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Outside appearances

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, March 26, 2009

Unfortunately, this is another letter to respond to the response to the president’s upcoming visit to Notre Dame. However, I have noticed something underlying the general uproar I might not have fully appreciated before.

My initial reaction was horror and dread when I saw news stories right on the Google News home page about Our Lady’s University, many of which seemed to project the diverse and colored opinions of various groups of people from outside Notre Dame onto her student body and our institution as a whole. Yes, there are 100,000 signatures on an Internet petition protesting the University’s decision, but that, along with any other statements, demonstrations or fiercely worded articles from the media, other colleges or even Catholic bishops, do not necessarily represent what we as the students actually believe. I know this, but will Chicago Tribune and Washington Post readers?

Hence my horror and dread; they are getting the message that we at Notre Dame are polarized, radical, frenzied and scandalized. In fact, I have noticed that the vast majority of students are openly considering various opinions, engaged in conversation and primarily concerned that the Commencement actually honor the seniors. (Could this have been the goal of our administration in the first place?)

All of this made me wonder why the rest of the world cannot seem to leave Notre Dame alone. If you are a Bishop, one of my high school friends who did not even apply to Notre Dame, an alumnus, a random Catholic from across the country or even a Saint Mary’s student, why should this be such a big deal? Stop trying to take over our Commencement, I thought. Please do not come marching on Notre Dame Ave. and give the rest of the world an idea about Notre Dame students that does not actually represent most of us.

However, I have concluded that the hundred thousand signatures and general interest across the country can only mean one thing. Notre Dame makes a difference outside the bubble too – a significant one, and to a lot more people: Catholic people, pro-life people, any politically or religiously engaged people. There is no explanation for the passionate uproar and concern other than that hundreds of thousands of people see our University as symbol and stronghold of the Catholic faith, or of the pursuit of truth, or morality.

With that in mind, maybe I should be less annoyed that everyone else is freaking out over what we are up to, and think about whether I fully appreciate and recognize my privileged role as a student of this institution. They think Notre Dame is important; I actually get to live here. Do I make any effort to consider or live up to the high (though diverse) expectations of so many who find us worthy of their own passionate concern?

Joseph VanderZee


Keough Hall

March 23