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Thank you social justice volunteers

The University of Notre Dame does an excellent job of reminding us how important it is to reach out to “the least of our brethren” and practice social justice as part of our daily lives. There is the Center for Social Concerns on campus that does an excellent job clarifying this for us. One of the other organizations on campus that also actively practices social justice in our community is the Sacred Heart Parish on campus. They have a Social Justice Ministry that has been active for many years with a number of parishioners who have also been active in such ministries.

One of the local organizations in South Bend is the Catholic Worker House. A current faculty member, Prof. Margie Pfeil in the department of theology, was one of the founding members of the Catholic Worker. One important outreach of the Worker was the opening of Our Lady of the Road (OLR) that is located at 744 South Main Street in South Bend. This is a drop-in center, following the example of Dorothy Day, that is a welcoming place which, among other assistance, serves breakfast to the poor and homeless every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The guests can also take a shower, launder their clothes and can often receive a haircut. Some members of Sacred Heart serve breakfast on the third Friday of each month. We see a good number of ND students, both women and men, who have been going to OLR to serve those who come in for breakfast. I’m reluctant to give names as I don’t want to omit someone I may forget. One of their important observations is how thankful and polite the guests are, and most reply with a “thank you very much, and may God bless you.” We welcome any students who would like to volunteer at OLR.

On behalf of the guests who come to OLR for breakfast and as a member of the SJM of Sacred Heart Parish, I would like to thank all of those volunteers who reach out and help to serve those in need. They help to continue to make OLR a welcoming place where people can receive a good breakfast, have a warm and safe place to rest and are treated with respect. My God bless you all.

Thomas Nowak

Professor Emeritus

Jan. 26

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Viewpoint

My noisy neighbor

I am almost 60 years old and a “non-matriculating learner” back on Notre Dame’s campus. I am not quite a student and I am not faculty or staff. I don’t fit neatly into Notre Dame’s classification structure and my status varies depending on the need or request. I am a Fellow in the 2022-23 cohort of the Inspired Leadership Initiative (ILI). My colleagues and I have all embarked on this encore education experience to discover, discern and design the next phase of our lives, after spending 20+ years in rewarding and successful careers. When I arrived in South Bend in August 2022, I was full of energy and excitement about what I would learn and discover about myself over the next year. This quickly dissolved to exhaustion and weariness and many emotions in between. 

I moved into my apartment at The Foundry a couple weeks before the start of fall semester. I wanted to live at The Foundry because of the close proximity to be able to walk to and from my apartment to campus and back every day. I am on the third floor, even though I specifically requested to be on a top floor and was told I would be. When I arrived, I found out I was instead on the third floor and there were zero vacancies. The first week in my apartment was very quiet, save for the loud music from a tenant arriving in the parking lot every morning between 6:30 – 6:45 a.m.  I surmised this to be someone who works nights and comes home from their shift and blasts their terrible music with no regard for neighbors who may be still sleeping. This intrusion serves as my unwanted wake-up call.  The terrible music I can live with, as it lasts from three to seven minutes. Yes, I’ve timed it. What I’ve struggled to live with is the daily, constant stomping, slamming, bamming, scraping, rolling and dragging noises above me. This cacophony of noise started about the third week I was in my apartment. The first week or so, I chalked it up to the sounds of moving in. Lots of what sounded like dragging — perhaps moving of furniture, slamming cabinets, throwing down heavy objects onto the floor, stomping across the floor and sounds of rolling, lots of rolling! After about a month and this noise did not cease and being awaken by what sounded like weights being slammed onto the floor, ala a work-out, I got out of my bed and went up to the fourth floor apartment above me. I knocked and knocked and finally a shirtless and sweaty young man opened the door. I introduced myself as his downstairs neighbor and asked if he was lifting weights. As he replies, “no, it’s not me, I’m not doing anything,” I’m peeping through the crack of his door into his apartment and seeing a mess all over the floors. Barely any room to walk. I swear I saw a hand weight. I did not confront him about it, but asked nicely if he would please be cognizant of the noise and keep it down. He did not. Over the next several months the noise persisted. Every. Day. Day and night. I was incredulous. I contacted The Foundry management, but that was a waste of time and a “whole nother story.”

I struggled with how to deal with this disturbance of my peace. I was not expecting to live in total silence, but at the same time did not know I would have to pray for moments of quiet. As I look back on this past semester, I can vividly recall my journey through the whole ‘cycle of change’ that I have taught and coached leaders throughout my career. 

Phase I: Loss and Doubt. The hallmark of this phase is loss of control. I had zero control over when my home would be bombarded with all manner of noise. I heard him slamming the toilet up.  I heard him peeing. I heard him slamming the toilet down.  Many, many times during the day and night. I heard him rolling in what sounded like a desk chair, from the office area to the kitchen. I angrily imagined him greedily getting a snack from the cabinet then slamming it and happily rolling back to his desk. I heard him stomping around every square foot of that apartment, which became so much louder during the colder months, when he seemed to be wearing heavy boots. I heard him moving furniture around every day. Who moves furniture around every day? I doubted my decision to come to Notre Dame for the ILI program. I contemplated dropping out. I then became very angry, the primary feeling in Phase I. I wished he would flunk out and have to go home. I resented him and could not believe he was being so inconsiderate to a fellow human being. As my mom would say, “does he have no home training?”

