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It’s time to be real

Over break, a few friends and I went to a coffee shop in South Bend. Besides serving one of the best lattes I’ve had in my life, the store is full of books that can be lent out to customers and handmade goods from local vendors.

Needless to say, it’s now one of my favorite places.

But that day, it wasn’t really about the drink I had or how my eyes traveled from bookshelf to bookshelf. It was about the very long, very real conversation I had with my friends.

After we caught up about we had been since we last saw each other, we talked for at least two hours about how much our mindset about school had changed. In the plus column, none of us felt a crippling obsession to have perfect grades. We’ve all learned that despite whatever our college-prep high school told us, grades are only one (probably flawed) way to measure how much you know.

But over the last three and a half years, we all started to notice differences in the ways our brains worked. It had become harder to concentrate while we were working and easier to become frustrated about how long it took us to do assignments. There was a lot of anxiety around doing small tasks, like answering emails. We suddenly had many things that impacted our ability to the day-to-day activities we had done for years.

There will probably some people reading this column who think all of these things are signs of our generation. That we’re lazy and just can’t cope with circumstances that are manageable for many others.

But I’ve thought a lot about the many stories I’ve heard about women who have been diagnosed with ADHD in their 20s and 30s. For many years, I’ve taken for granted some things that probably signs of having a larger problem. I’m very forgetful, even after someone asks me to do something more than once. I’m easily overwhelmed in rooms where a lot of people talking at once. I procrastinate activities that I know will make me frustrated. I feel like I’m going to claw my eyes out if I have to sit still for long periods of time.

And while I did feel like I needed to squirm in my chair while I had this conversation with my friends, we all understood not knowing how to course correct away from these obstacles. Of feeling helpless when we were normally very proactive.

As I left that coffee shop with my friends, we looked at each other and said, “Wow I thought I was only one who felt like this.” And it shouldn’t have to be like that.

Even if it’s hard or embarrassing or scary, we can’t be dismissive of the problems we think only we have. If we want it to become easier to identify and diagnose conditions that sometimes go untreated into adulthood, we must be honest with ourselves and each other.

Let’s start 2023 by having more genuine conversations about how we’re feeling. It’s time to be real.

Contact Genevieve at gcoleman01@saintmarys.edu

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

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News

Tri-campus discusses accountability, prevention after posts detail alleged sexual assault cases

By Genevieve Coleman and Liam Price

Editor’s note: This story includes mentions of sexual assault. A list of sexual assault reporting options and on-campus resources can be found on the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross websites. 

Last Tuesday, a group of students protested on God Quad in the wake of a post from a student on social media claiming the University mishandled their Title IX case regarding an alleged instance of sexual assault.

Following the initial post, at least four more students at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s posted their stories of alleged sexual assault on their personal social media accounts. The posts have sparked discussion, both online and offline, of how tri-campus students and administration can best handle this topic.

“We were here because … a student posted a very concerning post on Instagram detailing their experience with SA, going through the Title IX office and not being supported or represented the way that they had hoped to,” fifth-year Tony Perez said of the protest. 

The protest had a small turnout, Perez acknowledged, but he said the support was still present.

“There are a lot more people who stand with us physically and metaphorically, that are more than happy to believe survivors and are more than happy to make sure that justice is spelled out,” he said.

In response to the social media posts, University spokesperson Dennis Brown stated Notre Dame cannot discuss specific cases of student discipline. 

“In compliance with federal privacy laws, we cannot and do not discuss specific student disciplinary cases, nor do we confirm whether a specific matter is being or has been investigated,” Brown said.

He continued by discussing Notre Dame’s efforts to combat sexual violence. 

“Sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence can occur anywhere, and Notre Dame is not exempt from that reality,” Brown stated. “The University works tirelessly to combat sexual violence through numerous initiatives that seek to educate our students, heighten their awareness and support victims and survivors. Rape and sexual assault are unacceptable and are not tolerated in the Notre Dame community.”

Saint Mary’s vice president for student enrollment and engagement Lori Johnson also commented on the resources the College has created. 

