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The difference between parietals and hate

| Thursday, November 21, 2019

If two Notre Dame alumni meet, it is almost certain the first question they ask each other is, “Where did you live?” Notre Dame’s residential living is a major attraction, and is unique among most other universities. Parietals have been in existence since the admission of women in 1972. An excellent apology for parietals was written this week in The Observer, so I won’t repeat it.

Although there have been arguments against parietals over the years, I was surprised to read this week that some people consider it to be a cause of hate that sows division and oppresses certain groups.

Notre Dame is not a hateful place, nor are the policies that govern it or the people who administer them. Individuals who disrespect others in any way do not represent the community as a whole. Extrapolating someone’s bad behavior to be indicative of an entire environment condoning such behavior is unfair to the vast majority of individuals who treat everyone with respect and dignity.

I guess you can find hate anywhere or everywhere, if that’s what you want to do.

Conflating parietals with hate is really a leap that is too great to make.

The writers of the End Hate at ND letter seem to brush aside the concerns that many women may have. They said, “We are aware that some members of the community may be concerned with non-female presence in women’s dorms during sleeping hours.” That is an understatement! Did they consider that perhaps most women would have an issue with this? Many women are more comfortable with the privacy and safety that parietals afford them. Certainly not having members of the opposite sex in the living areas of the halls during sleeping hours does not lead to “echo chambers of homogenous thought,” as the group claims.  One thing that is most lacking after 2 a.m. is thought.

The rights and preferences of biological women are those that are trampled on by abolishing parietals. But that does not seem to matter to this group. Whatever happened to #MeToo?

One has to wonder what would be next. Would having single sex dorms be considered hateful or oppressive? Single sex floors or rooms? Would speech start to be regulated in order to decrease “hate”?

Who ends up deciding what is “hateful” or approved of and what is not? That is the real danger to a community and what led to the totalitarian societies in the past century, and is devastating universities today.

The End Hate at ND group claims to want to unify and not divide. Their rhetoric does not suggest this. When terms such as  “racist,” “sexist,” “queer-phobic,” “ableist,” etc. are thrown around it is certain that the individual is no longer paramount, but the group is. When group identity trumps the individual, we become tribal and actually look upon the “other” with suspicion and distrust. That leads to a fracturing of the community.

We are not the Fighting Gay or Straight Irish, The Fighting Black or White Irish, the Fighting Male or Female or Trans Irish, the Fighting Able or Disabled Irish, etc.

We are the Fighting Irish.

The question is, will the Notre Dame community fight for that unity and turn its back on the identity labels and speech restrictions that are tearing apart the rest of society and could ruin our community?

Stephen O’Neil

class of ’87

Nov. 20

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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