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GRC hosts StaND Against Hate Week alumni panel

| Thursday, November 10, 2016

Every November, the Gender Relations Center (GRC) and several cosponsors host StaND Against Hate Week, a series of events aimed at creating dialogue within the Notre Dame community.

This year, during an especially divisive election, the series included hosting four alumni to speak at Wednesday night’s Holy Cross Education and Civil Discourse Panel, held at Legends of Notre Dame.

“We were thinking about StaND Against Hate Week, and knew it was going to come in the middle of the national elections,” GRC director Christine Caron Gebhardt said. “We really took to heart one of the things we think Notre Dame is trying to promote, the role of civil discourse, particularly around the common good, responsible citizenship, and how the Holy Cross values impact that.” 

The alumni panel was a change from previous years, when the GRC has brought in a nationally renowned guest speaker, Gebhardt said.  

“We decided this is a great opportunity for students to hear from alumni, and that was more of our focus, to ground this week in the human experience, rather than taking a concept that might seem very theoretical or vague, to start with our students to have that conversation,” she said.

The focus of the panel was how Notre Dame and a Holy Cross education can prepare students to engage issues of diversity and inclusion once they leave campus.

Amanda Pena, a 2015 graduate who was GRC Firestarter and the president of Latino Honor Society while attending the University, said she was overwhelmed by the “lack of diversity” on campus until she became involved in student groups. After graduating, she moved to Portland, Oregon, to complete a year of service, thinking she could “deal with anything.”

“It’s a lot of people who have these progressive ideas, and I thought I was going to a progressive and inclusive place — I felt like more of a minority [in Portland] than I ever did at Notre Dame,” she said. “Out of college, there aren’t those networks for you to tap into. For me, a lot of what those initiatives started to look like was tackling it from the organization I was working through.”

James Jones, a 2013 graduate, former member of the Notre Dame chapter of the NAACP and officer of Voices of Faith, also said Notre Dame prepares students to create their own “platforms” in the professional world.

“In the corporate environment, those platforms might not be there, and you might have to prepare them yourselves,” he said. “Notre Dame prepares you to know what those platforms should look like.”

2014 graduate Olivia Kacsits was a member of the varsity rowing team when she helped spur the production of Notre Dame’s “You Can Play” project video, which was intended to show support for LGBT students involved in University athletics. She said that, in order to affect positive change, students must be willing to “be uncomfortable.”

“It’s not bad to be uncomfortable, or even just to put yourself in uncomfortable situations,” she said. “Maybe it’s just having a conversation with someone with opposing views.”

A former member of Voices of Faith, 2012 graduate Eugene Staples encouraged members of the audience to continue to follow their passions for “positive change and inclusion.”

“You should go get lost in that thing that you love,” he said. “You’re here tonight participating in a discussion about civil discourse, so you’re already a particular type of person. You’re already cognizant; you’re already woke. We need you out in the world.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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