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The Year in Review

Claire Heininger | Thursday, May 13, 2004

Football frustrationTalk about a sophomore slump. In his second season as Irish head coach, Tyrone Willingham followed a surprising 10-3 campaign and Gator Bowl appearance in 2002-03 with a disappointing 5-7 record last fall, as a trio of embarrassing losses to Michigan, USC and Florida State sealed the team’s fate. Despite battling the toughest schedule in the country – Notre Dame opponents finished with an 86-43 record – and juggling a quarterback controversy that shaped up between junior Carlyle Holiday and freshman Brady Quinn, the Irish players and coaching staff received scarce off-season breathing room from frustrated fans.In February, more than 400 alumni signed a letter to the Board of Trustees blaming the University’s priorities for the football program’s sustained woes. Principal letter author Tim Kelley attributed Notre Dame’s decade-long disappearance from the national championship hunt to problems in the structure of the athletic department, particularly the influence athletic director Kevin White has over football coaching hires. The criticism turned uglier in late March and early April, when 1956 Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung’s racially charged comments about the University’s strict admissions requirements fueled a national debate about standards, stereotypes and the impact of academics on recruiting top players. Through a year of disappointment and finger-pointing, Willingham, White and associate athletic director John Heisler have tried to keep the focus on improving on the field, and students have tried to be patient while the team continues to adjust to the pro-style offense – but a performance outstanding enough to silence the critics remains to be seen.

Sexual assault trials end in one convictionMore than a year and a half after a female Notre Dame student accused then-football players Lorenzo Crawford, Donald Dykes, Abram Elam and Justin Smith of sexual assault in March 2002, only Elam was convicted on criminal charges. A jury found Elam guilty of sexual battery, a class D felony, but acquitted him of conspiracy to commit rape and criminal deviate conduct on August 30. Elam’s sentence – originally delayed until after a conclusion was reached in the other three trials – will not include jail time, but will require two years of probation and 200 hours of community service, as mandated by St. Joseph County Superior Judge Roland Chamblee in October. Special prosecutor Maureen Devlin dropped pending lawsuits against Crawford and Smith after another jury acquitted Dykes of rape, conspiracy to commit rape and sexual battery on September 15. That trial sparked celebration on the part of Dykes’ family, but significant backlash from the victim’s parents, who remained in the courtroom to argue angrily with jurors and media members. More than six months later, on April 1, the alleged victim and her parents filed a civil lawsuit against both the players and the University, seeking from the four players an unspecified amount of damages for her physical pain, post-traumatic stress and medical bills, and claiming the University had a legal duty to protect her. Filed in St. Joseph County Superior Court without a lawyer and under the names “Jane Doe and Mr. and Mrs. Doe” on court documents, the suit is still pending.

Ten-Year planPraising Notre Dame’s strong financial base, exceptional faculty and significant potential for growth, the University’s ten-year strategic plan was released last fall with a title that reflected its pledge to move confidently into the future. “Notre Dame 2010: Fulfilling the Promise” emphasizes academic development through the reaffirmation of outstanding undergraduate teaching, as well as a renewed commitment to graduate education and research. Increasing the balance between the University’s undergraduate colleges and enriching and expanding the quality of academic programming are identified as key goals for the next decade – as is elevating at least 25 percent of doctoral programs to the national top quartile.However, the plan reaches beyond the academic sphere, encouraging Notre Dame to apply Catholic values to its policies and to embrace its identity as the premier center of Catholic intellectual life. Significant attention is also devoted to integrating academics into student residential life, including plans for a residence hall environment that encourages students to discuss moral and ethical issues. Though four new residence hall complexes are included in the student affairs section of the plan – which also explores experimental options such as coeducational housing and senior apartments or suites – “Fulfilling the Promise” reflects a broader focus than previous construction-based strategic plans. This time, the University also hopes to expand student organizations and improve health services to elevate the overall on-campus experience. The Board of Trustees officially approved the plan at its spring meeting.

ND administrator chosen as next SMC PresidentAfter a nine-month search following the retirement of Saint Mary’s President Marilou Eldred, the College’s Board of Trustees found its next leader across the street. Notre Dame vice president and associate provost Carol Mooney was officially selected as the 11th president of the College on Dec. 26, after a Saint Mary’s search committee worked in tandem with executive search firm Korn/Ferry International to invite four candidates to campus in November. During their visits, Mooney and the other candidates – Gail Baker, vice president of public relations at the University of Florida; Josefina Baltodano, executive vice president for strategic planning at Alliant International University; and Susan Keys, an administrator at Johns Hopkins University – met with faculty, staff and students to solicit feedback for the committee. Mooney, a 1972 graduate of Saint Mary’s, received high praise from administrators at Notre Dame when they learned of her departure after seven years in the provost’s office. She will take office June 1.

Juniper RoadWhen Notre Dame unveiled its plans to close Juniper Road in January, the proposal was met with applause from the University community but resistance and skepticism from many South Bend residents. But through a series of town meetings designed to hear and incorporate the residents’ opinions, Notre Dame expressed the importance of community input as it finalized the plan – closing Juniper in a move toward a safer pedestrian campus. Equally important in the proposal was maintaining a relatively small campus size, as the University could construct new buildings, such as two new residence halls, in the space the street occupies instead of being forced to expand its boundaries.The proposal would redirect Juniper’s traffic – which typically includes 8,100 vehicles a day – to a new four-lane road that would run between Edison and Douglas Roads near Ivy Road. University Architect Doug Marsh explained further details, including modifications to Edison and Douglas Roads in April. The St. Joseph County Council heard a presentation from Notre Dame on May 11 and could vote to finalize the plan as early as their June 8 meeting. And unlike previous discussions about closing Juniper, the University intends to finance all improvements.

