Year in Review: 2017-2018
Observer Staff Report | Friday, May 18, 2018
University hosts solar eclipse watch
On Aug. 21, the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1979 took place from 12:57 p.m. until 3:44 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. At Notre Dame, which was more than 200 miles north of the eclipse’s path of totality (where the sun is completely covered by the moon), viewers could see roughly 89 percent coverage of the sun.
Notre Dame’s physics department hosted an event for spectators, handing out free viewing sunglasses and manning three telescopes to watch the eclipse. In addition, two rooms in Jordan held viewings of NASA’s live stream of the eclipse while physics professor Grant Mathews gave a short lecture about the eclipse.
Renovated football stadium opens
A newly renovated Notre Dame Stadium opened at the beginning of the 2017 fall semester, after construction began in 2014 as part of the Campus Crossroads project.
The renovated stadium included a new 54-feet high by 96-feet wide video board, new aluminum benches and railings in the lower bowl area of the stadium.
During a press tour Aug. 11, executive producer of live events for Notre Dame athletics Mike Bonner told The Observer the new video board would enhance the game-day experience for fans by allowing them to watch replays of the games.
“Replays, replays, replays — that’s what our fans want, and that’s what we’re going to give them,” Bonner said. “And I can do that … I will be taking in upwards of — between our feeds and NBC’s feeds and other robotic cameras — 27, 28 different replay angles that I can take at any time.”
The stadium also featured new art-deco style decorations, including a Hall of Fame style display recognizing football monogram winners. Associate athletics director Beth Hunter said the updates were meant to modernize the stadium while also honoring the football program’s past.
“Our goal was to blend tradition with the most innovative technology,” Hunter said during the press tour. “We approached the renovation thinking, ‘What would Knute Rockne build today?’”
Trump administration proclaims end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program
On Sept. 5, 2017, United States attorney general Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration would be ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program grants legal status to undocumented individuals brought to the country as children and allows them to live and work in the United States. Following the announcement, President Trump said he was giving Congress a six-month deadline to legislate a replacement to the program. Congress has yet to replace the program, leaving its 800,000 recipients in legal limbo.
Since 2014, Notre Dame has admitted 62 students who are DACA recipients. These members of the community all face uncertainty due to their legal status. University President Fr. John Jenkins condemned the decision to end the program shortly after it was announced.
“A decision to discontinue DACA would be foolish, cruel and un-American,” Jenkins said in a statement. “Foolish because it drives away talented people the country needs; cruel because it abandons people who have done nothing wrong and have known life only in the United States; and un-American because we have always welcomed immigrants to our land of opportunity.”
Saint Mary’s also enrolls a number of DACA recipients. College President Jan Cervelli released a statement outlining the dedication she and Saint Mary’s has made to continue supporting DACA recipients following the announcement of the discontinuation of the DACA program.
“The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy has been beneficial to the United States and upholds the country’s highest ideals of providing opportunity to those who dream of building a life for themselves here,” Cervelli said in a statement. “The positive impact has been evident in higher education, where students here under DACA have developed their talents to become valuable contributors to their communities and to our nation. Saint Mary’s supports continuing the DACA program to serve the best interests of the United States and the young people brought to this country as children who have made it their home.”
University declares new six-semester housing policy requirement
In an email addressed to the Notre Dame student body Sept. 13, 2017, the University announced students will be required to live on campus for six semesters beginning with the class of 2022. The change was enacted after a year-long study looked into the trend of upperclassmen moving off campus and student feedback showed there was a lack of senior incentives to remain on campus.
In an interview with The Observer in September, Heather Rakoczy Russell, associate vice president for residential life, said the new policy is being implemented to help incentivize seniors to stay on campus and also because of the importance of the “formation that happens in [Notre Dame] residence halls.” The email said the requirement counts study abroad towards the six semesters, and the University is seeking funding for two new residence halls to alleviate overcrowding in dorms.
High-profile speakers visit Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s
Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s hosted several high-profile speakers in October 2017.
Former White House chiefs of staff Andrew Card and Denis McDonough spoke at Notre Dame on Oct. 5, 2017. Card served as the chief of staff to former President George W. Bush from 2001-2006, while McDonough served as chief of staff to former President Barack Obama from 2013-2017.
During a discussion entitled “Views from the West Wing: How Global Trends Shape U.S. Foreign Policy,” Card and McDonough reflected on their time in the West Wing and offered advice to President Trump’s White House, particularly regarding the current administration’s communications strategy.
“Taste your words before you spit them out,” Card said. “The words that a president uses are very, very significant. They impact the White House staff, they create a climate that Congress then has to consider, they motivate people, they generate emotion and they sometimes call others to action.”
“A particular result I think we need is a return to more civil discourse, of the type that I often have with Andy,” McDonough said. “Particularly in light of what’s happening in Washington, I think there is a great responsibility on us to return to civil discourse.”
Author Margaret Atwood came to Saint Mary’s on Oct. 25, 2017. She discussed her 1985 novel ”The Handmaid’s Tale,” which has recently been adapted to an Emmy-winning television series on Hulu.
Atwood’s lecture served as the annual Christian Culture Lecture, which explores Western culture through a Christian lens. Atwood explored the ways in which ”The Handmaid’s Tale” continues to be relevant today, more than thirty years after its publication.
“This novel, which by now ought to have become quaint and archaic, has become more believable over time, not less,” Atwood said. “The iconic red and white outfit is now an internationally understandable meme popping up in state legislatures and cosplay conventions alike.”
Notre Dame announces changes to contraceptive coverage policy
After the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reversed a rule on Oct. 6, 2017 that required employers to provide health insurance covering FDA-approved contraceptives, the University announced a series of changes to its contraceptive policies.
