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Notre Dame hosts annual Spring Visitation Weekend

Katie Perry | Monday, April 4, 2005

This weekend more than 150 prospective African American, Asian American, Latino and Native American students flocked to Notre Dame to find out first hand what life is like under the illustrious – albeit scaffolded – golden dome. Spring Visitation Weekend kicked off Thursday with the arrival of a distinguished group of minority prospective students. The annual event was planned and coordinated through the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “The weekend’s purpose was to answer the questions and ease the concerns of some of the best and brightest students from under-represented populations throughout the United States,” assistant recruitment coordinator Son Nguyen said.In this aim is the underlying goal of attracting talented students who may contribute diversity to the University, sophomore student coordinator Covington Doan said. Doan participated in the program as a high school senior.”Ultimately, Spring Visitation weekend is an admissions recruitment tool. The prospective students come here to hear first hand what students have to say and have their questions answered,” Doan said.High school seniors representing a wide array of ethnic backgrounds shadowed both minority and non-minority students currently enrolled at Notre Dame. The prospects experienced nearly every facet of campus life, from parietals and professors to dorms and dining halls. “The hosts do a major service to the University by personally welcoming the prospects into community life at Notre Dame,” Nguyen said. “Our hosts took their prospects to class, discussed student life issues, walked around campus and showed them a glimpse of the ND social scene.”In addition to partaking in the daily campus bustle, visiting students attended such culture-oriented events as Latin Expressions on Friday and Saturday’s BCAC Fashion Show. In past years admissions officials have taken heat from members of the Notre Dame community who label the planned activities as “deceptive diversity.”But according to Nguyen, these events are not arranged solely for the purpose of Spring Visitation weekend. They are instead part of a larger diversity series that spans the entire scholastic year.”Latin Expressions and Fashion Show fall along with other signature events like Asian Allure [in] early fall and Fiestang [in] late winter,” Nguyen said.Doan said that planned events are functional in that they serve as necessary entertainment for the visiting students.”You can’t expect to have the prospective students do homework – or at least watch their host do it – and go to the Grotto and pray or participate in folk choir in order to [have] the ND experience,” Doan said.Events like Spring Visitation weekend demonstrate the concerted efforts of administrators to increase campus diversity; however the perception of Notre Dame in this area is far from pristine. Earlier this year the Princeton Review ranked the University among the nation’s top 10 most homogenous student populations. Additionally, the abrupt dismissal of head football coach Tyrone Willingham sparked accusations of racial discrimination from the media as well as students, faculty and staff within the Notre Dame community.The apparent racial strains such incidents have placed upon the University led to “prep work” implemented by the event’s coordinators in order to assess the issue, Doan said.”A forum was held to gather student input as to how they see the campus now,” Doan said. “A number of Spring Visitation veterans offered their input as to what went well and what didn’t on their [visit] and what they felt needed to be done this year to help alleviate any tension that was present.”Nguyen said that aside from calling two meetings with minority students to gauge the current atmosphere on campus, not many things were done differently regarding this year’s Spring Visitation weekend.”Is this Spring Visitation Weekend more of a priority to the University than the past Spring Visitation Weekends? Most definitely not. Increasing campus diversity at Notre Dame has always been one of the top priorities of the Undergraduate Admissions Office and will remain so,” Nguyen said.But Doan says that the ambience on campus this year indeed affected the weekend.”I cannot comment for everyone, but I feel as though [Willingham’s] dismissal had an impact on Spring Visitation weekend, but it did not make [the weekend] any more or less important than it always has been for the University,” Doan said. “We ask students to be who they are and to be honest and genuine when speaking to prospective students – that has not changed throughout the years, but it may have been stressed more this year given the current state of the University.”For Nguyen and other University administrators, amplifying the importance of culture and diversity on campus is a continuous mutual goal that will benefit both current students and incoming students from different backgrounds.”It is our hope that these students come to the realization that Notre Dame can enrich their lives just as much as they can contribute to Our Lady’s University,” Nguyen said “These students bring with them amazing life stories and will most certainly be tremendous assets in our pursuit of excellence.”