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New minor suggested for Univ.

Claire Reising | Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Student Senate passed resolutions supporting the creation of a Native American Studies minor and encouraging student input in the renovation of campus study spaces at its meeting Wednesday night.

The Senate also voted to amend a resolution encouraging the addition of sexual orientation to Notre Dame’s non-discrimination clause.

Senators Erdina Francillon and Ezinee Ndukwe of the Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC) presented information about the minor’s relevance to the University, as well as results from a survey about student interest in the topic. Francillon explained the connection between Notre Dame’s legacy and Native American tribe – such as through Father Stephen Theodore Badin, the priest who gave a farm to Notre Dame founder Father Edward Sorin. Badin stayed with the Potawatomi tribe near the St. Joseph River.

“MAC truly believes [Native American history] is an integral part to learning about American history,” Francillon said. “There is a correlation between Notre Dame’s history and Native American history.”

Out of 429 students who participated in the survey, 22.4 percent were “very interested,” 57.5 percent were “somewhat interested” and 20.0 percent reported they were “not interested at all” in having this area studies available on campus, Francillon said.

Biology professor Gary Belovsky said that Native American studies still has relevance today and is not a “dead way of life or dead culture.”

The University will work with tribes from Montana, Michigan and northern Wisconsin to build the program, he said.

“It’s not just how people used to live in the past. It’s what we can learn from the traditions and the cultures of these people and how it can shape our future attitudes towards things like the environment,” Belovsky said. “That’s what we’re trying to do – not just relive the past.”

The Senate also presented a resolution on including sexual orientation in Notre Dame’s non-discrimination clause.

Currently, the clause prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race/ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status or age,” according to the Office of Institutional Equity’s Web site.

The resolution cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teachings to accept homosexual persons, as well as examples of other American Catholic colleges that include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination clauses. The Faculty and Student Senates passed similar resolutions in 1998, but they did not achieve the desired results, O’Neil senator Matt Molloy said.

Senator Denise Baron, who drafted the resolution with Molloy, said she wants this year’s resolution to encourage dialogue among students.

“There has been sort of a letdown and a halt in communication with the dialogue necessary to really approach this issue,” she said.

Another resolution on Wednesday’s agenda promoted greater student-administrator communication about campus study areas.

There is no “structured way of getting student information,” and some students have shown discontent over recent renovations, Academic Affairs chair Carol Hendrickson said.

“I know a lot of people were kind of upset with the first floor library renovations, in terms of getting rid of the second floor comp cluster, establishing [fewer] computers in the first floor area,” she said. “Almost always, the computers are at full capacity there.”

In other Senate News:

u Student body vice president Maris Braun said the second annual Community Summit will take place on March 28. City officials, business leaders and students will gather to discuss community relations issues.

u Karen Koski, the chair of the Social Concerns Committee, discussed a “student service or social action fund.” Such a fund would allow students to apply for grants after service projects, so they can continue to contribute to the community they served.