Actually, Fr. Jenkins, you don’t speak on behalf of us: Why we’re #NDagainstACB
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 29, 2020
“On behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I congratulate Amy Coney Barrett on her confirmation today by the United States Senate as a justice of the United States Supreme Court,” begins University President Fr. John Jenkins’ statement, released Monday night, on the latest addition to the highest court in the federal judiciary.
This sweeping generalization, yet another example of our University’s continued support and elevation of Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett over this past month, from her initial nomination to her final confirmation, seems to imply that all of Notre Dame backs Justice Barrett. But here’s the thing: We don’t. Not all of us.
Not only is it irresponsible for Jenkins to speak on behalf of the individual beliefs of the thousands of students, faculty and staff at Notre Dame, it’s also wrong. It’s wrong because Barrett’s confirmation has devastating implications for our political process and for the millions of Americans whose civic rights she has denounced. It’s wrong because in supporting her, Notre Dame revokes its support of its students for whom fundamental rights to health care, marriage equality and reproductive justice are now thrust into jeopardy. And it’s wrong because her record and public assertions run directly contrary to the University’s stated objectives.
In its own words, the aim of the University is to cultivate “a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many.” Barrett has been outspoken in her public disregard for this burden. Through her opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare for the impoverished, through her assertion that the n-word does not constitute a hostile work environment and through her rejection of the restoration of the right to vote for those convicted of a crime, Barrett’s insensitivity to the real-life burdens of poverty, injustice and oppression is on record. The anxiety that Barrett’s nomination and confirmation have caused to members of the Notre Dame community is very real, and Jenkins’ blanket statement of support is a blatant disregard for this fear.
While we understand the general enthusiasm to see a woman of the Notre Dame community elevated to such a high status in the U.S. government, in a position of power that not many women in history have been able to hold, in the case of Barrett, this enthusiasm is tainted by the threat her legal decisions could pose to the civil rights of millions of Americans. She has continued to disrespect the rights of LGBTQ+ people, people of color, survivors of sexual violence, those who are deeply affected by issues of reproductive justice and those protected by the Affordable Care Act. She has proven herself willing to revoke marriage equality, reproductive rights and access to healthcare. In short, Barrett has shown through her legal actions that she isn’t willing to protect or represent all Americans — just those she agrees with.
Furthermore, the procedural controversies surrounding this confirmation have not gone unnoticed. In 2016, Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination was rejected because it occurred within eight months of the presidential election. Barrett has been confirmed within eight days of the 2020 presidential election. Senators who once opposed Garland’s nomination because, in their eyes, it was wrong to fill a vacancy in an election year, have welcomed Barrett’s hasty appointment. This flagrant display of hypocrisy in order to advance the agendas of a few is not only unprincipled but shameful and does not reflect our values here at Notre Dame. By congratulating Barrett, Jenkins is condoning and tacitly endorsing such political maneuvers that endanger our democratic process.
We, the undersigned, are saddened by our University’s continued support of her confirmation, despite her clear unwillingness to protect the rights of so many Notre Dame students. We are fearful for our futures and for those of our peers if Barrett is successful in stripping away essential rights for women, LGBTQ+ people and people of color. At Notre Dame, we are frequently warned of the dangers of cultivating the mind at the expense of the heart. We are told that “we are all Notre Dame or none of us are.” Yet our University’s support of a Justice who threatens to take away so many of our sacrosanct rights forces us to question the veracity of these statements.
We invite you to stand against Barrett’s confirmation and against the University’s support of her at our socially-distanced, Office of Campus Safety-cleared demonstration this Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. on Library Lawn. Even if you cannot participate in the event in person, please join us in protest on Thursday by wearing pink and white and/or posting to social media using #NDagainstACB.
In order to truly be “Fighting Irish,” as we have been taught to be, we believe we have the moral responsibility to oppose injustice when we witness it, be it here on campus or in the national political arena. We believe that Barrett’s confirmation is one such act of injustice worth fighting against.
Elise Van Dieren
Lan Anh Dinh
John Edward Mariano
Law School class of 2023
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.