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



Notre Dame not truly a place where “learning becomes service to justice”

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pope Paul VI, in Populorum Progressio, states that when one gives to the poor, “you are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich” (par. 23). Hence, when Fr. Jenkins at Wednesday’s Town Hall Meeting claimed that “the Catholic mission of Notre Dame should be seen as ‘a guide, something that makes the university distinctive,'” yet the majority of our campus workers, those who scrub our toilets, desks, floors and dishes still fall under the poverty level or make a wage that is less than livable. How are we “embracing the dignity,” as Jenkins says, of our campus workers? When the wage difference between the highest- and lowest-paid employee on campus is 1:49 (Living Wage Report from 2007), how are we working as a family for the common good of everyone?Maybe, then, it is time we stop calling “renovations to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart” (John Affleck-Graves) “a hallmark of Notre Dame” and our Catholic character. Maybe it is time we start actually putting into practice what Paul VI commands us as Catholics to do and start handing back to workers at Notre Dame what is truly theirs.It is great and commendable that the University has implemented a new program where employees can take classes while employed at the university, but when will we address the deeply rooted social inequalities that exist right in our own backyard? When will we, instead of committing ourselves passively and easily to lives of “service to the world,” commit ourselves to an active life of change where “learning becomes service to justice” and not passivity? Where we question why the people who actually serve our community in our dorms, academic buildings and dining halls are standing in line at food banks or in line at grocery stores with food stamps? Or why they sleep on the floor of a basement in a home not their own so they can feed and educate their children? How long are we going to cover up this injustice with sugar-coated words and nice luncheons at the new Irish Green?I am a student at this university, I am an employee at this university and I am a member of this family. Hence, I say with great disappointment that I am ashamed of how my family – this university – is living out what we call “Catholic character.” To me, Catholic character is not spending millions repainting the golden dome or refurbishing the basilica, but rather making sure the least among us are dignified and not forgotten or exploited. So until our actions are equivalent with our words, I remain strong in my statement when I say I am ashamed today of my university, of myself and of my fellow Notre Dame family members for not doing more to genuinely use our voices to dispel injustice and implement justice in our own home, our own family and our own university.

Alicia Quirosjunioroff-campusSept. 18