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Call for public forums

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Regarding University President Father John Jenkins’ speech and invitation for discussion, Notre Dame is not a democracy, nor does it have any obligation to be. But happy compromises, full understanding of all the issues at hand and clarity of the unique positions of those involved would best be brought about through sustained, respectful dialogue. I believe that sustained dialogue should involve transparent, formal, open-minded conversation among representatives of all these groups: students at large, the organizers of the controversial events, faculty, staff, alumni, ND administrators and the church in an open way, as opposed to the one-way “e-mail works well” transmission method proposed by Jenkins on Tuesday at his speech to a few hundred members of the student body.

If we actually worked together, couldn’t we then come up with a more satisfactory solution to the “Vagina Monologues” situation other than determining whether it should be “on” or “off” (or alternatively, “a public performance and fundraiser” or “not”), and discover more adequate solutions to the multitude of other concerns that force us to address dilemmas of Catholicism and academic freedom and who or what publicly represents Notre Dame as a university?

I don’t believe we are hearing each other, but communicating through speeches. I am doubly concerned because our perceptions of one another are limited and flawed. I don’t think concerned students at large have had the opportunity to develop an adequate understanding of the University administrations’ process and practical concerns in addressing this dilemma. Nor do I believe those for and against truly understand each others’ positions. Most importantly, I think that a novel solution to these problems would be best brought about through this type of dialogue.

I propose developing a public forum or multiple forums where these issues can be discussed, and perhaps resolved, and I would be happy to help facilitate that development.

Finally, I would like to make clear that while I am involved with the unrecognized group of individuals called AllianceND (the gay-straight alliance), I am speaking only for myself – part of the Notre Dame family, ND’s loyal daughter, but separate, distinct and unrepresentative of any agencies’ beliefs beyond my own. It can be done.

Anna Gomberggraduate studentOff-campusJan. 24