Phase II: Discomfort and Discovery. This phase was rife with my anxiety, the primary feeling at this stage, and trying to figure out how to mitigate the noise. I tried to be away from my apartment as much as possible, which was not ideal for me, as I am essentially a home body. When home, I amped up my own noise levels in an effort to cover up the noise from above, constantly running the fan in the bathroom and the fan on the stove. “Alexa, play spa music” was my immediate command as soon as I walked in the door to my apartment every day. I wore ear plugs all the time, even when I slept. I felt terrible about the noise I was surely causing for my downstairs neighbor, but I also hoped they would call the apartment management to report me because then maybe something would be done about my noisy upstairs neighbor. Nope. 

Phase III: Understanding and Integration. As I began to deal with a health issue of my own, I started to think about my upstairs neighbor and wonder what he might be dealing with as well. I wondered why he was always in his apartment. He seemed to never leave to go to class or work. Maybe he’s a home body too, but a noisy one. He never had anyone over, that I could hear. I would anticipate home football game weekends and think surely he will go out with friends and to the game and I’ll have a quiet break. He never did. I started to wonder why would a 20-something stay in his apartment all the time, moving around, even pacing about… all the time. My thoughts about him became less blaming and more toward trying to understand. I allowed myself to feel some empathy for him. I started to pray for him. I wondered if he suffers from anxiety or some other mental health issues. I have talked with enough students on campus to understand it is certainly a debilitating issue for many in this generation. One of my ILI colleagues was also dealing with noise issues with a neighbor and after similarly complaining to the office with no satisfaction, brought some cookies to them. Right before the Christmas break, I tried to do the same with my neighbor, but he did not answer the door. I’m pretty certain he was in his apartment because I had just heard him stomping around before I went up there with the peace offering.  Maybe he looked out of his peephole and saw me and just couldn’t deal. I get it. Directing behavior toward more generosity is the goal of this final phase to accepting change. I do have more empathy now. I still don’t like the noise and wish it was not a constant in my life for the next five months, but I will live with it and wish the best for my noisy neighbor. 

Timi Griffin 

ILI Fellow 2022-23

MBA ‘01

Jan. 3

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Viewpoint

From COP27 to Notre Dame: Putting solidarity into practice

This November, world leaders, official negotiators, scientists and activists descended on a small resort town nestled in Egypt between Mount Sinai and the Red Sea for the yearly U.N. Climate Conference, COP27. I had the great privilege of traveling to attend this important event along with leaders and civil society members from around the world. Before you ask: No, I did not see the pyramids. I did, however, get to sit in on some of the conversations and negotiations which are going to shape our future. I shouted with people calling for change, celebrated when progress was made and shared in frustration at what was ignored.

As the conference came to a close, there was excitement around the historic decision to create a loss and damage fund designated for helping vulnerable communities most directly affected by the growing detrimental effects of climate change. This new innovation would help places like Pakistan, where just earlier this year deadly floods, exacerbated by climate change, killed over 1,500 people. Despite what many consider a big win, the 197 countries at the conference failed to produce an agreement for limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, failed to promise transitions away from fossil fuels and failed to generate the $100 billion dollars promised for sustainable transitions in developing countries. 

Coming back home to Notre Dame after the excitement, frustration, hope and fear from my week at COP27, it was somewhat shocking to find everything moving along as usual — students walking to class, boom-boom chicken salad in the dining hall and Duke, the Farley Hall dog, waiting to say hi from my rector’s room. But coming back, I couldn’t help but think of our home here in a bit of a different light. At Notre Dame, we are not exempt from the “throwaway culture” which has driven much of the exploitation and negligence leading to the climate crisis. While many encouraging steps have been taken here to reduce our impact on climate, there is still more that could be and needs to be done if we are to claim an identity of solidarity and concern for the common good

Just one example is where we invest. In 2018, more than 8 million people died from fossil fuel pollution, yet we still invest part of our endowment in something that is known to be deadly and detrimental to the climate. Pope Francis has laid out a Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which provides a framework for places like Notre Dame to take concrete steps toward climate justice, but Notre Dame has yet to adopt it. While at COP27, I spoke with climate activist Vanessa Nakate, and she was disappointed to hear that a place rooted in faith like ours fails to live up to our moral calling to care for creation and for our neighbors. Just like the United Nations Conference of the Parties, we still have more work to do. 

One step that we can all take is to show our legislators that we care through calls, visits or even emails! Even now, as Congress is working on the Fiscal Year budget for 2023, there is a proposal for $11 billion for international climate finance, which would help the U.S. to keep some of our promises to aid in the climate crisis and take responsibility for our contributions. If you would like to call your elected officials prior to the recess on Dec. 15, you can easily do so by following these instructions.

This does not depend entirely on institutions, either.  At COP27, even though governments were the ones making the official decisions, the many organizations and individuals working for climate justice gave me the most hope. Having more mindfulness about how our own actions might impact the climate on an individual level can promote change, whether that is having one more meatless meal every week, buying clothes second hand or finding times where we could take the (free!) public transportation around South Bend rather than driving our cars. I am nowhere near perfect when it comes to these things, but I truly believe that intentionality and accountability will help us to generate a culture of care for our planet and our community — both here in South Bend and all around the world. We all have a stake in caring for our planet, and we all must take part in working to protect it.

Annika Barron

junior

December 6

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Viewpoint

Who is part of our family?

