Meet the administration halfway
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Too often our students speak of the ‘mysterious administration’ that actively seeks a barrier between Main Building and the student body when making pivotal decisions for the University of Notre Dame. During my time in office, I regularly received the question: “How can we get [the administration] to tell us what’s happening?” I have one simple answer: Ask. University decisions are not made with the deliberate effort of keeping students out of the conversation. As a matter of fact, most divisions, departments and committees are thirsty for student input; I would know, I spent a year crossing that imaginary line.
I believe in meaningful citizenship. I believe in a population dedicated to conversation and improvement. If, as leaders, we strive for perfection in communication and strategy, we will land somewhere near excellence.
Our Notre Dame community is a magnificent one, characterized by intelligence, talent and devotion. We are a team of students working to lead every field of study on a national and global level, but how can we do this if we continue to treat our relationship with the leadership of this University as an adversarial one? So close to the real world, two weeks from graduation, I will soon join working America as a representative of a Notre Dame education, but also as a representative of our generation. We are a generation typically characterized by impersonal interactions, an addiction to digital entertainment and an attention span far shorter than that of our grandparents, which leads me to worry for our patience in conversations of progress and change.
Our country used to be a place of bipartisan work, a land whose freedom guided the most challenging conversations. We were a nation that together, fought for our moral commitments. We raced to the moon. We aspired to intelligence, not to credentialization. We led the world in the classroom, in the laboratory and on the Olympic field. We could succeed in these ways and we could shine a beacon of light because we were informed. Ironically, information is both the defining characteristic of the twenty-first century, but it also chains us. Inundated by possibilities, we forget to focus.
Notre Dame should be seen as a microcosm of the United States. Although our University does not operate as a democracy, our campus presents an opportunity for us, as citizens, to interact meaningfully with leadership and to ask the right questions in order to receive desired results. If we want to walk hand in hand with faculty and staff towards a common goal, we as students must engage. Transparency exists only in the worlds of those who make a persistent effort to keep it alive. This needs to be a partnership, but we have to meet them halfway. Step outside of the classroom and apply what you’ve learned in real time. Read your emails, follow University Press releases, ask the difficult questions and be persistent about getting the answers. Go to your elected officials, work with your senators and attend collective discussions. Require your representatives to represent you. Make use of the Senate floor. Senate is a place for the student voice; it is held each week and all are welcome, yet few attend. Ask your current leadership to invite administrators to the floor, so that students have another way to communicate with Main Building.
Let us condition ourselves to participate as committed citizens of any community. Let us sculpt the future of our generation’s interaction with government, religion and macro-level discussion. Let us engage with one another meaningfully in order to inspire change that can only come from honest and calculated conversation. Together, we can set the tone and refocus what it means to be today’s Fighting Irish and what it means to be a young American. Internalizing the true value of freedom requires us to continually monitor its health and magnify its necessity. This is your University. Take your opportunity to engage as both a privilege and an obligation, for with great power comes great responsibility. I am honored to be a member of the Class of 2015 and a member of the Notre Dame family. I look forward to seeing my peers rise to unparalleled heights, to reading about our students setting agendas in public and private arenas and to witnessing a class of individuals leading with their hearts and learning with their spirits. Now and forever, let’s go Irish.
Lauren A. Vidal
student body president emeritus
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.