The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



United in Diversity discussed

Amanda Michaels | Thursday, March 24, 2005

With the end of their terms in sight, members of the Student Senate strove to make the most of their Wednesday night meeting by packing in discussions about voicing support for the recognition of United in Diversity, securing a campus-wide legal downloading service and installing a copy machine in the LaFortune computer cluster.

Though not the first item on the agenda, a resolution was brought to the floor supporting the official University recognition of the student-run gay-straight alliance, United in Diversity. The group was denied club status for the second year in a row on March 3.

Ryan Abrams, member of the Committee on University Affairs, presented the resolution and spoke for its necessity on account that, as he said, “a lot of students feel unwelcome or alienated,” and current University support structures are not sufficiently addressing the problem.

The resolution denies the claim that the goal of United in Diversity is not in keeping with Notre Dame’s Catholic identity – one of the major points of argument against its recognition – citing the University “spirit of inclusion” and goal to respect and accept the full spectrum of diversity in the community.

“I don’t know if recognizing United in Diversity would create a welcoming environment for homosexuals at Notre Dame, but it would be a step in the right direction,” Abrams said.

Anna Gomberg – president of AllianceND, the group behind United in Diversity – spoke to senators about the necessity of gaining official recognition.

Not only would club status allow the group to plan events, communicate and gather more easily. Gomberg said it would fill a space left void by the University’s current support services – the Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs and Campus Ministry.

“The tenor of a student organization that addresses these needs, one that is not bound up by the administration or by Campus Ministry, is completely different than anything currently offered,” she said.

Katie Boyle, chair of the Committee on University Affairs, spoke to the ideological as well as the practical issues of recognition, saying the University’s rejection of the club “speaks very loudly” and does not help undo any of the negative press on the subject.

Frequently emphasized during the conversation was the existence of similar groups at peer institutions like Georgetown and Marquette, and the resolution was amended to include Saint Mary’s on the list.

“It disgusts me when every year they reject the club status,” O’Neill senator Matt Walsh said. “To use respectful language, it makes me mad. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have never heard any student say that the existing system works great.”

Though no one spoke out against recognition, Committee on Academic Affairs chair Vijay Ramanan cautioned that, when approaching the administration, students should be sure to recognize the complexity of the matter, or they will gain little ground in the discussion.

Boyle said while student government does not have any real power in the area of recognizing clubs, the resolution would bring the issue more necessary publicity.

The resolution passed with no opposition, a copy of which will be sent to head of Student Activities Brian Coughlin and the Campus Life Council. Ironically, one of the first acts this group of senators performed after taking office last year was passing a similar resolution.

A representative from the Ruckus network – a legal downloading service offering a selection of media and community content spoke to the Senate about his company and the possibility of its installation at Notre Dame.

Ruckus currently offers 850,000 songs – but only from complying artists, so no Dave Matthews – and holds licenses for 2,500 movies that it puts up on a rotational basis, as well as shows like “Seinfeld.” After the system was installed at no cost to the University, students could join on an “opt-in” basis, choosing a music-only plan at $15 per semester, a movies-only plan at $20 or everything for $30.

Any content downloaded from Ruckus is licensed for 30 days – after which point the user must renew it if they still subscribe, or lose the file – and cannot be transferred to an iPod or other MP3 player or burned to a disk. A pay-by-track service, akin to iTunes, is in the works that will give students the option of spending between 79 and 99 cents on each track they wish to transfer.

Once students graduate, they must either continue with a slightly higher monthly fee, or lose everything they download. A summer subscription must also be paid for non-graduates who plan to continue the service during the next school year.

Ruckus also offers Ruckus Campus, a Web site open even to non-subscribers and tailored specifically to the Notre Dame community, that the representative called “Facebook on steroids.” Besides offering spaces for profiles, message boards and blogs, the site would also have Ruckus Studio, on which student artists could put their original music or movies to share with the rest of campus. A section called Mind Tap aims at more academic tastes, with everything from interview tips to interviews with actual alumni.

Ruckus is looking to launch at 17 schools by next fall and is almost halfway there with eight schools up and running. A resolution on the prospects of Notre Dame joining their ranks will likely be introduced at next week’s meeting, and if approved, the representative said his company could have the system installed within 17 business days.

To cap off the meeting, senators unanimously passed a resolution supporting the installation of a copy machine in the LaFortune computer cluster next fall. The machine will be put in on a trial basis to gauge usage and will run at 10 cents per copy.

In other Senate news:

uSenate approved Sieg-fried senator James Leito and student union secretary Nancy Walsh as this year’s Irish Clover Award winners, an accolade that recognizes outstanding service to the students of the Notre Dame community. The Senate also approved political science professor Alvin Tillery as recipient of the Frank O’Malley Undergraduate Teaching Award.