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The best could be better

| Tuesday, August 25, 2015

As the Notre Dame Class of 2019 starts their first day of classes today, they do so with the (correct) idea that Notre Dame is the best college to be at in the United States. Their entire recruitment to Notre Dame has told them how they are the smartest class to ever enter (newsflash: next year’s will be better) and about the incredible place that Notre Dame is. Their summer has been filled with “31 Reasons Why Notre Dame is Better Than Your College” and “15 Reasons Why You Should be Excited to be a Domer.” Welcome Weekend showed freshmen the best of their dorm and of the Notre Dame experience — and understandably, they’re excited to be here. We all are.

As a tour guide and as someone who believes that Notre Dame is the best university to be at, I know and I appreciate everything that Notre Dame has to offer. An on-campus living experience that no other university can compete with, the No. 1 business school in the country, an unexplainable connection with any person that you meet who went to Notre Dame, the friendliness of every single person on this campus and rectors and professors who truly care about students.

I could go on and on, but the point is that we have so much to celebrate as a school. Notre Dame’s incredible ability to create a place that students can cherish forever is an example for every university.  At the same time, we have so much to improve upon. We’re not perfect — no one is. But we shouldn’t settle for merely enjoying everything that makes us great.

Above, I mentioned our No. 1 business school ranking. It’s not the only ranking we do well in. We’re consistently the top Catholic university, a top-15 college nationally and the best place to go to school in the Midwest. But last year we also had another ranking — the No.9 unfriendliest place for LGBTQ students. How come no one talks about this ranking? It’s something that we need to change — and we have a unique place as the premier Catholic university. Pope Francis called all of us to respect and love all people regardless of the different classifications that each person is subjected to. Catholic or not, all of us need to recognize that Notre Dame should be an example to the world of openness and respect to all people, and as students we need to work towards that.

Consistently, we hear how Notre Dame is an incredible place for students, especially in comparison to other top-tier universities (Catholic and otherwise). We are great for so many things — our student satisfaction, job placement and dorm life make us equal with top universities or even set us apart from them. Yet, we still don’t have a sensible policy that protects students who are in danger from alcohol as hundreds of other colleges do. The University doesn’t provide detailed class reviews from our peers like most other colleges. Our clubs and organizations don’t get nearly as much money as do those at other schools. On these issues (and more), we have to be at or above the standards set by our peer institutions.

On other issues, we must demand that Notre Dame lead, not follow. Student debt is the biggest concern for our generation, and no college has any effective plan to make it easier for students. We’re the 12th-richest university, can easily fundraise $400 million on luxury boxes for the stadium (okay, it’s more than just luxury boxes) and are among the top 100 most expensive universities. In spite of this, our average student debt is around the average of every other college in the United States. We’re Notre Dame — we shouldn’t be “like every other average school” when it comes to this issue that is so important to college students. With some of the smartest and most innovative students, administrators and professors in the country, we should be at the forefront of solving this issue.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s no place I’d rather be than Notre Dame. The amazing things about this university far outweigh the bad. But greatness breeds complacency. So what’s the solution? As students, sometimes we are so engulfed in the best four years in our life that we forget to acknowledge that there are things we can improve for ourselves and for future Notre Dame students. We have to work with administrators, professors and other students to identify where and how we can improve. All of us at Notre Dame are working toward a better future by acknowledging our flaws and refining our strengths. We should demand the same of our school and of each other. That’s what being the best requires.

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

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