“Students’ safety comes first:” Demonstrations against parietals continue, cautiously
A few minutes before 11 p.m. Thursday, as rain continued to sprinkle down, 17 students gathered outside Coleman-Morse to prepare for their second demonstration in Sorin College.
Some lived on campus, some off. But they were united in a common mission: to rid the University of parietals and end hate speech on campus.
“We want this to be peaceful, and we want this to be loving, and unifying, and working towards building community rather than tearing it apart,” senior Anne Jarrett, one of the leaders of End Hate at ND, said.
Senior Savanna Morgan, also a leader of the movement, gathered with the students outside, reminding them of the demands and procedures for the demonstration. According to the group’s Instagram page, the students want to end parietals, call out hate speech, decolonize academia, decolonize the University’s land and implement diversity training in each dorm.
Parietals are the University-regulated visitation hours when students can be inside an opposite-sex dorm. On week nights, students cannot be in an opposite-sex dorm after midnight; on weekends, the students must leave by 2 a.m.
Soon, they headed inside Sorin. One student stayed outside — senior Drew Lischke, where he read aloud from the Communist Manifesto.
The students entered the dorm carrying flyers titled “Why Parietals?”
“Parietals trap survivors in unsafe situations,” the flyer read. “ … Parietals institutionalize and normalize division … Parietals also disproportionately affect marginalized groups … Parietals disproportionately affect the poor.”
The students first demonstrated Sunday at Stanford Hall following reports of “biased slurs” being directed at individuals in Stanford and Keenan Halls on Nov. 15 and 16. Around 30 students remained in Stanford from 2 to around 5 a.m., leaving only after University staff and the Notre Dame Police Department threatened protesters with expulsion.
At the peak of the protest Thursday night, there were around 45 students present, roughly half of whom were demonstrators. The rest were Sorin residents.
Residents engaged in discussion with protesters and expressed a wide variety of opinions regarding parietals. The Observer asked multiple Sorin residents for comment; several declined to speak on the record.
“I didn’t really think about how parietals affected some groups, and I’m very open to what they’re saying,” freshman Michael Harrington, a Sorin resident, said. “… I think [the demonstration] is a good way to inform people of what they’re trying to say.”
Sophomore Tony Perez, also a Sorin resident, attended Sunday’s protest. After further reflection, he decided he wanted to attend Thursday’s protest as well, and joined the group in front of Coleman-Morse before the students walked to the dorm.
After talking with fellow residents during the sit-in and attending the prayer service, Perez said he felt the night had produced fruitful dialogue.
“I was really proud and excited about the way not only the End Hate at ND showed up but the way the Sorin guys really came in,” Perez said. “I didn’t get the chance to talk to everyone but from people I did talk to and from what I saw around, it sounds like they were really listening actively and being open.”
Alex Ford — a sophomore who brought a red rosary with her to the protest — said she came to the sit-in mainly for religious reasons. She said she agrees with Catholic teaching that premarital sex is wrong, but is opposed to parietals because she believes it leaves students vulnerable to sexual assault.
“I think parietals does not stop anyone who’s having sex from having sex,” she said. “They’re just doing it at a different time of the day. What it does do is put people at risk for being harmed by being raped. And I think that’s a much graver and more serious sin that the University has a greater responsibility to its students to prevent.”
Morgan and Jarrett met with Erin Hoffmann Harding on Wednesday to discuss moving forward with the demonstrations. Two police officers and two people from the multicultural student programs and services also attended the meeting.
Per the recommendations discussed at the meeting, the students decided to comply with University directives to avoid the possibility of police involvement or expulsion during the demonstration. When the demonstrators were told to remain on the first floor, they did, despite wanting maximum exposure and opportunity to engage with residents.
“There will be less resistance in this protest mainly because the stakes are higher,” Morgan said before entering the dorm. “… Students’ safety comes first.”
Graduate student Morgan Widhalm was at the protest as a trained “legal observer” from a local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Widhalm explained that the role of a legal observer at a demonstration is to make sure people’s rights are being respected, regardless of the individual’s personal opinion on the protest.
Throughout the night, Widhalm took videos and notes to document the event. While legal observers mostly attend protests on public land, Widhalm said, Thursday’s sit-in was unique in that it was held at a private university.
“It’s very different in terms of it’s not necessarily [about] laws per se, as [it is] in terms of University policies that all students adhere to,” Widhalm said. “ … I know what I can say about rights under the law, but what are rights of the student? What are your responsibilities? What are you committed to under du Lac policy?”
Fr. Bob Loughery, the rector of Sorin, sent an email to residents shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday with the subject line “Guests in Sorin.”
“As you know, there have been a number of events occurring on campus this past week that have impacted members of the Notre Dame community,” the email read. “… Remember our guest policy … as the host, you are responsible for the guest’s behavior, that the guest is respectful of our community and our home.”
The email made no mention of the night’s demonstration, but organizers gave Loughery 24 hours notice that the event would take place in his dorm. During the event, Loughery engaged with the demonstrators and Sorin residents.
“I want to see them continue to move in this direction,” Loughery said. “I think this is a good experience and a good model for how to engage the community. … I think what we did tonight works.”
A damp Lischke closed the Manifesto and came inside for the prayer service, after reading, mostly to no one, for nearly an hour.
The prayer service was held in the chapel shortly after midnight. The chapel is not a 24-hour space, but the protestors were told there would be no retribution for the non-male students. Loughery read from the Gospel of Luke and offered a prayer of unity.
“Let’s pray for those who long for a place to belong,” Loughery said. “ … Let’s pray for those who are victims of violence, for their healing and recovery. … Let’s pray for our Notre Dame community, that all may have hearts that are open and curious.”
Fifth-year architecture student Taz Bashir was grateful for the dorm’s welcoming attitude throughout the sit-in and the opportunity to connect with others during the prayer service.
“Even though most of us come from completely different backgrounds, I think we all have some baseline spirituality, some sense of discernment that we’re trying to follow,” Bashir said. “I think we’ve all tried to kind of share that sense of discernment with one another and through prayer and through Fr. Bob’s guidance, we were able to do something like that.
“I don’t know many rectors who would reach out to us and reach out to protestors and say ‘Welcome to my home, welcome to my chapel.’”
Morgan said she was touched by the prayer service and felt bonded to the other students in the chapel, including those who disagreed with the platform.
“The prayer of unity is emblematic of everything we’re trying to do,” Morgan said.