The University of Notre Dame has always been my dream school. I chose to attend this university over others because as soon as I set foot on campus, it felt like home. 

Notre Dame encourages us to do soul-searching and become who we want to be. In this, I finally came out and accepted myself for who I was. 

Being on a campus that constantly preaches about community and inclusivity, I thought I would be accepted and loved regardless of my sexuality. This was not the case. I was met with hostile words and actions from my roommate and others. 

My roommate called me homophobic slurs on numerous occasions, all for hanging a bisexual pride flag under my bed. I intentionally avoided discussing my romantic or personal life with said roommate, but that did not stop them. 

I met with my rector about this, and I was told they could facilitate a conversation between my roommate and I, but that there was nothing else they could do — because they told me I was not protected in the nondiscrimination policy. 

I tried to have conversations with my roommate to set boundaries, but was only met with more slurs and intensifying actions. I met with my rector, again, as the hate speech I was subjected to in my own room was only worsening. 

Many people were being allowed to move to singles out of COVID-19 concerns with their roommate, but I was denied and was forced to be subjected to hateful speech and behavior in my own room because it “wasn’t an issue [they] could address.” 

The University did nothing, my SpeakUp submissions were never addressed and I was forced to continue living in close quarters with someone who repeatedly told me I was a living sin. A place I was supposed to call home enabled and empowered a student to target and harass me. 

I never felt as alone or hated as I did then. I lost all trust in the University. As things continued to decline in my dorm community, I fled to the homes of my friends and peers, since I was no longer safe in my own room because of a hateful roommate enabled by the University’s own policies. 

Because of simple wording in the non-discrimination notice, several groups on campus are subjected to the same hate and pain depicted here, and the University continues to turn a blind eye. There is a clear plea to change this policy amongst our Notre Dame community, in other stories like the one above and even in the University’s own data collection. 

{Editor’s note: This testimony was submitted by an anonymous student.}

The University of Notre Dame recently released the results of its biannual Inclusive Campus Survey. This survey asked numerous questions about a student’s experience at Notre Dame and their belonging here. 

In this survey, we saw a concerning trend that we are failing our family. We are intentionally leaving behind students of different religions and our LGBTQ+ student population. 

When it came to religious identity, 24% of atheists and 17% of other religions said they did not feel a sense of belonging, as opposed to only five percent of Catholics on campus. 

Religious minorities describe the welcome they feel as though they’re always visiting. That this is not truly their home. 

In 2022, the Board of Trustees released their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report. They stated, “We believe our over-arching aspiration is to act to ensure that every member of the Notre Dame community feels not merely ‘welcome’ here, but rather, that this is truly their home.” 

This concerning trend only continues as the survey asked questions on belonging. The results show that LGBTQ+ men and women reported a sense of belonging at Notre Dame at a lower percentage than their straight counterparts. Furthermore, transgender students reported a significantly lower sense of belonging on campus compared to cisgender students. 

22% of LGBQ men and 20% of LGBQ women felt as though they did not have a sense of belonging at Notre Dame, as opposed to about 8% of straight men and women. 

49% of transgender and nonbinary students stated they did not feel a sense of belonging, as opposed to only 9% of cisgender students. 

Why don’t we take the steps that students are calling for in the Inclusive Campus Survey qualitative reports to make those changes? It’s a question of values, but student leaders across campus have chosen which of these values they will support. 

On September 6, Pablo Oropeza began garnering signatures for a petition to request the modification of the University of Notre Dame’s nondiscrimination clause. 

At this time, the notice states, “The University of Notre Dame does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, veteran status, genetic information or age in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletic and other school-administered programs or in employment.” 

This notice of nondiscrimination clearly leaves out three crucial groups that exist within our Notre Dame community — sexual orientation, gender identity and religious minorities. Marginalized students are saying they don’t feel like they belong, and then we actively affirm those assumptions. Even worse, we perpetuate policies that actively exclude those same groups. 

In 2012, Fr. Jenkins stated, “At Notre Dame, we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.” 

If Notre Dames does not discriminate, then why are we afraid to hold ourselves to that standard? 

Every single school in the top-50 and 85% of our Holy Cross peers include sexual orientation, gender identity and religious affiliation in their nondiscrimination clauses. 

It’s not some unique Catholic issue, because our Catholic peers hold themselves to this standard — it’s a Notre Dame issue. 

We exist as part of a larger Notre Dame story. A story that exists in the very fibers of our being — a legacy of poor, Irish Catholic immigrants who weren’t welcome anywhere else. Students beating up the Ku Klux Klan in the streets of South Bend. Contesting the war in Vietnam. In our very mission, we state, “The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” 

Right now, we do a disservice to that legacy and to our mission by not enshrining protections that include every student. 

That is why the Irish 4 Inclusion coalition was created. Students from across the campus and from all different backgrounds have come together to ask the administration of the University of Notre Dame to alter our nondiscrimination clause to include every student as part of our family. 

We cannot be a home for all if we continue to allow hatred to be spewed without consequence. 

Notre Dame stands at a crossroads — do we pick a Catholicism of moral leadership, of ensuring that every student feels as though this is their home? Or do we travel by erecting obstacles, ignoring our polls, hurting everyone along the way as we hold so tightly onto a narrative of faith built on keeping the marginalized away?