The University had previously been required to provide contraceptive coverage to employees through a third-party, government-funded insurer, under the former HHS mandate, a part of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. On May 21, 2012, Notre Dame filed a lawsuit challenging the mandate, and on May 19, 2015, a federal court of appeals ruled against the University.
Following the reversal of the mandate, the Graduate Workers Collective of Notre Dame hosted a demonstration out of concern the University would end contraceptive coverage through its third party insurer. On Oct. 27, 2017 Notre Dame announced the University health plan would no longer cover contraceptives through a third-party insurer.
Approximately a week later, on Nov. 7, 2017 the University emailed faculty and staff to inform them that the University health plan would continue to include no-cost contraceptive coverage. University President Fr. John Jenkins also announced the changes in his annual address to faculty the next day.
In an emailed statement to the South Bend Tribune, University spokesman Paul Browne said the University had believed its third party insurers would discontinue contraceptive coverage at the end of year. However, Browne said the University was later informed its insurers would “continue such coverage indefinitely.”
“Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, follows Catholic teaching about the use of contraceptives and engaged in the recent lawsuit to protect its freedom to act in accord with its principles,” Browne said to the Tribune. “Recognizing, however, the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the University.”
On Feb. 7, 2018 the University changed its contraceptive policy again, abandoning third-party contraceptive coverage, as this plan included abortifacients. Instead, Notre Dame announced it would provide coverage of “simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception)” in the University’s own health plan.
In response to this change, a group of students founded Irish 4 Reproductive Health to advocate for contraceptive access on campus.
In an email to University employees, Jenkins said Notre Dame sought to reconcile tensions between the school’s Catholic mission and the needs of its non-Catholic employees.
“That tension is particularly pronounced in the area of health care, where the University recognizes its responsibility, grounded in its Catholic mission, to provide health insurance to employees, their families and many students, and most of those covered have no financially feasible alternative but to rely on the University for such coverage,” he said in the email.
Duncan Student Center opens
Notre Dame opened a new student recreational facility, the “Duncan Student Center,” at the start of 2018 completing the $400 million “Campus Crossroads Project.” The center, which is meant to complement the LaFortune Student Center, sits at the west side of Notre Dame Stadium and is nine stories tall. It was designed with the help of student feedback and features RecSports, three new campus dining options, the Center for Career Development, most student media, a new ballroom and more event space. Its decor consists of homages to Notre Dame’s football program and incorporates student art.
NCAA denies appeal, Notre Dame vacates football wins from 2012-2013, 2013-2014
On Feb. 13, the NCAA denied Notre Dame’s appeal in its academic misconduct case, vacating all of the University’s football wins from the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons.
University President Fr. John Jenkins released a statement in response to the decision, saying the University was “deeply disappointed by and strongly disagree with the denial of the University’s appeal.”
“At best, the NCAA’s decision in this case creates a randomness of outcome based solely on how an institution chooses to define its honor code; at worst, it creates an incentive for colleges and universities to change their honor codes to avoid sanctions like that imposed here,” Jenkins said in the statement.
The penalties arose as a result of a former student-athletic trainer committing academic misconduct on behalf of two football players and providing six others with impermissible academic benefits. Another player committed academic misconduct on his own.
One of the two students who committed academic misconduct with the trainer competed while ineligible throughout the 2012 football season and the other competed while ineligible during the 2013 season. The third player who committed academic misconduct played in five games of the 2013 season.
The NCAA announced its original decision in November 2016. Notre Dame football went 12-1 in the 2012-13 season, losing only to Alabama in the BCS national championship game, and went 9-4 in 2013-14.
Renovated Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex dedicated
In January 2018, the renovated Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex opened its doors. It features all-new gym equipment, as well as multiple lounges, television viewing spaces and a brand new cafe.
The facility was dedicated in March 2018. The formal dedication ceremony included the blessing of the building and was followed by remarks from class of 1961 alumna Susan Fitzgerald Rice and senior Carmela LaGambina-Lockwitz, student trustee.
Rice is one of three chairs of the College’s “Faith Always, Action Now” campaign, which was involved in the organization of the renovations.
Rice said this facility serves an important purpose in allowing for the education of the whole woman.
“When I was a student during the presidency of Sr. Madeleva, we were taught about the importance of education of the whole woman,” Rice said. “Looking back, however, it’s clear athletics wasn’t a high priority.”
From then to now, Rice said the College has reflected an increased awareness of the importance of health and fitness.
“Today, the concept of the whole woman recognizes that good health stimulates a good intellectual, spiritual life that is demonstrated at Saint Mary’s College,” Rice said. “ … Today, we are blessed to live in a country that ensures athletic opportunities are equal in high schools and higher education.”
LaGambina-Lockwitz said that the fitness opportunities provided by the renovated Complex represent more than just health, giving a place for the community to spend time.
“While Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex provides a wonderful space to go for a run on one of the brand new treadmills or take a yoga class in one of the three new multipurpose workout rooms, it is so much more than just a fitness facility,” LaGambina-Lockwitz said.
Notre Dame hosts IDEA Week
The University’s IDEA Center hosted its first ever IDEA Week from April 20 to 29 to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the Notre Dame and South Bend communities.
The week featured a number of workshops, competitions and speakers, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” and Daymond John, CEO of FUBU. IDEA week also included performances by the Chainsmokers and comedian Gabriel Iglesias.
Associate provost and vice president of innovation Bryan Ritchie said this year’s IDEA Week is not a one-time event, but rather a long-term initiative.
“What we’re really doing is we realize this is a multi-year effort,” he said in an interview with The Observer in April. “This isn’t a one and done. This is something we’ve got to do this year and next year and the next year and then if we can just get this to a point where people say ‘Wow, that was great. I’d come back again, that’s a win.”