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Observer Editorial: A call to campus dialogue

| Friday, March 29, 2019

This week, The Observer has heard from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, alumni, and, of course, many legging-wearing women. Having received over 35 letters to The Observer, in addition to the countless verbal comments, tweets, memes and class discussions about Monday’s letter, we have been astonished by the conversations the leggings piece has sparked.

As the week closes, we want to reiterate that creating these conversations is exactly the purpose of the Viewpoint section. From our reader-submitted letters to the editor to biweekly opinion pieces by our columnists, Viewpoint’s goal is to encourage discourse both on campus and beyond. While Maryann White’s opinion has been in the minority of those who have written to Viewpoint, she, too, deserves the opportunity to voice her perspective. It is also important to consider that she likely represents a number of readers who shy away from publishing signed opinions for all to read, as several comments on the letter itself indicate.

The Viewpoint section is not, and never has been, a simple reflection of the most popular beliefs on campus. It is, instead, a forum on which our readers can express their opinions, even if those opinions conflict with that of the mainstream.

While a majority of the letters we have received in response ultimately contains a message of support for legging-wearers, it is encouraging to see our readers draw on a wide range of ideas in expressing their opinions. People have dissented or defended Monday’s letter on the basis of religious, cultural, academic and political beliefs. This diversity of thought ensures Viewpoint will be a sample of the distinct lenses readers use when exploring an issue and not a magnifier of a singular voice, majority or minority.

Although Viewpoint places an explicit focus on the written opinions of tri-campus community members, the buzz surrounding Maryann’s letter raises important questions about the role of activism on college campuses. What are we, as college students and people, willing to fight for? Why has the legging controversy generated a larger impact than other controversial topics? Students and community members have spent hours debating the merits and faults of a popular clothing choice. But where is the willingness to speak up about other issues with substantial policy implications, legally and on campus?

While many readers have strongly expressed beliefs that Maryann’s opinion is misguided, this campus-wide energy is rarely seen when other policy issues arise. As important as it is to engage in the specific conversation Monday’s letter prompted, we should not shy away from debating the underlying issues — such as the objectification of women — more explicitly. Notre Dame’s campus and the nation have engaged in what seems to be an easy fight in responding to Monday’s letter, which is good. That said, we hope to see a campus discourse that is not afraid to tackle the bigger questions, either.

The Observer is always happy to hear from our readers, but, most of all, we’re happy to print the material that stimulates discussions beyond what can fit within the Viewpoint pages. So, to those of you who have written in — including Maryann — thank you for speaking up. Your voices are always welcome. And to the rest of you — thank you for reading.

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