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Observer Editorial: This isn’t the family we know

| Friday, February 28, 2020

The tri-campus community has often been hailed for its sense of family. In moments of difficulty, we come together.

But in recent years, that hasn’t always been the case — and the student government elections only spotlight this division.

On Friday, we released a lengthy report detailing the tornado of allegations, sanctions and appeals in the student body campaign cycle at Notre Dame — and unfortunately, this wasn’t the first instance of an election marred by controversy and obscurity. In 2018, 402 students’ votes were invalidated after five rounds of sanctions, four appeals and numerous press releases restricted by confidentiality.

What has played out on our campuses mimics the rhetoric and actions of the national presidential elections. Personal attacks as well as shady techniques and strategies have become the norm, both across the country and here at home.

But that isn’t the family we know.

The oft-cited five pillars of the Holy Cross laud mind, heart, zeal, family and hope, and these are long-standing values we’ve seen our communities strive to exemplify, time and time again — values that have been harder to find these past few weeks.

The divisiveness that has now trickled down to our own campuses is corroding how we interact with each other. This has saturated the foundation of our elections and even how we, as The Observer, go about reporting on the events occurring in the tri-campus community.

We did not take the decision to publish our report on the election cycle lightly. We found the details of the cycle compelling and troubling — but above all, essential for the community to know. We fundamentally believe in the right for students — all of them — to know the details of what happened behind the closed doors and curtained-off sections of the second floor of the LaFortune Student Center.

This is why we chose not to give in to efforts to suppress our commitment to uncovering the truth and reporting it accurately. This report is not intended to be sensational or an attack — we are performing the duty we feel we have to the student body.

But we’re not perfect. We acknowledge that the deteriorating trust in journalists today mounts an ever-growing need for us to earn our credibility as public servants of this community. We will continue to be an outlet for all voices on this campus, and we will continue to work to prove we deserve that responsibility.

Part of that responsibility includes addressing persistent confusion about our journalistic processes, which the election cycle has, once again, brought to the forefront.

Principally, we are independent from the University and are not restricted by administrative oversight.

Confidentiality is a decision all parties present must explicitly agree to, together.

Our Viewpoint section is comprised of opinions and is separate from our News department.

Our Editorial Board publishes its editorials in Viewpoint, not News — and columns and letters to the editor are never written on behalf of the Board.

Our reporters are prohibited from signing petitions or endorsing candidates.

And our newsroom will never succumb to threats, veiled or otherwise.

The upcoming presidential debate at Notre Dame offers an opportunity to the student body — one that has the potential to demonstrate to the nation the power of unity in a time of strife.

Just as we work to overcome our shortcomings, we hope the community will use the debate as an opportunity for civil dialogue and healthy disagreement, not another moment to perpetuate misconceptions and engage in the divisive rhetoric that characterized our own elections again. With this mission in mind, we ask that the community not buy into cries of “fake news” and calls for hostility towards journalists.

The tri-campus community is better than this.

Let’s use the lessons of the last few weeks as an opportunity to engage in civil discourse. Rather than resorting to the behavior we see on TV, let’s call on the core values that have defined our campuses for decades, and engage in discussion about why this mayhem has happened again in our community.

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