Peter Campbell | Friday, April 23, 2010
After reading the article in The Observer regarding the Family Friendly Petition presented to the University in which I was quoted (“Graduate students to file petition,” April 16), I said to myself, there are numerous ways in which my comments could be misconstrued. I thought, someone is bound to respond to this, and with no small degree of vitriol. Sure enough, in The Observer’s April 21 edition, Emily Stetler obliged. Ms. Stetler’s letter, “Not So Friendly,” demonstrated that some clarification is required on my part lest my comments be too narrowly and uncharitably interpreted, and the cause of the organizers of the Family Friendly Petition be undermined.
I did not intend by my comments to imply that those living a married life with children are the only group able to live out the values espoused by the Catholic Church. This would clearly exclude both clergy, and married couples who cannot have children, among others, which would be ridiculous. My use of the image of the child running into the arms of her parent was just that, an image or a symbol. But a symbol of what? The life of a parent, to a significant extent, is one of self-sacrifice and giving of oneself for others. Parents sacrifice much for the well being of their children and the graduate student parents of Notre Dame, no matter what their religious beliefs, are no exception. These same principles, self-sacrifice and self-giving, are cornerstones of the teaching of the Catholic faith. Wherever the young students at Notre Dame encounter lives that are witnesses to these principles, whether in graduate student and faculty parents, or the clergy serving them, their lives are enriched.
I would also like to take this opportunity to make a further point regarding the University’s policies on families. As the University Village representative at the Graduate Student Union (GSU), I have been privy to a number of discussions on the topic of the Family Friendly Petition. There is much talk about what power the graduate students have to get the University to adopt a policy more friendly to the graduate students who choose to take on family life while completing their degrees. It dawned on me only later that we really have no power, but that this is really the point: we are powerless. Now I am not a student of theology or Catholic doctrine, but I am pretty sure that the Church teaches that one ought to have a certain reaction when it comes to the needs of the powerless. I do not in any way want to detract from what the University has done thus far for graduate student families, but more can be done. Moreover, it is clear from the conclusion of Ms. Stetler’s letter that she agrees.