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Where is compassion?

| Thursday, November 21, 2019

Something I have mulled over for a significant part of the past year, and I have been presented with many times over the course of my past (almost) three-and-a-half years here, is the issue of lack of compassion. Compassion, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” For a student body that frames itself as compassionate, there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed that significantly dissatisfy this definition of compassion.

There are various places where we can see a lack of compassion by the student body. Open use of micro-aggressions or discriminatory language, then refusal to understand why they are inherently wrong, for example. While there are plenty of other cases where this can be seen in the student body, this is one that has particularly caught my attention in my time at Notre Dame. See, my identities aren’t something that I can change, like my hair or clothes. This is the same for any student who is part of any marginalized group on campus. Disappointing as it may be, offensive and discriminatory behavior happens on a daily basis. Students who fall into marginalized categories, i.e. racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities, women and many more experience this kind of behavior from those around them far too often on this campus. This very clearly exemplifies a lack of compassion, and it appears most of our student population is blind to this, even combative when confronted, if they are the ones that are guilty of taking part in such behavior. It is beyond me to know why students find this acceptable, and lack of acknowledgement also demonstrates a clear lack of compassion. While this column may be looked at by a few and then forgotten, the reality behind it won’t, and those who are fortunate enough to not fall into any of the categories that would make them oppressed can easily move on. I cannot. Members of marginalized communities cannot.

I would love to find a way in which students were suddenly confronted in a manner that made them acknowledge that micro-aggressions and discriminatory language. Inviting students into spaces allows them to self-select out, and allows for the homogeneity of the appearance of the perfect Notre Dame experience to exist. It allows for this lack of compassion to exist. I never wish more students to be faced with hurtful behavior as many of their peers have, but I do wish to have a Notre Dame that is less hostile and less accepting of this kind of behavior. We are not a compassionate Notre Dame if we continue to allow this kind of behavior to continue, and we certainly are not a compassionate Notre Dame if there are members of our community that perform this kind of behavior. You can decide that it is not your responsibility to create a more welcoming and compassionate Notre Dame, but chances are, if you have decided this, you are a large contributor to the hostility and lack of compassion on this campus. Changing a campus culture takes more than just the work of a handful, and quite frankly, I find it disappointing that there is a continuing demonstration of this lack of compassion. Just look around at your campus climate now, and if you see nothing wrong, you are part of the homogenous culture that disallows change. You have the power to change more than you think you do; you should see the distress of a large portion of the student body and have a desire to alleviate it, if you truly claim to be compassionate. Call out your peers, and call yourself out.

 

Tiffany Rojas is a senior majoring in economics and Chinese and can be reached at [email protected]

The Diversity Council of Notre Dame advocates for awareness, understanding and acceptance on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other intersectional identities in the Notre Dame community. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Diversity Council, but are the individual opinions of the author. You can contact Diversity Council at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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