In 2016, Fr. Jenkins stated, “We are all Notre Dame or none of us are.” If that’s true, then let’s enshrine the rights of every individual to be part of this community. 

With all of this, we call upon the University of Notre Dame to immediately amend its notice of nondiscrimination to include sexual orientation, gender identity and religious affiliation. So that this invocation of family isn’t just a veneer polish for admissions videos, but is a lived reality for the existence of every person on this campus. 

To join the fight, sign here. To share your story, submit it here

Pablo Oropeza, Irish4Inclusion Co-Director & Co-Author 

Kate Schnitker, Irish4Inclusion Co-Director of Social Media 

Megan Gallagher, Irish4Inclusion Co-Director of Social Media 

Matthew Ruff, Irish4Inclusion Director of Outreach 

Michael Donelan, Irish4Inclusion Director of Research 

Sierra Stinson, Irish4Inclusion Member 

Co-Signatories 

Layton Hall, President of Stanford Hall 

Pablo Oropeza, Vice President of Stanford Hall 

Vivienne Dragun, President of Walsh Hall 

Mary Kate Cashman, Vice President of Walsh Hall 

Molly O’Leary, Vice President of Walsh Hall 

Keough Hall Council 

Flaherty Hall Council 

Lena Dougherty, President of Ryan Hall 

Caroline Van Bell, Vice President of Ryan Hall 

Belle Marchetti, President of Welsh Family Hall 

Heather Roland, President of Johnson Family Hall 

Ceci Garnuccio, Vice President of Johnson Family Hall 

Erin Pfeifer, Vice President of Johnson Family Hall 

Christine DeRosa, President of Howard Hall 

Kara Clouse, Vice President of Howard Hall 

Sacchi Kumar, Vice President of Howard Hall 

Courtney Alberston, President of Lyons Hall 

Olivia Spraul, Vice President of Lyons Hall 

Emma Cambell, President of Pasquerilla West Hall

Megan Northrup, Vice President of Pasquerilla West Hall

Tara Henry, President of Pasquerilla East Hall

Ella Batz, Vice President of Pasquerilla East Hall

Pasquerilla East Hall Government 

Maggie Watson, President of McGlinn Hall

Ava Ernst, Vice President of McGlinn Hall 

Kylie Boyer, Vice President of McGlinn Hall

Shannon Lynden, President of Breen-Phillips Hall

Lucie Ellis, Vice President of Breen-Phillips Hall

Sophie Burke, Vice President of Breen-Phillips Hall

Peter Schimpf, President of Carroll Hall 

Harry Waterbury, Vice President of Carroll Hall 

Jake Lowry, Class of 2023 President

Paul Stoller, Class of 2024 President 

Renee Pierson, Off-Campus Council President 

Caston Murphy, Stanford Hall Senator 

James Baird, Residence Hall Senator 

Griffin McAndrew, Knott Hall Senator 

Hunter Brooke, Carroll Hall Senator 

Connor McCloskey, Keenan Hall Senator 

Trista Brantley, Breen-Phillips Hall Senator

Emily Marchal, Lyons Hall Senator 

Derick Williams, Keough Hall Senator 

Mia Moran, Farley Hall Senator 

Matt Kavanaugh, Duncan Hall Senator 

Luca Ripani, Pangborn Hall Senator 

Katherine Jackowski, Welsh Family Hall Senator

Andrew Lauerman, Baumer Hall Senator 

Creed Leathers, Fisher Hall Senator 

Jack Davies, Off-Campus Senator 

Patrick Enochs, Off-Campus Senator 

Megan Mikuen, Off-Campus Senator 

Michael Donelan, Director of Access-Able 

Hayden Kirwan, EduClub President 

Chesley Blacklock, President of FeministND

Mary Vovata, Social Media Manager of FeministND

Ashley Castillo, LatinX Student Alliance Co-President

Nicholas Crookston, LatinX Student Alliance Co-President 

Katie Werner, Vice President of the Jewish Club of Notre Dame 

Isabela Tasende, President of the Latino Honor Society 

Mabel Perez, Vice President of the Latino Honor Society 

Kareema Green, President of The Black Student Association of Notre Dame

Kayla Seepersad, Vice President of The Black Student Association of Notre Dame

London Baskerville, Treasurer of The Black Student Association of Notre Dame

Tykiera Jordan, Secretary of The Black Student Association of Notre Dame

Olivia Hsin, President of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame 

David Wozniak, Secretary of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame 

Ely Rodriguez, Campus Life Chair of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame

Cerila Rapadas, Health and Wellbeing Committee Chair of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame

Luzolo Matundu, Academic Outreach Committee Chair of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame

Jo’Vette Hawkins, Academic Outreach Committee Chair of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame

Mary-Kate Godfrey, Executive Producer of The Pasquerila East Musical Company

Colleen Mackin, Associate Producer of The Pasquerila East Musical Company

Nicolas Gutierrez, Production Manager of The Pasquerila East Musical Company

Lucy Barron, Artistic Producer of The Pasquerila East Musical Company

Liz Maroshick, Marketing Producer of The Pasquerila East Musical Company 

Plus 900 petition-signing undergraduates.

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Viewpoint

I was the Republican debater at the midterm debate. Here’s what really happened. 

It has now been over a month since the midterm debate, and I regret to inform you that leftists on campus still have not quite recovered.

