Notre Dame News: Things to Know
Observer Staff Report | Friday, August 18, 2017
University in national spotlight over sexual assault cases
In 2015, CNN released a documentary, “The Hunting Ground,” which examined how colleges and universities mishandle sexual assault cases. Featuring Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, the documentary highlighted multiple cases where the University and the College failed to respond to reports by Saint Mary’s students who accused Notre Dame students of sexual assault. The documentary inspired activism by students, faculty and alumni to urge the College and the University to change their practices regarding sexual assault. In 2017, “The Hunting Ground” producer Amy Ziering spoke on campus at a Student Union Board event.
University involved in legal battles
In 2012, the University sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seeking an exemption from the Obamacare requirement that employers provide contraceptive access. The suit and its appeals were ultimately unsuccessful. In 2015, ESPN sued the University for access to police records on student athletes accused of crimes. An appellate court sided with ESPN, saying NDSP was a public agency subject to open records laws, but it is unclear which records the network will get and when. As a result of the suit, a bill was introduced in the Indiana state legislature intended to clarify open records laws, but was vetoed by then-Governor Mike Pence.
First official LGBT student organization formed
In 2013, campus saw the first meetings of PrismND, Notre Dame’s first official organization for LGBT students. Students had been attempting to start such an organization for decades, and after a months-long review of resources for the LGBT community at Notre Dame — resulting in a pastoral plan — PrismND was approved.
Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who built ND for 50 years, dies in 2015
During Hesburgh’s 30-year presidency, women were admitted to the University and laypeople to the board of trustees, and Notre Dame’s national profile rose. The Holy Cross priest — who was photographed arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King Jr. and said a Mass in the then-Soviet Union, was a campus institution — students considered it an honor to visit his office on the 14th floor of the library named after him. When he died at 97, U.S. presidents and Nobel Prize winners offered condolences. He left a legacy of civil rights activism and academic freedom in Catholic education, as well as a premier Catholic research university.
Football team goes to 2013 national championship
After years of mediocre football at Notre Dame Stadium, the storyline changed dramatically in 2012, when the Irish posted a perfect regular season en route to a BCS National Championship Game loss to Alabama. A lights-out defense, led by Heisman Trophy runner-up linebacker Manti Te’o, propelled the Irish to the title game, but Notre Dame failed to mount a challenge in South Florida, falling 42-14 to the Crimson Tide on the season’s biggest stage.
University starts new construction projects
The past several years saw much construction and renovation. Campus Crossroads, a $400-million project that added academic departments and student spaces to the football stadium, began in 2014 and is scheduled to be completed in 2017. In 2015, Hesburgh Library began a renovation which gave several floors a more open plan. Two new dorm buildings, Flaherty and Dunne Halls, were built, as was McCourtney Hall, a research building. Jenkins Hall, which will house the Keough School of Global Affairs, is slated to open in Fall 2017.
New college created for the first time in decades
In 2014, the University announced the creation of the Keough School of Global Affairs, which will offer academic programs for undergraduate and graduate students, work with Notre Dame’s centers abroad and other internationally-focused institutes and offer a new Masters in Global Affairs.
University adjusts Notre Dame Core Curriculum
Every 10 years, the University reviews its Core Curriculum, the set of courses that every student must take. The process began in 2014, briefly sparking fears that the University theology requirement would be reduced or eliminated. A Core Curriculum committee solicited ideas and feedback from the Notre Dame community and in November 2015 released its recommendations, proposing a revision that would reduce the total number of core courses and require students to take classes in broader categories such as “quantitative analysis” and “aesthetic analysis,” as opposed to math or fine arts. The University released a final report of changes to be implemented for the freshman class of 2022 in the fall of 2018.
PE course replaced with Moreau First-Year Experience
For decades, Notre Dame required its freshmen to pass a swim test or take swimming lessons, as well as complete a physical education course. For the incoming class of 2019 those requirements were eliminated to some controversy. The replacement was the Moreau First-Year Experience, a one-credit class that addressed aspects of wellness, cultural competence and student life.
Biden, Boehner receive prestigious Laetare Medal amid outcry
The Laetare Medal is considered one of the most prestigious awards for American Catholics. The 2016 medal was jointly awarded to Vice President Joe Biden and former Speaker of the House John Boehner, a gesture by University President Fr. John Jenkins to encourage bipartisan dialogue. The award sparked an outcry among students, alumni and conservative groups, who criticized the decision to award the pro-choice Vice President and the pro-death penalty Speaker. Both politicians attended the 2016 commencement ceremony and received the medal.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to 2017 graduates, students walk out in protest
Rather than hosting the sitting president as Notre Dame’s Commencement speaker during his first year in office — a decision that ignited controversy when Barack Obama spoke in 2009 — the University invited current Vice President and former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence to be its 2017 Commencement speaker. The selection of Pence as Commencement speaker was met with widespread protest across campus. Students cited Pence’s record on LGBT issues as a particular point of contention and organized a rainbow pride flag drive to show solidarity against Pence. These flags, a symbol of the LGBT community, were hung from windows throughout campus. During the Commencement ceremony, approximately 100 graduates stood and exited Notre Dame stadium as Pence began his address.