We, not me, are ND
Diversity Council | Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Notre Dame is proud to share that 81 percent of the freshman class of 2017 self-identified as Catholic. Our non-Catholic students gain knowledge of the Catholic faith through the required theology courses and campus life, which is permeated with the faith. Yet, when I consider issues on campus about which people feel strongly, and in particular, the approach to discussing diversity and inclusion, I am given pause. Students speak very passionately of their political beliefs, but even more passionately criticize those with whom they disagree. This passion was evident in the recent student government election, and more so in the runoff election.
One criticism that stood out to me was made by an ardent campaigner. The student gave numerous reasons not to vote for the other ticket. Although many of the arguments were fair, the student ended by adding that the opposition intended to support DACA students without promoting or condemning a particular political viewpoint, and that this was not possible because DACA is a hotly-contested political issue. After the election, another student commented that minority student groups must come together to challenge and work against student government officials to improve the campus culture, while noting that a student government official has been affiliated with the College Republicans.
While DACA is at the forefront of the current political debate, why must we approach it this way?
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that DACA is a humanitarian issue, and a concern of the Church under Catholic Social Teaching. Notre Dame’s mission statement includes creating “a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” At this university, we should take issues that concern our fellow students and all of humanity out of a political context, and approach them under what binds the University together — the Catholic faith. Encouraging students to work against each other, vilifying students for their political affiliation and perpetuating negative perceptions of student groups, based on past leadership, create divisiveness and stagnation. Each new academic year is an opportunity for students to improve the campus culture. We can make Notre Dame better by bringing together people of differing views. While this is easier said than done, the way to bring people together is through what unites all of us — this University and the Catholic faith upon which it was founded. The current campus culture focuses on issues related to politics, pitting Democrats versus Republicans or conservatives versus liberals. This mentality instills and reinforces within students an “us versus them” perspective, with no common ground acknowledged. But what does this mean for efforts to make the Notre Dame community a home for all students? If students continue to perpetuate the belief that groups of dissenting political, religious, socioeconomic or any other division cannot and will not work together, then each student will only ever have “MY Notre Dame,” unique to one’s own experience, and we will never have “OUR Notre Dame,” the shared experience of all graduates of Our Lady’s University.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.