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Scene

Let’s go to a concert

Concerts not only make life better but did you know that they also help you live longer? Now, before you roll your eyes and sarcastically express your surprise, you must listen to my reasoning. It is no surprise that concerts make life better, as they are the essence of fun, but there is scientific evidence that shows that regularly attending concerts can increase your lifespan by nine years… almost a whole decade.

In a study, O2 and Goldsmith’s University Associate Lecturer and behavioral scientist Patrick Fagan conducted psychometric testing and heart rate tests (often used for various physical and mental activity tests) on a group of subjects who then attended a concert. After the first 20 minutes of the gig, they found that the subjects already had a 25% increase in feelings of happiness, self-worth and community, as well as a 75% increase in pure mental stimulation. Some may argue that these results are similar to those found when people listen to music independently, but these statistics show that physically experiencing music (especially in the presence of others) can not only bring about an abundance of bliss but also impact your overall health.

Despite this study being considered semi-old news, I have been thinking about it a lot recently. Since I was 7 years old, I have regularly attended concerts. Over my 21 (almost 22) years of life, I have attended about 75 shows — big and small. Going to concerts is my hobby; it’s something that brings me an immense amount of joy and I know this is true for others as well. However, in 2020, everything stopped; the world halted. For almost two years, live music was extinct, and it was during this time that I came to realize how desolate the world felt due to the void in music and the lack of communal experience. It’s important to note that the auditory element is the impetus for creating the experience.

Thankfully, 2022 is witnessing a powerful resurgence of music, but this year has made me reflect on the time when these shared events were impossible. We are living in uncertain times, and, while this might sound cliché, music has the power to unite us all. We need live music more than ever.

As a result, I am going to give you an assignment. Find a concert, whether that is a backyard gig, a downtown block-party jam, a DIY basement show, a big stadium performance and/or a tiny theater concert, and go add a decade to your life. Make new friends, dance until your feet hurt and sing until you can’t speak. There is nothing guaranteed in this world other than the power and pleasures of music.

Contact Willoughby Thom at wthom@nd.edu.

Categories
Viewpoint

A deep hunger

I hopped on the Manhattan-bound “L” train at 10 a.m., late for work. I overslept and took my sweet time getting up. That’s what summer internships are for messing up, right? The car was lightly filled. Most of the people had already made it to their resting places for the day.

The subways are a unique way to be in a forced community with one another from very different walks of life. Our lives collide in extraordinary and soulful ways as we attempt to get to work, friends and our daily chores. Sometimes that means having a woman yell at you about God or having a stranger’s armpit right in your face.

On this particular ride, I collided with Natasha. A young woman who couldn’t be much older than I, in her early 20s, just beginning her journey with life. With a bandana wrapped around her head, dark brown hair outlining her face and giant reusable bags in her hands.

My face was stuck deep within my book. I didn’t even notice her when she sat next to me.

My grandma and grandpa live in a small cul-de-sac on county road 18 in the middle of nowhere California. They’ve lived there in the same house for 50 years, blossoming into a sprawling family full of love. Every Christmas Eve-eve making tamales with my grandma’s sisters and then having another giant feast on Christmas Eve.

Christmas is always a multigenerational, multi-family extravaganza.

My dad describes how every Christmas he can be found sitting next to his “ex-step mother in law’s ex-husband’s stepson’s wife” and how she is the most wonderful woman you could ever meet on the planet. Love palpably oozes out of every crack, corner and crevice. 

We’ve had just about everything happen within our family that might be considered anti-catholic by some of today’s loudest Catholic voices: divorce, suicide, gay marriage, babies out of wedlock, alcoholism, drug use, immigration from Mexico, prison sentences—you name it, it’s probably happened in our family. 

Life in our family can sometimes be really messy, with that many people and big personalities there are always squabbles, somebody is mad at somebody else or someone has too much to drink. 

However, given all this, I’ve never experienced more love and grace than when I’m around those five tables pushed together to make room for everyone.

Natasha looked over my shoulder and asked me what book I was reading. I was re-reading my favorite book from middle school, “The Secret Life of Bees,” by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s about a young girl in the South that finds community with her former housekeeper and three black honey farmers in the middle of South Carolina. It touches on community, race, faith and loss in really beautiful ways.

This gradually led into a conversation about our own communities, what we were doing on this Manhattan-bound train and who we were. Natasha and her family moved to New York when she was about five and she’s lived there ever since. 

She, like I, has experienced death and addiction in our families. Both of us lost two parents before we got to high school and both of us were raised Catholic. We found ourselves within and of each other in ways we would never have expected.

A lot of times when I go out to a party I have so much fun, but end up feeling unsatisfied. Or, when I repeat my majors introduction for the eight billionth time in a day. It’s similar to when I go to the dining hall and eat a burger or two. It provides me with filling, but not satisfaction. 

Talking with Natasha provided something new: connection with other people in a really substantive way. New York is enormous and often times felt overwhelming in the number of people around with connections sometimes fleeting or nonexistent. 

Social intimacy and commitment are often a lot harder to come by and less prevalent than most of us think it is in our lives. We have fewer close friends than ever before. Reported loneliness at record high levels. Deaths of despair are higher than ever in our history.

Earlier this week, I picked up Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” A book where Eddie, a grizzled war veteran who dies a terrible death, meets five people who illuminate the unseen connections of his life. Albom’s premise is his version of heaven is a wish to have “people who felt unimportant here on earth- realize, finally, how much they are loved.”

In the book, Eddie meets someone who’s life he didn’t even know he had impacted so deeply and is told, “strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.”

I’ve never felt more holy or more Catholic than being around the table with the communion of saints on earth. Filling my soul with the deeper hunger that I have, that we all have. 

