Student senate supports removal of Columbus murals in Main Building
Mary Bernard | Thursday, March 1, 2018
Senators voted to support a removal of Luigi Gregori’s Christopher Columbus murals from the Main Building during student senate Wednesday.
The resolution passed with 28 senators in support, 3 in opposition and 2 abstentions. Senate took the vote with a paper ballot, as requested by multiple senators.
The president and vice president of the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame (NASAND) — seniors Dominic Acri and Armani Porter, respectively — presented to the senate regarding the misrepresentation of indigenous and black people in the murals.
Acri and Porter said the murals are historically incorrect in the ways they depict Columbus’s arrival to the Americas, Columbus’s reception by the indigenous people and the dress of the tribes which the murals supposedly depict.
Porter said the scenes in the murals also contradict the Catholic Social Teaching principle of the life and dignity of the human person.
“To have a mural like this up on our grounds is not only an affront to those represented, but an affront to our identity as a Catholic university,” he said.
Pamphlets explaining the murals, as requested by Native American student groups in the 1990s, appear next to the 11-foot murals.
“This version of the pamphlet has been there since January 2016,” Acri said. “If none of you in this room have picked it up, though I’m sure many of you have walked through the building, I think that just goes further to illustrate my point that no amount of extra information put into a pamphlet … could do the sort of things that you guys could do today with this resolution.”
Because of their location in the Main Building, the murals are a negative representation of black and indigenous people to both current and prospective students, Acri said.
“In everything from asking our first questions to the Admissions Office as prospective students, to using the offices and classrooms in the building, we are constantly reminded that the place like the Golden Dome is not actually a place for us,” he said.
NASAND does not have a stance on where the murals should go, but does not believe that covering the murals with a tapestry is enough, Acri said. Ideally, he said, the murals would go to a museum where they can be viewed in an academic context.
The student senate voted in support of the murals’ removal, but the decision will ultimately fall to the President’s Leadership Council, Acri said.
Student senate also voted to repeal a mandate in the Student Union Constitution that Hall of the Year scores be mandatorily published to the student body.
Senior Brandon Ryan, co-chair of Hall Presidents’ Council, presented to senate about the detriment of making the numerical results public.
“Sometimes the Hall Presidents’ Council — which should be an organization that is supposed to support … hall presidents — has turned into a really competitive organization between the halls,” Ryan said.
Repealing the mandate means HPC does not have to release the scores and rankings, but they can if they choose to do so, Ryan said. This change leaves the decision to the HPC leadership each year. Individuals can still request the results, and the six members of the leadership team will decide whether or not to grant that request.
Although the repeal might limit the number of people who know the rankings of the Hall of the Year competitions each year, Ryan said both HPC and the Rector’s Council support the repeal.
“There is no reason to promote transparency where that is actually hurting other people,” he said.
Student senate also heard from the Waiver Policy Subcommittee regarding a proposal for a waiver system that will accompany the new housing policy.
The waiver will allow students to request to move off campus earlier than their senior year.
“We thought pretty extensively about why they would move off campus,” William Huffman, sophomore and Stanford Hall senator, said.
A few of the reasons a student might desire to move off campus include one’s sexuality, an experience of sexual assault or harassment, socioeconomic concerns or extenuating family circumstances.
The proposed waiver allows a student to have someone advocate for the student’s need to move off campus. The advocates include counselors from the UCC, administrators, rectors, friends and parents, among others, which can be used depending on the situation and the necessity for privacy.
“In any situation, you can go to different levels of people to get someone to quantify your story,” Morgan Williams, junior and McGlinn Hall senator, said. “It’s our way to make it so you can sign a piece of paper and say you waive yourself from the housing requirement, because that’s what you should be able to do, but with more legitimacy for the administration.”
Student senate also passed a nomination to make junior Jin Kim the Student Union treasurer. Kim is a current assistant Student Union treasurer and will replace senior Alexandra Henderson.
“Jin expressed great enthusiasm towards continuing his work with FMB [Financial Management Board] and the Student Union, and is an extremely qualified candidate,” Henderson wrote in her nomination. “He has held office hours regularly, responded to inquiries about the Shirt Charity Fund application process … and has also had the experience of running an FMB meeting.”