Student Govt. restructuringThe work of the student union this year was primarily occupied with its own restructuring. In recent years, student government’s performance had suffered due to poor communication and an inefficient organizational structure. During student body president Pat Hallahan’s report to the Board of Trustees in October, several board members asked that student leaders eliminate inefficiencies in the student union before bringing significant requests to the trustees.In proposals that began to emerge early in the first semester, student leaders agreed to rework the two major bodies of the student union, policy and programming. Executive Cabinet became the Council of Representatives, reflecting its composition of the top members of all student government bodies. Over the course of the spring semester, the council worked to produce a completely overhauled student body constitution that details the responsibilities of those bodies. The result was a constitution, approved March 31, that provides for more representation of the student body, as well as improved communication across student government.The Campus Programming Council will now function with representatives from each residence hall to avoid scheduling conflicts, a problem often experienced by its Student Union Board predecessor.Student leaders also cut thousands of dollars in spending from the policy side, aiming to create a leaner student union that can more effectively communicate students’ concerns to the University’s administrators and trustees.

Gay? Fine By Me.Despite Notre Dame students’ reputation for apathy, another reputation – that they live on the most homophobic campus in the United States, according to The Princeton Review – proved alarming enough for the largest show of dissent toward a University stance in recent memory.On March 18, approximately 1,700 blaze orange T-shirts with the message “Gay? Fine by Me” were distributed to students and scattered faculty members. Not only did the shirts represent full support and acceptance of homosexual members of the campus community, the show of solidarity also aimed to point out the discrepancy between the students’ opinions and the administration’s policies.Two policies in particular were questioned – the University’s March 4 refusal to recognize the proposed gay/straight alliance United in Diversity and its sustained rejection of sexual orientation as a category in its official non-discrimination clause.Though neither policy was changed as a result of the students’ efforts – which also included inviting Boston College’s director of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues to speak on campus and holding a second day to wear the shirts on April 21 – their initiative created a University-wide dialogue about homosexuality, Catholicism and Notre Dame’s role to mediate between them.

Taco Bell Alleged discrimination against homosexuals was not the only University stance that sparked passionate student opposition in 2004. The athletic department’s contract with local Taco Bell restaurants also came under fire, albeit from far fewer public demonstrators.Members of the Progressive Student Alliance began to publicize their dislike of the $50,000 sponsorship agreement during the National Student Week of Action in early April, delivering letters to University President Father Edward Malloy’s office. Demanding that the administration issue a statement against renewing the contract because of alleged unfair wages and labor standards held by the corporation’s tomato providers, the letters promised that students would continue to fast until Notre Dame spoke publicly. After approximately 30 students approached Malloy’s office in person April 14, Vice President and General Counsel Carol Kaesebier – who had been in contact with both the PSA and Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands Inc., since the fall – placed several follow-up calls to Taco Bell.When the University did not receive specific and timely answers, Notre Dame issued a public statement April 27 that postponed renewing the contract and expanding it to $75,000 by next fall until Taco Bell delivers a satisfactory response.Monk to move on, Jenkins elected successorWhen Father Theodore Hesburgh decided his term as University President was nearing its close, the search for his replacement unfolded before a public audience. Input came from administrators, faculty and even a student committee as the Board of Trustees narrowed the field to five candidates before its much-anticipated decision in November 1986. Even before he was officially named Hesburgh’s successor, Malloy was already in the public eye – having been announced as the next president in a controversial Chicago Tribune article twelve days earlier.But when Malloy made his own choice to step down – announcing at the board’s April 30 meeting his intent to retire in July 2005 after he serves his 18th year as president – the change seemed to come out of nowhere. While Malloy informed the Board in October 2003 that he wanted to step down after his current term and said in an April 23 Observer article that he was not seeking to stay on, the search process stayed behind closed doors. A committee met in January, February, March and April, Board Chairman Patrick McCartan confirmed, and chose Father John Jenkins from among several candidates.The 50-year old Jenkins, a current vice president and associate provost and former religious superior of priests and brothers at Notre Dame, will have 14 months to absorb Malloy’s experience as he prepares to become the University’s 17th president.

Executive VP saga resolvedThe year-long vacancy in the position of executive vice president was finally resolved April 30 when the Board of Trustees elected John Affleck-Graves, whose appointment was immediate. The hole in the University’s third-highest leadership slot had existed since Father Timothy Scully resigned in May 2003. Scully, whose resignation preempted a scheduled Board report clearing him of wrongdoing dating back to a confrontation with a WNDU reporter and cameraman in January of that year, remained a political science professor but left his duties to Malloy. In a decision delayed to coincide with the appointment of Jenkins – who, following the traditionally close ties between president and executive vice president, offered his formal and informal endorsement for Affleck-Graves – the 53-year old South Africa native became the first layman in University history to hold the position.