Just this week, another opinion piece (if a glorified Reddit rant can be categorized as such) appeared in The Observer making laughably insane claims about my debate rhetoric and about the Republican platform in general. Before that, there was the infamous letter to the editor published by the Notre Dame College Democrats that unsuccessfully attempted to smear my reputation on campus. I wanted to take this opportunity to personally respond to both of these unhinged diatribes and set the record straight about the true motivation behind these baseless attacks. 

The first article, published by the College Democrats, accused me of “racist,” “anti-semitic” and “transphobic” rhetoric — doing so while providing no quotes or even a single timestamp of any of the aforementioned transgressions (one wonders why). When pressed directly by me in-person for evidence, the College Democrats, apparently being fully serious, claimed that my concern about record rates of fatherlessness amounted to a “racist dogwhistle” and opposition to sterilizing children construed “transphobia.” Regarding the claim of “anti-semitism,” they falsely accused me of equating “Judaism’s position on abortion to Aztec child sacrifice” during a discussion on the Dobbs decision. This claim was made despite the fact that, verbatim, I said that I “did not know about Judaism,” and “was not making any kind of claim about Judaism,” before explaining that a hypothetical religious exemption to abortion laws would be invalid due to the limitations of moral relativism, which is a position supported by the Supreme Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith

Likewise, the most recent Viewpoint piece (which somehow manages to be even more unhinged than the first), oscillates between blatant lies, such as claiming that I said “immigrants are inherently violent,” and legitimately deranged rhetoric, including allegations that Republicans (who the author refers to as “vexed vermin”) “actively seek to advocate for the death of [the author] or [his] friends for the crime of being born.” These allegations do not genuinely merit a serious response, but the parallels between the two articles did beg the question of why the campus left has chosen to respond to this debate in the most psychotic way imaginable. 

And the answer to that question is one word: fear. It is an overbearing trepidation felt by leftists here and across the nation toward a changing Republican Party that is finally willing to stand up to their cultural agenda. For generations, the small-government dogma that dominated the American right meant that progressives never had to answer for their radical distortions of sexual ethics, national identity and even basic ontological concepts like gender. But those days are over. Witnessing firsthand the damage cultural liberalism has inflicted on American society, the Republican Party is growing more reactionary. It’s becoming more open to using the state to promote civic virtue and in many cases, such as through the Dobbs decision, it is winning. This, the Democrats cannot handle. 

When I directly confronted the left’s evil, unconscionable sterilization of children, destruction of national borders and erosion of sexual morality, they short-circuited. They were unable to even fathom, let alone process, the prospect of genuine resistance to their cultural sacraments. The College Democrats alluded to this when they attacked me for not speaking “on a wide range of legitimate policy positions enumerated in the Republican National Committee’s official platform.” What this comment really meant is that they want Republicans to continue to spew right-liberal platitudes about individualism or capital gains taxes while they impose their morally depraved worldview on the rest of society, and that any real opposition will not be tolerated. And this is the real reason the Democrats did what they did. 

But make no mistake: neither I nor the Notre Dame College Republicans will be intimidated, and we will certainly not retreat from fighting this cultural battle. The stakes for the survival of our nation — and the health of our core institutions — are simply too high. The left can write as many hit pieces as they want and smear me with however many buzzwords they please; I apologize for nothing, and for me, America will always be worth it. 

Shri Thakur

first-year

Dec. 6

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Viewpoint

A Tale of Two Cities

You may not know it, but if you live in Chicago, Illinois, you’re actually a citizen of two cities.

One Chicago features some of the best public high schools in the country according to the U.S. News & World Report. The other Chicago is marked by the kind of school buildings where if it rains hard enough, the roof just might cave in. We typically think of educational inequity as a problem of resources. If state and local governments were simply willing to allocate more funding to schools in lower-class neighborhoods, maybe the problem could be solved, right? Not quite. The primary source of funding for the vast majority of school districts in America isn’t state or local governments, it’s the taxes collected on properties in the district. The more valuable the properties in a school district, the more funding the schools in that district receive. It is because of this system that schools in the Chicago Ridge district (on Chicago’s south side) are so underfunded that three schools share one nurse, while the Rondout District (in the suburbs to the north) can afford to pay its teachers an average of $90,000 a year and craft individualized learning plans for each of its students. According to Binyamin Applebaum (lead writer on business & economics for the New York Times’ editorial board), it’s not even as simple as just living on opposite sides of Chicago: “It can be on the same block that the town line runs through the middle of it, and if you live on one side of that line, you’re consigned to an inferior education… and if you live on the other side, you’re basically a member of a club that is sponsoring a private school essentially, for the benefit of that small group of kids.” In Chicago and many other places in the US, the disparity in education quality is so vast that students from virtually a block apart may as well live in two different cities.

If a bill were raised to amend the current school funding system, it’s easy to imagine that progressives would be the ones to champion it. But when we return to our case study of Cook County, Illinois (the county that Chicago is in), we find that progressives aren’t doing as much to promote justice in the realm of education as they claim to be. Even in a county that voted 74.2% Democrat in the last presidential election, wealthy liberals still lobbied to keep the property tax-based resource allocation system in place for their school districts. Members of a party whose platform is “providing a world-class education in every zip code” have gerrymandered Cook County’s school zones so badly that there are school districts that only have one school. So, this isn’t a question of blue vs. red or conservative vs. liberal. It is, quite literally, rich vs. poor. The property tax school-funding system is one of the greatest perpetrators of the wealth disparity problem in our country.

