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In Loco Parentis?

Jonathan Umpleby | Friday, November 19, 2010

The administration of Notre Dame never hesitates to heap praise upon itself for its vaunted policy of “in loco parentis.” Personally, I know it comforted my parents greatly when the concept was described to them before they left me a thousand miles from home freshman year. They were told that Notre Dame would act as their son’s parent in their absence; giving guidance, support and protection while also demanding discipline and accountability.

Recent events have begun to shine a brighter light on a growing problem with the execution of the “in loco parentis” policy at Notre Dame. While the emphasis on discipline and accountability has increased, the other parental duties, especially protection, have been grossly and tragically neglected.

No parent would allow their child to operate a lift in the dangerous conditions that claimed Declan Sullivan’s life. If a student had died at a party or a tailgate, the University would have reacted swiftly and severely. They would not have waited for the results of an investigation to demand accountability from the people they deemed responsible. But, in the time since a student died on University property under the supervision of members of the administration, no action has been taken other than the promise of an investigation which will no doubt absolve all members of the administration of any personal responsibility.

Of far less importance, but similarly indicative of the administration’s failure as a parent, is the video from a tailgate last weekend that shows clear evidence of excessive police force on campus. No parent would allow hostile officers to repeatedly intimidate and abuse their child, but the University has routinely turned a blind eye to a local police force that is openly and admittedly hostile toward our students and alumni. This was only reinforced by Dennis Brown’s statement in response to the incident, which praised past cooperation with local law enforcement.

To our administration: You are failing miserably in your self- imposed role as a parent. We, the students and alumni, have long noticed this gradual shift, and every time another incident highlights these failures we grow more restless and upset. The response to these most recent incidents continues to show your preference for covering your own behind over protecting your students, and many people outside of the Golden Dome’s impenetrable wall of self-righteousness see this. If you, the leaders of our beloved Notre Dame, do not become more self-aware and begin to demand from yourselves the same level of accountability that you demand from those entrusted to your “care,” you risk losing this family that is so important to all of us. Please don’t let that happen.

Jonathan Umpleby


Class of 2006

Nov. 17