“We are aware of our student’s posts on social media and understand the heartfelt reaction it has generated on campus,” Johnson said. “However, we cannot comment on the specifics of our student or her story. The College has worked diligently to put resources in place to support our students. These resources and initiatives are available to all students through the Office of Student Involvement & Advocacy and BAVO (Belles Against Violence [Office]).”

Student leaders respond to multiple claims of sexual violence

Earlier this week, Saint Mary’s Student Government Association (SGA) posted a statement on Instagram to show their “love, support and advocacy for anyone who has endured hardships pertaining to sexual assault and sexual violence.”

The post also acknowledged that SGA leaders were in communication with the Saint Mary’s administration about these issues, though it would be “​​a process that takes time.”

SGA vice president Josie Haas said she takes pride in the strength of tri-campus community members.

“[SGA president] Angela [Camacho Martinez] and I wanted to make sure that our Belles felt supported by our SGA, wanted them to feel heard and wanted to bring as much attention to their strength as possible because their stories are worth being heard and we need others to see the gravity of this issue in our tri-campus community,” Haas said.

Notre Dame student government also posted a guide to supporting survivors on their Instagram page this week. 

Notre Dame’s student body president Patrick Lee said the student government’s stance is centered on survivor support, encouraging students to be active bystanders and bringing student concerns to the Office of Institutional Equity.

“Since everything has been going on, student support has always been on the front of our minds,” he said.

Belles Supporting Belles (BSB) president Annie Maher discussed her anger about reading how survivors claimed a lack of support from tri-campus institutions. 

“When I first read some of the survivors’ stories, I was angered by the lack of support these students felt,” Maher said. “Not only did these students go through an extremely traumatic experience that no person should ever have to go through, but then they received little to no support after that experience from institutions that are supposed to have their backs.”

Maher also reflected on what she perceives to be a lack of change in how the tri-campus handles sexual assault cases. 

“It pained me to see another group of students have to share their story to try to ignite some action in the tri-campus community,” she said. “Talk to pretty much any student on all three of the campuses and you will understand that this is an issue.”

Leaders plan initiatives to support students

Camacho Martinez noted that SGA’s social concerns committee has been working on the annual Support a Belle, Love a Belle (SBLB) week and adapted their plans to highlight campus resources. 

“There have been plans on adjusting a few days of SBLB to center more on resources made available to campus, like Callisto,” Camacho Martinez said. “I think this is a valuable resource that assists in the encounter of sexual assault and/or sexual violence faced by not just SMC students but also Notre Dame and Holy Cross students.”

Haas also emphasized SBLB is a time where students in the community can support each other.

“Overall, the purpose of this week is to show the support and love we have for one another as Belles,” she said. “By being an uplifting community, we give each other strength and inspire ourselves to be the amazing Belles I know we are despite negative circumstances. We can help each other overcome whatever is placed in our pathway.”

Lee said student government has been addressing the situation for the past two weeks. He outlined plans for a survivor mass at the Basilica, a speak out event supporting survivors, GreenDot training for students and a survey gathering information to evaluate the reporting process for harassment and discrimination on campus.

Student Government is also co-sponsoring the panel “Walking Hand in Hand: Navigating the sexual assault support system on campus,” with the Gender Relations Center, director of gender relations Lane Obringer said.

Saint Mary’s Feminists United president Madison Mata said the organization will continue to serve as a place for students to feel safe and become more educated about relevant issues. 

“I think for Feminists United as a whole, it’s gonna be being able to open up the floor to people who want to share their stories — whether it’s sexual violence or assault or anything like that,” she said. “In general, just being able to be a safe space for them, sharing resources, staying educated and making sure that like-minded people are in the club for the right reasons.”

In addition, Feminists United is inviting local female politicians to speak to Saint Mary’s students on Saturday about their experiences in politics and the importance of voting. 

Like Mata, Maher is organizing specific events but encouraged students to use the student concern form on the BSB website to discuss sexual violence on campus. 

