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Group discusses discrimination, dorm alarms

Maddie Daly | Thursday, October 25, 2012

This week’s meeting addressed two main topics: dorm alarm systems and diversity on campus.  Right at the start, student body vice president Katie Rose reminded the senators to be respectful of each other.

“For our discussions today some of the information might be sensitive. Just know that if there’s anything you want to keep anonymous you can come meet with any of us one-on-one,” Rose said.

Student body president Brett Rocheleau surveyed the senators to see how dorm alarms worked in their halls.  After asking which male dorms had side door alarms set for midnight or any time, no one raised his hand. Conversely, when asking which female dorms did not have alarms, no one raised her hand.  

Senators said they would like to see dorm alarms standardized around campus.Morrissey senator Billy McMahon said he can swipe in any door at any time.

“I fully support pushing for equality but by scaling back alarms rather than adding alarms,” McMahon said.

Ryan senator Grace Carroll saw a discrepancy with parietals and alarms.

“Our alarms go off every night at midnight if you leave from the side door. We want to make it so they go off at parietals,” Carroll said. “The reason they only want the main door open at night is to keep tabs of people. It deters them from using any other door.”

Class of 2015 president Tim Scanlan tied this comment back to the Board of Trustees’ presentation on residence life.

“This is one of the reasons we listed for why people are moving off campus,” Scanlan said. “Twenty-year-olds don’t want people to ‘keep tabs’ on them.”

Class of 2014 president Lizzie Helpling said she is unsure of how effective the alarms truly are.

“I was talking to some other girls who said the alarms really are not that effective. I accidently set off the McGlinn alarm once during Frosh-O and just started running.  It really doesn’t do anything besides get the rector out of bed. By the time they’re there, the perpetrator’s already gone,” Helpling said. “Also, the doors that are alarmed are tucked away, making it difficult for the rectors to get there quickly.”

Student union treasurer Alexa Shaw shared insight from her experience as a resident assistant (RA).

“Being an RA myself, I know it is really, really tough for the first floor RAs to have to get up at 3 a.m. to turn off the alarm and run after whoever it was,” Shaw said. “Obviously the number one priority is safety, but the doors are locked anyway so are the alarms adding anything or are they really just detracting?”

The senators concluded that alarms should be uniform across all dorms and that they were maybe not the most effective method for ensuring safety. The group then transitioned to talking about diversity by explaining why it was immediately relevant.

“This is a bit of a followup from last spring, but it’s been one of our goals to get a Call to Action movement re-energized and to make sure all concerns are being addressed,” Rose said. “We will be meeting with several groups over the next few weeks, and we need feedback so we can speak on behalf of undergraduate students.”

Walsh Hall senator Veronica Guerrero began the discussion with a specific comment from someone in her dorm.

“A girl from Walsh said that she felt like diversity was not addressed in a negative or a positive way on campus. It’s a topic we push to the side and sort of cover up,” Guerrero said. “She said she thinks that interracial friendships are not encouraged on this campus.”

Helpling compared the issue to sexual assault here at Notre Dame.

“Just personally I feel like Notre Dame is going about this issue the wrong way. They’re going about it in the same way they’re going about sexual harassment – they send out a survey asking us what we think and try to figure out the one thing we can do to fix it,” she said. “I think that’s discouraging for a lot of students who sense that Notre Dame is just trying to do a quick fix to improve the way we adhere to society.”

Lewis senator Casey Spreen said the administration’s approach didn’t seem very effective.

“A lot of the stories from these people being discriminated against are a lot more individual and involve pain and suffering. You don’t want to talk about these stories; they just wall up inside,” Spreen said. “A way to solve this could be sending out anonymous surveys I guess, but is that too impersonal? Maybe one-on-one meetings or more town hall meetings would be helpful.”

McMahon expressed concern over the lack of student presence in this issue.

“More student control over the process instead of just the administration behind closed doors would be helpful,” McMahon said. “It has to be in a way where the people that are most affected would be the ones helping to change policies rather than just the people already in student government.”

Rose addressed this problem between student and administration involvement.

“This balance between the administration and students is that both have encouraged each other to do certain things which causes lapses.

Sometimes they’re afraid to speak on behalf of one another which is why it may seem as if the administration is transparent or delayed,” Rose said.

Chief of staff Katie Baker added to Rose’s statement by referring to the specific example from last spring.

“Right after the town hall meeting last spring, the Call to Action movement, a group of students who felt passionate about the things going on, worked to come up with a list of recommendations,” Baker said. “They gave a huge report to Student Affairs generated by students’ feedback and topics from the town hall meeting. We see now that the movement has slowed down since last March and April, and we want to make sure it continues this year.”

Pasquerilla West senator Carolina Ramirez brought up an issue she has heard from fellow students.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people that there has been discrimination not just from students but from rectors, RAs and professors. We need to show people that even the ones that are ‘in charge’ can be the problem and the students feel like they can’t do anything about it,” Ramirez said.

Rocheleau concluded the discussion by suggesting further aid in addressing these issues and answering questions.

“I think you guys have brought up several good points,” Rocheleau said. “Maybe Dr. David Moss who is spearheading the campaign could come into a Senate meeting to answer questions and get feedback on what’s going on.”