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Director of GRC says campus at extremes

Ann-Marie Woods | Thursday, January 31, 2008

The University’s Catholic character plays a major role in promoting many students to search exclusively for life partners and others to respond by rejecting committed relationships altogether, the director of the Gender Relations Center said Wednesday.

Citing Catholic character as the “framework of our values and morals,” at Notre Dame, Heather Rakoczy spoke about relationships and interactions on campus as part of the second installment of “Notre Dating” Wednesday.

“People take relationships much more seriously here, searching for a life partner rather than simply dating in order to meet people and have a good time,” Rakoczy said. At the other extreme, students are fearful of this culture of dating and abstain from the process entirely or “feel pressure to be in committed, long-lasting relationships.”

The problem lies in the extremes. Students’ responses are “radical on either end. There is no middle ground,” Rakoczy said.

The GRC’s focus, therefore, was to discuss ways in which students can find “balance in order to integrate all aspects of [their] lives,” including the considerable influence of Catholic teaching here at Notre Dame, Rakoczy said.

Through increased discussion of topics often labeled “taboo” within some Catholic circles, Rakoczy said, students can facilitate a greater understanding of how Catholicism can improve rather than worsen gender relations on campus.

Just as parietals and single-sex dorms are a part of student life at Notre Dame, so too is Catholicism a significant and permanent aspect of the nature of the University, she said. Students must find an appropriate outlet for discussion and education in order to accomplish improvement in gender relations on campus, Rakoczy said.

Rakoczy moderated the second event organized by the Gender Relations Center (GRC) to study the effects of a Catholic education on dating.

Wednesday’s discussion included large and small group activities to begin the discussion. FIRE starters are student peer educators on campus, who facilitate greater awareness, discussion and solutions to many of the gender issues on campus. Standing for “Finding Identity Relationships Equality,” the FIRE starters presented personal experiences and initiated greater dialogue between students in attendance.

Beginning with an integrative look at the defining features of Catholic character, Notre Dame graduate and current seminarian Mark DeMott stressed that the University must be a “community shaped by Catholic Christianity,” where students can “engage, learn from, struggle with, and allow faith to become a part of who you are.”

The “Notre Dating” series events will be held on the last Wednesday of every month through April in the Coleman-Morse Center lounge.