We live in a nation that has historically disadvantaged its lower-class citizens. Isn’t education the institution that’s supposed to set that right? Education is supposed to empower children to change their circumstances generationally. It shouldn’t be the wall that keeps them on the south side of Chicago. It should be the vehicle that brings them to the hallowed halls of the University of Notre Dame. Sometimes it can be. But by and large, the property tax system causes those who are disadvantaged in American society to become even more so, because their inferior quality of education prevents them from pursuing opportunities (like attending a trade school or university) that would allow them to break into the middle class. This fosters the sense of disenfranchisement that causes people from places of poverty to distrust America’s established methods of attaining upward mobility. I saw this firsthand in Baltimore when I tutored children from the inner city. Some of my kids had, even at their young ages, completely disassociated themselves from the “American Dream” and the idea that doing well in school would in any way change their lot in life. This mistrust also explains why there is such rampant criminal activity in areas where educational inequity is most glaring.

The question of why there is so much disparity in our country’s education system is a complex one, but the answer begins and ends with the property tax funding system. Amending this system in favor of one that allocates resources more equitably would allow children from low-income areas to develop the same sense of curiosity and self-belief as their peers in higher-income areas. Inevitably, this would entirely transform their futures. It would entirely transform cities like Chicago and Baltimore too, shattering the glass ceiling of educational inequity that divides them in two.

Oluwatoni Akintola

first-year

Nov. 29

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Viewpoint

‘Endlich daheim’: Finally home

These words were tattooed on my high school math teacher’s forearm — to serve as a dual reminder of the time he spent living in Germany, but also to be thankful for his return to his personal home in the United States.

For many Notre Dame students, in an adjacent way, the acceptance letter serves a similar purpose. First comes the notification online. Elation. But when that oversized envelope comes in the mail, it is an even greater feeling. There you have it. Your own physical Notre Dame acceptance letter. It begets joy — with the subtle reminder that if you want to enroll, the $800 enrollment fee (or however much it is) is due by July 1st (or whenever it is). What then happens to that acceptance letter? Likely, it is tossed into some file somewhere to save for safekeeping. It’s something that you can be proud of — something to show your grandparents. Something concrete.

But then, as a first-year at Welcome Weekend, you’ve truly made the jump. You’ve made the necessary deposits, the necessary loan applications to the federal government, to Discover, to Sallie Mae, to whomever. You’ve journeyed far. Some of you have had to change planes a few times. But you’ve all come together here at Notre Dame, during those hot, but somehow extraordinary, last few weeks of August. You check into the dorm for the first time. The rector greets you. The Welcome Weekend staff unloads your belongings with great haste. Music blares. And what awaits you as you enter the dorm? Your own, physical, Notre Dame ID card. 

To me, this ID card was a reminder that I had truly made it. I was now a Notre Dame student. This ID card was what I had worked hard for all of high school. This ID card would open all the doors. And as a transfer, I never received one of those physical letters, so this card meant all the more. Much more than just a piece of plastic, the card was symbolic. It was something that I could keep ad infinitum — maybe, something to show to future grandchildren. 

Not to mention, this card is helpful. It is used for so many things. If I want to go for a stroll in solitude — to take a walk by the lake without feeling my phone in my pocket buzzing — I can do so. I can pray at the Grotto, just myself and the Lord, without Google/Apple/whomever calculating the number of steps I took, or my heart rate, or my location or whatever else they hope to know about me.

This card is incredibly useful. And yet, the student government administration is putting its future in jeopardy. The student government lists on their progress tracker a priority to create mobile ID cards, presumably for the betterment of student life. I argue that this plan has a great number of issues with it, and that it should only proceed if there is assurance that physical IDs will permanently remain.

Do not get me wrong. I’m in favor of mobile ID cards. I have no problems with the creation of mobile IDs. However — and call me a cynic — but I also see problems with the arrival of mobile IDs. I fear the advent of mobile ID cards will be a great excuse to eliminate the physical ones. Gone. A brief reason would be provided —similar to the one for mobile ticketing, I’d imagine (if someone wants to explain to me how mobile ticketing is safer and more contactless than physical tickets, then by all means do so. I’m pretty sure you can hold up a ticket to a barcode scanner without another person touching it). Even if physical ID cards are still an option, there’ll surely be more bureaucratic hurdles for students who want them. I highly doubt the process of receiving a physical ID will be as simple as it is now.

When I was at my former institution, they had physical IDs. But since I left, they made the decision to go to mobile IDs. I talked with my friend John back east. Speaking on the new physical IDs, he remarked, “It’s been an absolute train wreck.” My old school now has a chart on their website which details which students are, and which students are not, eligible for a physical ID. Doesn’t the existence of such a chart scream absurdity?

There are my reasons, and there are even greater reasons. Going to mobile IDs comes with the dangerous assumption that everyone has the latest technology which would support a digital ID. Until I bought a new phone in August, I wouldn’t have had the capabilities for a mobile ID on my phone. I had my prior phone for 7 years, which did not have NFC capabilities. It wouldn’t work at the Chick-fil-A. I’m not sure what my fellow Stanford man Josh Haskell would do.

