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Observer Editorial: Stand against hate every week

| Friday, November 16, 2018

We’ve all been there. We’ve heard those off-the-cuff phrases that are tossed around in class or in the hall. And many of us have experienced the moments, or months, of isolation and loneliness.

In October, Notre Dame released the results of its Inclusive Campus Student Survey, which was administered to the student body in February and received a 52 percent response rate. The survey revealed that 47 percent of Notre Dame students have experienced adverse treatment over the course of their time at the University. This adverse treatment was related to a number of personal characteristics — including political views, race, sex, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and disability — but the bottom line is that discrimination in many forms, both informal and formal, exists on Notre Dame’s campus. Discrimination frequently manifests in the form of verbal comments, but students also often experience mocking and offensive jokes, stereotyping and a feeling of exclusion or isolation. According to the survey, adverse experiences have become disturbingly normalized on Notre Dame’s campus.

No individual, on this campus or anywhere, should have to endure discrimination. Those types of actions should never be tolerated. Belonging is one of the most important aspects of anyone’s life and particularly in their college experience and it can be difficult to achieve. However, for those who are unfairly marginalized or written off for a simple personal characteristic, the experience is even more difficult.

The Inclusive Campus Student Survey results highlight many of the challenges and prejudices members of the Notre Dame community face on a daily basis. Of the more than 6,200 respondents to the survey, 24 of them identified themselves as transgender or non-binary, meaning they selected more than one gender on the survey or identify as gender fluid, gender non-conforming or genderqueer. Of those students, 21 percent and 13 percent strongly disagreed and somewhat disagreed, respectively, with the statement: “I feel a sense of belonging at Notre Dame.” Additionally, a striking 13 percent of Notre Dame students have experienced differential treatment due to their race or ethnicity, and 12 percent of students have experienced the same because of their religious beliefs.

This week, the Notre Dame community came together to celebrate StaND Against Hate Week. The purpose of this week is to promote a safe and welcoming community for “individuals of all races, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class and nationality,” according to the description of the week on its official Facebook page.

Throughout the week, members of the tri-campus community came together to sit down and dialogue and learn, to listen to one another and pray. From a panel discussion on whether or not “Black Lives Matter” is a pro-life issue on Monday to Thursday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, students from all walks of life at Notre Dame worked together to foster discussions about inclusivity. The week, which is put on by the Gender Relations Center and co-sponsored by a variety of Notre Dame groups, provides the perfect platform to start changing some of those alarming statistics from the Inclusive Campus Student Survey.

We, The Observer Editorial Board, hope you took the chance this week to step outside your comfort zone and to learn about a group other than your own. We hope you were able to at least begin to learn strategies for standing against the hate that runs rampant in our world, in our country and on our campus.

We urge you to take part in the week’s final event: signing the StaND Against Hate Week Pledge, to “show commitment to create a safe, welcoming and inclusive community for individuals of all races, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class and nationality.” The Pledge will be available to sign from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Fieldhouse Mall. It marks a continued commitment to maintaining the values of StaND Against Hate Week in one’s everyday life.

StaND Against Hate Week may only span five days, but lessons learned do not have to end this week. It is important to treat this week as a launching pad for important conversations and learning that clearly still need to take place on this campus. StaND Against Hate Week is a great first step toward including all members of the community and helping to educate the community, but its benefits are lost if we do not treat each and every day as if it were part of StaND Against Hate Week.

Forty-seven percent of the Notre Dame community experiencing adverse treatment is too high. Any one person feeling left out or excluded due to the characteristics that make them who they are is too many. This week, and every week, we encourage you to do your part in lowering that number to zero.

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