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viewpoint

Purpose of parietals

| Tuesday, November 19, 2019

“Because we are committed to a Christian ideal of community and to the growth and formation of each individual, the ties that bind members of this community are not always the same as those within society at large. The University’s expectations for conduct go beyond what is minimally required for maintaining public order, as we actively seek what is good and life-giving both for the individual and for the University community.”

These are words that you sign on to when you enroll as a student at the University of Notre Dame.

Early Sunday morning, a group of students staged a “sit-in” in Stanford Hall to protest parietals. When they were asked to leave and then subsequently penalized for ignoring both hall staff and NDSP, they complained. One particular student wrote a letter to the editor to The Observer.

As a recent female alum and a former resident assistant, I can confidently tell you the purpose of parietals is not to “protect white, cis-heteronormative hegemony,” nor is it “an institutional attack against womxn, gender non-conforming students and the poor.”

When you decide to attend a Catholic university, you cannot balk at rules and regulations that are in line with Catholic teaching. The Church, and Notre Dame, hold that sex is only acceptable within marriage between a man and a woman — Notre Dame is not, and should not, be interested in fostering an environment where students are free to engage in activities they see as morally reprehensible. The Church, and therefore Notre Dame, hold that gender is determined by biological sex at birth. In order to stay true to Church teachings, Notre Dame must determine student housing on this basis.

The Church still calls for us to “respect every person in their particularity and difference, so that no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults or unjust discrimination based on their specific characteristics (such as special needs, race, religion, sexual tendencies, etc.).” However, respecting and loving a person does not necessitate affirming their choices or lifestyle — and this equally applies to cis-gender, heterosexual couples who are engaging in extramarital sex. Yes, Jesus saved an adulterous woman from being stoned, reminding the righteous that all people are sinners. But, he also commanded her, “Go and sin no more.” Showing grace and love is not the same as affirming wrongs.

There are absolutely problems on Notre Dame’s campus — such as sexual assault — but (sadly) these aren’t unique to ND. These issues run rampant at most universities, which likely means parietals are not to blame. There is an issue with dorm life, namely that there is an inequality of enforcement of many Community Standards between women’s and men’s dorms, and that can cause massive problems (including essentially letting parietals slide anyhow!). But getting rid of parietals will not help to encourage a more respectful culture among any genders (when that’s a concern). There’s a much deeper cultural shift that needs to occur. So instead of attacking parietals, which has many benefits for residential communities, perhaps we should call for more equal enforcement of the guidelines that do exist.

Finally, if the real issue is you wanting to stay the night in your significant other’s dorm, every student on campus knows it’s pretty easy to do (People only tend to get punished when they’re sitting in front of the rector’s door at 4 a.m.). Or just transfer to a Jesuit University.

Julia O’Donnell
class of 2017
Nov. 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email [email protected]

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