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What the anti-ACB protest says about student political activism

| Wednesday, November 4, 2020

When my close friend told me that he was planning an anti-Amy Coney Barrett protest, I initially was impressed with his determination but skeptical about how the protest would actually go. I thought maybe 50 people would show up and at best the protest may raise a few eyebrows in the administration. I certainly did not expect there to be over 350 students gathered on Library Lawn confidently expressing their disapproval of ACB and University President Fr. John Jenkins’ statement of congratulations. Moreover, I did not anticipate that a large number of faculty would line the sidewalks in support, nor did I envision that the local South Bend news would give the protest as much coverage as it did. In short, the protest was a much bigger deal than I thought it would be. 

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

As someone who disagrees with most of ACB’s political views but still thinks her confirmation was legitimate, I decided not to join my friend at the protest. I was a bit confused about what the protest was actually against and what its goals truly were. At the time, I thought that it made sense for Jenkins to congratulate an alumna and professor of Notre Dame Law School on becoming a Supreme Court Justice, so I didn’t want my presence at the protest to represent outright disapproval. I now understand that many people took issue with Jenkins’ statement because it makes it seem like the entire Notre Dame community supports Barrett, which was and still is clearly not true.

Looking back, I do not necessarily regret not getting involved with the protest, but I do regret not witnessing the largest showing of political activism our campus has experienced since I became a student last fall (besides the possible exception of the Black Lives Matter protest this past summer). Regardless of my prior opinions about ACB and Jenkins’ statement, the sheer number of attendees proves to me this issue is critically important to a large portion of our campus community. The protest’s size also shows that members of the student body can and will organize a legitimate protest when an issue that people are passionate about arises. Furthermore, the fact that a smaller but still fair amount of students organized a pro-ACB protest in response conveys the variation of political views students hold and that multiple groups with different views have the confidence to publicly proclaim their respective opinions. 

This intensified student political activism occurs amidst a global pandemic that has sent the world into a new age of social distancing and Zoom class, Black Lives Matter protests that have been prominent across the United States and abroad and a stressful election season. All of these factors have filled the American social landscape with uncertainty, and students seem to be using this uncertainty as an opportunity to push for change through enhanced political activism on campus. 

It will be interesting to see if any protests occur in response to the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election. The anti-ACB protest showed the level of protest our campus community is capable of and depending on who wins the election and the country’s reaction, we could see an even larger showing of activism in the coming weeks. 

Clark Doman is the director of marketing for BridgeND, a non-partisan political education and discussion group that seeks to bridge the political divide and raise the standard for political discourse at Notre Dame. BridgeND meets at 5:15 p.m. in the Notre Dame room in LaFortune. You can contact the club at [email protected] or learn more at bit.ly/bridgendsignup

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

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About BridgeND

BridgeND is a bipartisan student political organization that brings together Democrats, Republicans, and all those in between to discuss public policy issues of national importance. They meet Tuesday nights (starting Sept.8) from 8-9pm in the McNeil room of LaFortune. They can be reached at [email protected] or by following them on Twitter @bridge_ND

Contact Bridge