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Group discusses discrimination

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, February 29, 2012


In the wake of alleged hate crimes against the Black Student Association and the African Student Association, Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution requesting a renewed commitment to ridding Notre Dame of discriminatory harassment Wednesday. 

The resolution asked the University to improve advertisement of how to report and address discrimination. It requested the reevaluation of residence hall staff training on creating a welcoming community and the enumeration of staff’s responsibilities in responding to harassment. The resolution also asked residence halls to educate students on what constitutes discriminatory harassment. 

Maya Younes, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) club diversity council representative, said she had heard many stories of racism in residence halls, including an incident in which someone wrote racial slurs on a student’s poster. She said the student reported the incident to the rector, but no disciplinary action was taken. The student later learned the rector had discarded the poster.

Younes said she sent a survey on discriminatory harassment to 60 students and 25 responded. Six students said they had been victims of racial discrimination in their residence halls, and three of the six said they had reported it to authorities, she said. 

“The main problem that we see with this issue of unreported cases is that it is bad for the victim as well as the perpetrator because it can have longstanding consequences in the minds of both parties,” Younes said. “We don’t want certain attitudes to develop that this can be tolerated, and if people think that this is acceptable, then they will take it with them into society after Notre Dame.”

John Sanders, residence life director for student government, said the resolution intends to prevent such instances of discriminatory harassment from being overlooked.

“The purpose of this is to sort of outline greater steps that we can take to prevent things like this from happening again and to make sure if they do, we can do something about it,” Sanders said.

Younes said other universities, such as Texas A&M, allow students to report harassment on webpages. At Notre Dame, rectors currently decide whether to report instances of discrimination to the Office of Residence Life and Housing, Younes said.

“The way that policy is outlined now for the reporting procedure is a bit vague, so if it were more specific that the rector is legally bound to turn in evidence to the Office of Residence Life for example, that could be a way to address [discriminatory harassment],” Younes said. 

Sanders said such incidents may go unreported because the procedure for reporting discriminatory harassment is difficult to find online. 

Student body vice president and president-elect Brett Rocheleau said to reach students living off-campus, the procedure for reporting discriminatory harassment will be advertised in academic buildings, in addition to residence halls. He also said most students live in residence halls for multiple years and will be exposed to advertisements there before moving off campus.

Senate also passed a resolution expanding the role of the student union webmaster to oversee student government’s external communications in a new director of communications position. 

The group then discussed restaurant contracts for the LaFortune Student Center. Sbarro’s contract will expire at the end of the academic year, and Food Services will likely replace Buen Provecho within the next year.

The majority of Senate supported opening Panda Express in place of Buen Provecho and both Taco Bell and Pizza Hut in place of Sbarro. No final decisions were made.

Rocheleau said revenue earned from LaFortune’s food establishments is returned to Food Services and funds the dining halls. 

“Whatever you think would help make the most money would make all the other food better,” he said.