s meeting to view a video recounting a trip taken by Emily Chin, student body vice president, and other Notre Dame students to Nigeria for a conference on increasing dialogue with Africa and to receive updates from the committees.

The RA training and gender relations committees did not meet last week and had no news to report. The CLC purpose committee continued to explore ways in which the organization could be used more effectively, Lao said.

Wyatt Maxwell updated members on the success of a senior night held at Legends on Thursday that he and the senior privileges committee helped to organize.

“[Senior night] was well received,” he said. “[Legends] ran out of Corona and were two handles away from running out of margaritas.”

Chin briefed the CLC on progress being made toward providing transportation services to students with temporary disabilities.

“We’re continuing to look into increasing services for temporarily disabled students,” she said.

Chin cited free scooters available to students with temporary disabilities as proof of the committee’s work on the issue but then retracted it after learning students purchased the scooters by students using their insurance and not through the University.

“I must have been misinformed,” Chin said. “We were under the impression that the Provost’s Office would now take care of it.”

Charlie Ebersol, a member of CLC, blamed poorly cleared sidewalks on campus for some of the injuries and for making it more difficult for students with disabilities to travel.

“It seems like there isn’t a real effort being made in the safety of South Quad,” he said.

Other members appeared frustrated that the process was not moving quickly enough.

“I was driving last week when I saw a student walking around with crutches during the big snow storm,” said Sister Pat Dearbaugh, rector of Cavanaugh Hall. “It’s ridiculous, and I’m getting impatient.”