Further, the University policy currently states: “All students must maintain and carry a current campus ID card for the entire period that they are affiliated with the University of Notre Dame.” So, unless the policy changes to “all students must carry with them a smartphone that is charged at all times,” I don’t see how this is possible. The idea that students would now have to carry their phones with them everywhere is unacceptable. I see no reason why I should have to bring my phone to mass. Or to the Grotto. Or class. But that would be the case if physical IDs were liquidated.

And phones die, too. Yes, maybe the NFC capabilities might still let you into the dorm, depending on how long the phone has been dead. But you still can’t show the picture of your ID when the phone invariably dies. I can only imagine the plethora of problems for NDPD.

The creation of mobile IDs only encourages more phone use. For a University that seeks to grow students in knowledge and wisdom, the student government’s policy actively contradicts this goal. We all know that the ability to engage in deep critical thinking has gone down the gurgler since “smart” phones came into existence.

And may I ask: What problem does the creation of mobile IDs solve? I haven’t heard anyone complaining of the burden of carrying a plastic card around. Yes, people might lose them from time to time, but the people who lose their ID cards constantly are the same people who break their phone 5 times a year. Physical ID cards work just fine. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

My letter in no way seeks to attack the student government or Notre Dame. Rather, I want the student government to ensure that if they pursue mobile IDs, physical IDs remain an option. Students should get a choice — and the choice should be equal, too. No gradual phase out of physical IDs. No fees for physical ID cards, either. If a student wants a physical ID, it should be just as easy as the process for a mobile ID. If it comes down to only mobile IDs or only physical IDs, I encourage the University administration to go with that is tried and true. Go with the concrete. Please, keep physical IDs for future generations of Notre Dame students. Someday you’ll pull open that junk drawer, discover that old picture of yourself at Notre Dame and you’ll smile.

Clayton Canal

senior

Nov. 29

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Viewpoint

Five people are dead. The University is silent. 

On Saturday, Club Q opened its doors to Colorado Spring’s queer community. What was supposed to be a night defined by community and fun soon turned into a night of horror. Around 11:50 p.m., Anderson Aldrich allegedly opened fire into a crowd of queer folk, injuring 25, and leaving at least five dead before two patrons repossessed the firearm to disarm the shooter. The shooter took on the role of God to execute an immense act of hate that left five families without their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. 

Let that sit with you for a moment. Five people were killed after a gunman opened fire at an LGBTQ+ nightclub. 

This shooting is just one example of growing violent hate crimes targeted at members of our country’s LGBTQ+ community. According to the FBI’s Hate Crime Database, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ Americans have gone up by the hundreds in the last five years. This increase in hate has left queer folks around the country reeling from trauma. Our campus is not immune to this trauma. “No one understands that I feel my life has been deemed worth less than my cisgender counterparts by not only this shooter but by the wider political context,” Morgan, a first-year at Notre Dame who identifies as nonbinary, says. 

It shouldn’t be contested that queerness is under attack by national political figures; With Congresswoman Boebert arguing that LGBTQ+ people should not come out until they are 21, Republican talk show hosts like Tucker Carlson decrying drag brunches and state legislatures like Ohio and Texas introducing legislation to limit accessibility to gender-affirming medical care, queer Americans are left feeling voiceless, vulnerable and threatened by those in power. 

This alone should warrant a response from the University. A statement affirming the queer community at Notre Dame that they stand in solidarity with those whose fundamental identity is under attack, a statement that queerness at Notre Dame is valued, a statement that the University seeks to protect its queer students from the violence in Colorado and the hateful, emotionally damaging rhetoric spewed in our country’s democratic institutions. 

But, being queer at Notre Dame means living in constant exposure to this hateful violence. Everyone remembers the Rover article last year that decried University attempts at inclusion. Myler claimed that extending employment benefits to married same-sex couples, including affirming pronouns in student news and instructions to use inclusive language during Welcome Weekend are damaging to Notre Dame’s Catholic character, making the University inclusive of a “secular agenda” that is “in direct opposition to the Church.” And it’s not just the Rover that forces queer students to live in perpetual exposure to hate and loneliness: PrismND, Notre Dame’s queer-allyship group can’t come out in direct support of LGBTQ+ equality, trans students are left without a dorm community and the University has effectively placed a gag-order on student groups vocally supporting queer rights. 

“It’s not just the Rover or the University that makes me feel unsafe as a queer person on this campus. It’s the students. We don’t learn about queer issues in Moreau and, in our theology classes, I haven’t heard of one professor ever promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity,” Morgan adds. 

The institution of Notre Dame is clear in its opposition to queer identity. In its pastoral plan, “Beloved Friends and Allies,” the University emphasizes its commitment to acting “consonant with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.” It is true that the Church orders human sexuality to be the conjugal love of man and woman, and those within the Catholic hierarchy certainly have promoted anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes: In 2019, Rhode Island’s Bishop tweeted, “A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ ‘Pride Month’ events.” But, I ask the University: what is the central teaching of the Church and of Christ?

It’s love. 

Not the gilded love of having a queer-ally group that can’t support queer rights or the gilded love of merely admitting queer students. Christ’s love is radical because of its acceptance; it’s an affirming love for the vulnerable. In fact, the Catholic Social Teaching of Solidarity demands Catholics to give “greater attention to the vulnerable,” reminding us that “there are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide.” The University cannot hide behind the political barriers of our conservative climate or the social barriers of our traditional alumni and campus network. The University must fully open its arms to the vulnerable. Clearly, the queer experience at Notre Dame is defined by vulnerability. 

