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It’s time ND

| Friday, November 6, 2015

You glance down at your phone screen as inconspicuously as you can, trying not to make it obvious that you are looking at a map app. There are butterflies in your stomach and that distinct deer-in-the-headlights look on your face.

You know how the story goes:

Eventually you stop and take a deep breath. You look around and realize the very same first-day insecurities are alive in the eyes of every other student. Your stomach settles, and your life becomes the story of another nervous freshman that has found a happy ending under the Dome.

Flash forward to your first day back from fall break. Now you don’t feel quite as lost among the trees in God Quad. You know to stay off the grass and where the trees look the most incredible in their new fall colors. Finally, you’re starting to call Notre Dame home.

You love your campus and the community here. You still have little moments in which you can’t believe you’re actually here. You decide to take a walk and go watch the sunset from South Quad. Then you decide maybe you’ll go to LaFun, back to your dorm or to your next night class.

You’re just minding your own business when you happen to overhear it. Maybe you don’t recognize it as important at first.

“ Oh, you’re a minority? Did they give you a full scholarship to fill that quota?”

“You’re black and Native American? Why aren’t you at Harvard?”

“Can I touch your hair?”

Unable to think of what else to do, you choose to ignore it.

But you can’t shake the feeling that the girl whose hair is being touched looks a bit uncomfortable or that the guy who didn’t “go to Harvard” got here by working hard, like you did.

Here is the twist to that story:

It’s been weeks since those first few disorienting days and the headlights have faded into the distance. Long after your roommate, quadmates and floormates have started to feel at home, you have to admit you still feel like a bit of an outsider.

To be honest, it’s unnerving to walk across a room or a quad or a hall and feel like you stand out, but you’ve learned to deal with it, and you feel life is good. A fall chill hits your face, and you pull your hood up on your jacket to keep your ears warm.

You try to ignore the fact that the police car driving in front of LaFun has been stopping every time you pretend to look down to check the time to watch you. Before long, this becomes “just another Tuesday night.”

One day, you find yourself standing in line at Reckers, in your dorm or in your classroom when you hear it.

Your roommate.

Your new best friend.

A perfect stranger.

The guy standing in line behind you.

And you can’t ignore it.

“ Oh, you’re a minority? Did they give you a full scholarship to fill that quota?”

“You’re black and Native American? Why aren’t you at Harvard?”

“Can I touch your hair?”

You are left speechless. How do you respond to something like that? How to feel? How can you be so sure that the person even realizes what that sounds like to you?

Though the stories written above are fictional, they are based on real situations that have been experienced by current Notre Dame students — most within the last few months. It was situations like these that pushed the Diversity Council of Notre Dame to meet at its annual Summit before the fall semester to brainstorm ways to improve existing relations between the many different groups and individuals on campus. During its meetings, the #ItsTimeND campaign was born.

#ItsTimeND seeks to emphasize the importance of remembering there is no single story that fits every single student at Notre Dame and no generalization correctly encompasses the experiences of the entire student body. The campaign is a call to awareness and acceptance of issues that, though we may never experience them ourselves, many face on a daily basis. Through the campaign, Diversity Council hopes to encourage students to elicit understanding, become educated on micro-aggressions and stereotypes and spread the belief that we as students should hold each other and ourselves accountable in our interactions with others.

The campaign kicked off this week with several events including an information session, pledge-signing and a whiteboard multimedia display. On Thursday, Diversity Council held the first talk of the “It’s Time ND” series at Legends, featuring a panel discussion regarding the cultural climate on campus and the meaning of prejudice. The panel included MSPS Director Iris Outlaw, Student Body President Bryan Ricketts, GRC Assistant Director Maureen Doyle and Director of Africana Studies Maria McKenna.

It is key to remember that #ItsTimeND is more than a week-long campaign. It is about fundamentally becoming aware and changing the manner in which we live, look at and treat others. In the words of Fr. Hesburgh during his 1975 address, “The Endless Conversation,” “Notre Dame can and must be a crossroads where all the vital intellectual currents of our time meet in dialogue … where differences of culture and religion and conviction can co-exist with friendship, civility, hospitality, respect and love; a place where the endless conversation is harbored and not foreclosed.” Diversity Council invites you to join the conversation.

To learn more or get involved, please visit:

Facebook: It’s Time ND

Twitter: @ItsTimeND

Hashtag: #ItsTimeND

Website: http://diversnd.wix.com/diversitycouncilofnd

The Diversity Council
Niko Porter
Lauren Hill
Rosemary Agwuncha
Jessica Altamirano
Arlyn Barlaan
Libertad Heredia

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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