“Belles Supporting Belles is working towards creating an event to address these stories. Our main priority right now is to make sure that students’ voices are heard,” Maher said. “Right now, we have created a student concern form that is in our Instagram bio that students can fill out regarding their concerns about sexual violence and safety on campus.”

Student leaders call for accountability

Camacho Martinez referred back to SGA’s initial communication with College administrators and called on them to keep creating ways to support Saint Mary’s students. 

“For any SMC administrators who will read this story, I know we are already working through this process with you, but let’s see what more we can do to be supportive of our SMC students, inspire other tri-campus administrators to be supportive of their respective students and hopefully evoke change in the system that fails to believe our survivors,” she said. 

Lee said the issue of handling sexual violence better will require the whole Notre Dame community, both students and administration, working together. 

“If Notre Dame really is going to be this really amazing community that we all want it to be, we all know it can be, as inclusive as possible, as supportive as possible, then everybody needs to take accountability for the safety of others,” Lee said. 

It is a large task, but one Lee believes the community can do. 

“It’s my belief that we absolutely can. I’ve seen it a number of times,” Lee said. “From my point of view, three plus years of being a student leader here, it really does start with us. We can all be responsible for our own actions.”

Maher also called for administrator accountability, as well as implementing more comprehensive action steps during an ongoing investigation. 

“I am tired, as I am sure many students are, of basic apologies from administrators. Students deserve positive action from the administration,” Maher said. “Comprehensive action plans for when a student reports a sexual assault, immediate probation/academic suspension when a perpetrator is identified, and other solutions are vital in maintaining a safe campus while the investigation is underway.”

She also claimed that based on the recent narratives of survivors, administrations are not believing their stories.

“The stories we heard last week are just a few of many survivors who have endured violent acts on our campuses,” she said. “Our institutions need to believe survivors, and based on the stories that were shared last week, that isn’t happening.”

Contact Genevieve Coleman at gcoleman01@saintmarys.edu and Liam Price at lprice3@nd.edu

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Viewpoint

What I’ll carry with me

If you ever happen to see me walking around campus this year, there’s an incredibly high chance you will also notice my 40-ounce water bottle. 

It’s actually kind of hard to miss. Aside from how large the bottle is, it’s also a bright mint green and shows off my favorite stickers (with more on the way from Redbubble). 

I think the thing that sticks out the most about this water bottle is that I have to hold it in my hand. My large green friend will not fit into the side pocket of my backpack, no matter how much I try.

So I carry my water bottle with me everywhere — whether I’m in class at Saint Mary’s, walking up and down The Avenue to get to Notre Dame or sometimes off campus to my field placement. As any large water bottle owner knows, you feel the added weight of the bottle, in addition to everything else in your backpack.

But you learn to adapt to the extra weight in your hands. If you start to walk away without picking the bottle up, you know right away that it’s not with you. You realize what you actually carry with you every day. 

My vision of what college would be has drastically changed when I moved in around this time three years ago. At some points during my time in college, I have been overwhelmed by the things I’ve lost to the pandemic. But in turn, I have already gained more than I would ever imagine — my best friends, The Observer and the students I have taught in South Bend. 

And while I still have another year before I’m done, I know the things I will carry with me after I graduate. 

To the first-years still settling into the tri-campus, I’m definitely not the first to tell you the next four years will go by in an instant. 

When I moved a few weeks ago, I sat in my room alone and thought about all the things I would do for the last time this year. The thought of everything I loved in this place ending was terrifying. Then I thought about all of what lies ahead for me. 

I have been lucky enough to discover what direction I want to take my life by being involved in the tri-campus. I know what college experiences — good and bad — will shape me for the rest of my life. 

So embrace all of these new parts of college. Find your way out of your room. Talk to that person who you might be afraid to introduce yourself to. Get off campus and explore the South Bend community. Don’t change yourself to fit other people’s expectations. 

Fill your bottle with the things that will sustain you — long after you leave the tri-campus. 

Genevieve Coleman

Genevieve is an Assistant Managing Editor. Contact her at gcoleman01@saintmarys.edu