Pope Benedict XVI echoes my definition of Christ’s love: “To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it.” To love a queer person, fully, as Christ loved Mary Magdelene or Zacchaeus, is to give them a home, a recuse from the hateful violence experienced by queer folks around the world. 

The “effective steps” the University can take to secure love are simple: a statement of affirmation and safety, a reformation of our dorm community to include queer identities and an overhaul of campus culture to make queer students feel welcome. 

Solidarity and love are not “vague compassion or shallow distresses at the misfortunes of so many people.” (St. John Paul II’s words, not mine.) On the contrary, the very love of Christ Notre Dame hopes to dedicate itself to is an endless determination to improve the lives of queer students. Queer students can hear in the University’s silence Notre Dame’s disregard for the needed pastoral care of LGBTQ+ folks. Queer students feel pain as the University we love acts as an extension of growing indifference towards queer folk. 

Love is a challenge. Look at what Christ’s love cost Him. But, love, especially at Mother Mary’s University, is required. The gilded love the University has been expressing is not enough, especially as homophobia is welcomed in American democracy, and especially as five patrons of an LGBTQ+ nightclub were stripped of their God-given dignity. 

The University must embrace the radical love of Christ by fully accepting its queer students if it truly wants to call itself Catholic. 

Connor Marrott

sophomore

Nov. 21

The views expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Viewpoint

A message of gratitude

Our son and brother James R. (“Jake”) Blaauboer, a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, died tragically and unexpectedly on Nov. 11. When we arrived on campus to begin making Jake’s final arrangements, we felt that we had fallen into thousands of compassionate arms. We fell and you held us. We humbly and sincerely thank the Notre Dame community for embracing our family at this difficult time. If you prayed for Jake and for us, served us, drove us, sent flowers or prayerful messages, lit a candle at the Grotto, wrote in Jake’s tribute book or simply whispered to us that “your son mattered,” we want you to know you have cast light in our darkness. We bless and thank each of you for your kindness and compassion. We will always remember you in our prayers of thanksgiving.

Gratefully,

The family of James R. (“Jake”) Blaauboer

Nov. 21

The views expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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Viewpoint

What money is to happiness, affirmative action is to college diversity

For the past week, I have been reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin; during this time, I have also been reflecting on the Supreme Court hearings on affirmative action that took place on Monday, Oct. 31. On Thursday, while I was reading the book’s chapter on money (Chapter 7), I followed Rubin as she reflected on the connection between money and happiness. Early on in her musings, I came across the following comment that reminded me of the discussion on affirmative action:

“Money alone can’t buy happiness. But, as a follow-up, I asked myself, “Can money help buy happiness?” The answer: yes, used wisely, it can.”

Now, replace the idea of money with affirmative action and happiness with diversity. The ideas are nearly the same, except for one vital difference. Unlike with money and happiness, it’s not that an institution logically cannot rely on affirmative action to create diversity; it constitutionally cannot. Therein, lies the argument against affirmative action. Under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, affirmative action cannot be the reason your campus is diverse, but many would argue that it should continue to be allowed as one of many factors, including social economic status, first-generation status and the disclosures of any relevant hardships. Without affirmative action, that’s one less avenue toward creating diversity at higher education institutions. There are certainly other ways, but if you take out affirmative action, you fundamentally weaken the process towards diversity. 

As Rubin continued her reflection on money and happiness, she noted that while money does not guarantee happiness, it can operate as a protective factor against unhappiness. If you live in poverty, you simply do not have the capacity to pursue happiness in your day-to-day life. Money won’t make you happy, but poverty will make it very difficult for you to get there. 

In the same way, for institutions with a predominantly white admissions history, their admissions processes simply are not designed to recognize the whole value of students of color. Affirmative action ensures that students of color won’t face further limitations from cultural and systemic disadvantages. It is not relying on a quota to create diversity; it is allowing an understanding of cultural contexts and history to inform life-changing decisions. Then, when admissions officers can proceed with informed decisions and heightened awareness, they are able to foster diversity.

Now, returning to the question presented in the Supreme Court on Monday, do I think considering race in admissions decisions breaches the 14th Amendment? I think it has the potential to. If the considering race in college admissions meant contributing to a quota, then yes. I would certainly agree that the use of race was unconstitutional. 

However, I think the way race is considered in modern admissions is entirely in line with the Fourteenth Amendment, because race is not the basis of the decision; it only informs it. It helps the admissions officer understand the applicant and their circumstances more. At a school like Notre Dame, where building community is everything, considering race means taking note of how one person’s cultural difference can enrich our beautiful campus. Additionally, our institution is also dedicated to fostering a community of intellectual rigor. Considering one’s cultural background can also mean making note of how one’s cultural differences may allow an individual to think differently from their peers and contribute to richer discussions. 

Money is not everything in terms of happiness, but it has an impact. Likewise, affirmative action is not everything in terms of diversity, but it, too, has an impact — and there are dozens of thousands of students and alumni around the nation that can attest to this fact. It is my hope the Supreme Court chooses to protect affirmative action and allow our institutions to continue using it wisely in their efforts to foster diversity. 

Joy Agwu

junior

Nov. 7

The views in this letter to the editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.