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Ask more of bureaucracy

| Thursday, October 2, 2014

Last week, the Mendoza College of Business announced the Student International Business Council (SIBC) would come under the college’s jurisdiction. It previously had been housed under the Student Activities Office (SAO). Beginning with this year’s freshmen, only students who are enrolled in the business school or have minors requiring classes in Mendoza will be allowed to participate in the club.

According to The Observer article, “SIBC leaves SAO, absorbed by Mendoza,” published Sept. 25, “no students were involved in the decision-making process.” It shows. Students wouldn’t make or contribute to a decision so obviously against SIBC’s interests. Perhaps I’m unenlightened, but arbitrarily slashing 25 percent of your membership would not make my list of “ways to assure a strong future for your organization.”

I’m not in the business school, and I haven’t been on an SIBC project since my sophomore year. It wasn’t my thing. But even when viewed from the outside, SIBC stands out among ND clubs because of the professionally valuable experiences it provides. My consulting project leaders went to work for McKinsey, Bain and GE after they graduated. And while they owe that more to their own hard work and talents than to SIBC, I think they’d tell you that their project experiences were valuable. I think they’d tell you that the visits to corporate offices in New York and Chicago were interesting and that, excepting a late night or two in “the BIC” revising PowerPoint slides, SIBC was a fairly good time.

The fact that one of my project leaders, a PLS and math double major with a sterling resume and crystal-clear diction, would be ineligible to participate in SIBC under the new rules is ridiculous.

The Observer quoted SIBC co-president Alessandro DiSanto throughout the article, and it’s worth reproducing one of his statements here at some length. He said: “It is our understanding that the justification is that now that SIBC is housed under Mendoza, when students go out and represent themselves as SIBC members to companies through these projects, they are representing, implicitly, the Mendoza College of Business, and the [Mendoza College of Business] Dean [Dr. Roger Huang] would not want any students representing themselves as the Mendoza College of Business without having the education certified and provided by Mendoza courses.”

I’d hope for Dean Huang’s sake that when he explained this to SIBC’s student board he armed himself with a better explanation. This statement seems to imply that Mendoza is a separate entity hovering over and above the rest of Notre Dame’s colleges. It was my belief that when a team of Notre Dame students presents its findings to a group of corporate representatives, the students were representing the University first and foremost. The fact that this isn’t the case strikes me as logically flawed and somewhat pretentious. Plus, it means further siloing of the business school and business students from the rest of the University. All of this I find a bit unacademic for a university whose roots and stated commitments are giving students a broad, liberal education independent of their desired career paths.

At the end of the day, this is another instance of tone-deaf, bureaucratically-confined decision-making that has yielded some pretty absurd results for students at Notre Dame. Program Manager Monica Laidig’s concession that SIBC “will continue to encourage discussion regarding the restrictions” seems like a tacit admission of this. Something is structurally wrong with the way we arrive at decisions here. Whether it’s altering SIBC’s membership requirements, gutting the Irish Guard or tossing out the freshman PE requirement, a repeated “implement first, ask questions later” approach is failing Notre Dame’s student body. This is just the latest example.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Alex Caton

Alex is a junior political science major living in the caves and ditches of St. Edward's Hall. He has written for the Viewpoint section since spring 2013

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