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Students continue peace tradition

Sarah Mervosh | Monday, November 15, 2010

There is nothing “structurally special” about senior Bridget Flores’ off-campus house, but she knew she wanted to live there since her freshman year.

It wasn’t the house itself, but all it represented — community, social justice, intellectual discussion — that attracted Flores to the house located just a few blocks from campus.

Flores and three other students live in what is traditionally known as the “Peace House,” which is passed down each year to students who are interested in social justice and international issues, and usually have a supplementary major or minor in peace studies.

“Traditionally the house is not like any other college house — at least not any other traditional college house,” Flores said.

Flores and her roommates try to bridge the gap between the classroom and students’ social lives, as well as the gap between the Notre Dame and South Bend communities.

The most notable way they do this is by inviting professors into their home for Friday dinners and discussion with students.

“Everybody that is able to bring something to share to eat [will] and we’ll just eat and talk and hang out,” Flores said. “The professor will give a talk and then students can ask questions.”

The dinners are open to anyone who is interested and about 20 to 50 students typically attend, Flores said.

Allert Brown-Gort, associate director for the Institute for Latino Studies, gave a talk on immigration issues at the Peace House earlier this year.

Brown-Gort had not heard of the Peace House before attending, but said it was nothing like he expected.

“I thought it was kind of going to be like a co-op. [I thought,] if that’s the case, it will really be five or six people, we’re going to sit down and eat something and we’ll talk for a little while and someone will take out the guitar … That sort of thing,” he said. “But no, it was packed. There were a lot of people. And it really was a good conversation.”

Brown-Gort said the atmosphere was very casual during dinner, with everyone in attendance contributing an item.

“They had a couple big pots of stuff, of rice and kind of a curry. And then just about everybody brought stuff,” Brown-Gort, who brought cookies to the dinner, said.

While Brown-Gort said it was similar to the classroom in that he facilitated discussion, he said people were more open to sharing opinions and comments regarding immigration.

“It’s more of a discussion because no body feels like they’re going to be graded on it,” he said.

Since Brown-Gort spoke at the Peace House in September, he has kept in touch with students he met there and had productive discussions.

“We’ve been able to get together a few times and I’ve loaned them some books and had some discussions. Just sort of kicked around ideas for papers,” he said. “It’s nice because that relationship can go on.”

Not only does the Peace House bring together intellectual and social lives of Notre Dame students, those who live there are also united by a common purpose.

Senior David Rivera, another resident of the Peace House, said he and his housemates are involved in different activities, but share a common goal of social justice.

“It’s someone with a labor issue, Core Council, Progressive Student Alliance and the more service side of the Center for Social Concerns,” he said. “It’s really bringing together people who are working on these social justice causes under one roof.”

The Peace House also tries to give back in simpler ways, such as using as little energy as possible, Flores said.

“We do compost. We waited as long as possible to turn on our heat. We bike and walk whenever we can instead of drive,” she said.

Rivera said he and his housemates often get pointed out as being an unusual example of off-campus living, but said the Peace House’s initiatives would not be difficult for other students to do as well.

“It’s things people can do within their own home,” he said. “It’s very much opening your home to the community and what your passion is about.”