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



Resolving the forum time conflict

Staff Editorial | Thursday, September 25, 2008

Student attendance at this year’s Notre Dame Forum on Sustainable Energy was impressive – at least at the beginning of the event. Throughout the two hours of discussion, however, the audience left in droves. Some may have lost interest, but others had to go to class.

The Forum is one of the events at the University that is done right – the organizers have come up with pressing issues to bring to campus that prompt discussion for the entire academic year. Top experts in the field in question are able to share their views, their ideas, and possible solutions, with students.

At least, that is, those students who were permitted to attend.

All freshmen at Notre Dame are given the option to attend the Forum, as all of their classes are canceled during the time of the event.

There is no policy, however, that classes for sophomores, juniors and seniors are required to be cancelled the afternoon of the Forum, leaving those students who have classes between 3 and 5 p.m. with a dilemma: Attend the Forum, and take a cut? Or don’t attend the Forum, and miss the discussion?

Some professors were considerate to those students who wanted to attend, but others stood firm with their “you can take an absence” response. Other professors still required that their students did attend the Forum as part of the class.

What about those students whose professors fall in both categories – those that require Forum attendance, and those who would not allow it? In that case, students are penalized, whether they chose to attend or not.

All students – not just the freshmen – should be given the option to choose to attend (or not attend) the Forum, which is, without competition, the biggest academic event at this University each year.

It is something highly publicized, all across campus, with fliers, desktop backgrounds in the computer clusters and light bulb stickers to put over light switches. This year’s topic, especially, is popular with students.

Sustainability really is the buzzword around campus – and Energy Week events, leading up to Wednesday’s Forum, also helped publicize the event.

Regardless of the amount of publicity, however, all students did not have the free option to attend without penalization, and others were forced to attend, whether they wanted to or not.

The University is a place of limitless opportunities for learning – limitless, that is, when it comes to everything else besides the most-publicized, most highly-anticipated academic event of the year. All students were invited to attend via an e-mail from the University president, but professors were not invited to allow their classes to attend.

Next year’s Forum, which undoubtedly will be just as well-organized, with just as many exciting panelists, will hopefully be better-attended by upperclassmen. Attendance should continue to be encouraged, but the hundreds of students who undoubtedly will have a class scheduled during its two-hour block, should not be penalized for wanting to join the conversation.