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Dome has meaning

Joe Hettler | Thursday, March 31, 2005

Two days ago, a friend perfectly described how the scaffolding around the golden dome has made the seniors feel this year. Driving back from Easter break, she recalled seeing the dome and saying: “It makes me want to throw up.”

Well put.

And if seeing the dome looking so unattractive didn’t make me queasy, reading about Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves’ attitude toward the importance of it certainly did.

Affleck-Graves, the administration’s representative on the issue, is quoted as saying in yesterday’s Observer, “Honestly, I did not anticipate the huge reaction,” and “Graduation is not about the physical dome. You don’t remember standing in front of it getting your picture taken. … There could be no dome and it would be a fabulous time.”

While I credit Affleck-Graves for taking personal responsibility for keeping the scaffolding a secret from students, I’m still hurt. That a University official would make such a comment is personally disheartening to me. I expected more from this University and its administrators.

But maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we students truly understand the meaning of certain places on this campus better than some of the administration. Fault the seniors for actually thinking the dome has meaning on graduation day. Blame them for making travel arrangements for grandparents or aunts or nephews to make cross-country and cross-world trips for just one chance to share with them one of the most sacred aspects of this University. Hold them responsible for seeing the dome and instantly remembering what this place stands for and why they chose it as their university.

I have heard the reasons for the scaffolding – money, costs, weather. But I would hope that the administration would realize how important this is to its students. Attending Notre Dame was my lifelong dream and I did everything I could to get accepted. I prayed every night in high school for this opportunity.

Why? Because I remember coming out to Notre Dame football games at age 6 with my dad and getting butterflies in my stomach when we drove between mile marker 78 and 77, straining my neck to sneak a peek of that beautiful dome in between the tall trees.

I remember being downright giddy as we walked toward the dome, making sure to never step on the grass in God Quad and never, ever walk up the front staircase.

And I remember feeling an emptiness as we drove back to Ohio after the game, knowing it’d be another year until I’d see that golden dome again.

Once I attended school here, things didn’t change. I can’t count the times I’ve walked in God Quad, looked up to see that golden structure and said a quick prayer of thanks.

So no, graduation isn’t about a physical building. But it is about what that physical building symbolizes and means to countless people across this world. It is about how that building touches people, pulls at their emotions when they see it. It is about the way that the golden dome, and what it stands for, triggers a sense of pride at being a part of this great school.

That’s why it’s important. Not because students want something real pretty to have in the background of their graduation picture. The seniors want an unobstructed Golden Dome on graduation day because it encompasses everything that is Notre Dame. We seniors are only embracing something that you, the University, taught us.

If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand Notre Dame.