This table can be different for each of us, for some it might literally be saint-like figures in our lives, for some it might be playing a video game in a quad with dear friends or around a charcuterie board talking about our deepest worries. 

For me, it’s when I’m around those five tables pushed together to fit everyone in. I think about Natasha joining us at that table. A task that might even require pulling up a sixth table. So that my cousin one day might say, “I was sitting next to my step mom’s, step dad’s, grandson’s friend from a subway.” 

In my opinion, filling this deeper hunger requires two things, (1) being more intentional about the ways we connect with others and (2) being more open to the unknown gifts of others. 

Natasha and I accomplished something on the short subway ride this summer. We filled a deeper hunger. Something that can’t always be accomplished with an all-you-can-eat buffet or a 300-person party.

Dane Sherman is a junior at Notre Dame studying American Studies, Peace Studies, Philosophy and Gender Studies. Dane enjoys good company, good books, good food, and talking about faith in public life. Outside of The Observer, Dane can be found exploring Erasmus books with friends, researching philosophy, with folks from Prism, reading NYTs op-eds from David Brooks/Ezra Klein/Michelle Goldberg or at the Purple Porch getting some food. Dane ALWAYS want to chat and can be reach at @danesherm on twitter or lsherma2@nd.edu.

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

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News

Holy Cross College celebrates Founder’s Day

This Monday marked 56 years since Holy Cross College’s establishment. The College was founded on Sept. 19, 1966 by Holy Cross Brothers whose mission is to be “educators in the faith” to men and women everywhere — especially the poor, afflicted and oppressed.

Michael Griffin, senior vice president and interim provost of Holy Cross College, said that the College was originally founded to train Holy Cross brothers to teach at the high school level.

“At that time, Catholic brothers were really expanding their ministry to teaching,” Griffin said. “If you look around the country at some of the best Catholic high schools, many of them were begun by brothers in the 50s and the 60s.”

Previously, brothers would pursue degrees at institutions like Notre Dame or St. Edward’s University in Texas. Holy Cross was the first of its kind, Griffin said.

“Holy Cross College really provided a foundation where the brothers could live and study together,” he explained. 

In 1968, the College became coeducational just two years after its founding because the brothers saw a chance to expand their mission, Griffin explained.

“The brothers saw that it was not only them who could benefit from the education. So very quickly, before many other colleges, including Notre Dame [that became coeducational in 1972], the brothers decided to open up Holy Cross to women and men to join,” Griffin said. 

When it was founded, Holy Cross College initially offered two-year programs, but over the years, it expanded to become a four-year college. 

Students marked Founder’s Day by wearing their maroon and silver Holy Cross gear to show off their school spirit. The College distributed Holy Cross themed cookies and had food trucks out on the courtyard.

Holy Cross students lined up at food trucks on the quad outside of dorms to celebrate the College’s 56th annual Founder’s Day. / Courtesy of Sara Cole

Sophomore Sara Cole said she thought Founder’s Day was a great way to build Holy Cross camaraderie.

“It’s just a great way for students to hang out and be in community,” Cole said.  

Cole said that she was drawn to Holy Cross because she wanted to pursue the elementary education major that they offer. The program has allowed her to sit in on student teaching sessions since her first year.

“Other schools [with comparable programs] generally only allow students to start practical experience with teaching their senior year,” Cole said. 

Coming from a small high school, Cole said she also appreciated having a small college community where she knows the majority of students. 

Student body president of the College, sophomore Dion Payne-Miller also praised Holy Cross’ tight-knit community.

“I love that the community is so small that you pretty much know everybody from students all the way up to professors, and even administration for that matter,” he said.

Payne-Miller hopes to see more partnerships between Holy Cross, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

“Besides clubs … we can work together for our overall community of South Bend and Mishawaka,” Payne-Miller explained. 

Griffin said that Founder’s Day at Holy Cross really highlights the uniqueness of the tri-campus community.

“The Holy Cross, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s tri-campus … really is one of the only places in the world where you have three colleges founded by each of the three parts of Catholic religious life — priests, sisters and brothers. I often say that 46556 is the most unique zip code in Catholic higher education.”

Contact Angela at amathew3@nd.edu

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News

GreeNDot widens focus under new department leadership

Students gathered on Library Lawn from 9-11 p.m. Friday night for Notre Dame’s third celebration of National greeNDot Day.

A DJ played music as attendees enjoyed two large inflatables, food trucks and lawn games. Mandy Miller, the program director of student health and wellness initiatives for the division of student affairs, said the event provided students a space to talk about campus safety.

“This event allowed students to come together as a community and stand up against all forms of harm that happen and learn how to take action,” Miller wrote in an email. 

Miller, who chairs the greeNDot steering committee, drew attention to the various student-safety organizations.

“Multiple informational tables were present, consisting of signs up for bystander trainings and recruiting students to the greeNDot student advisory committee, a group of students who are passionate about making our campus safer. Callisto and Speak Up were also present to support the event as reporting option,” Miller wrote.

In addition to larger events such as the annual the greeNDot day celebration or the flick on the field, Miller said greeNDot spreads its mission in smaller ways daily on Notre Dame’s campus.

“GreeNDot’s mission is being carried out daily through tabling events around campus, table tent messaging within the dining halls and weekly bystander intervention trainings on Sunday afternoons in Dahnke Ballroom,” Miller wrote.

Student greeNDot workers gave out free towels to attendees at Flick on the Field to raise awareness of the program on campus. / Courtesy of Mindy Miller

New this academic year, the greeNDot program is being housed under the student health and wellness unit, directed by assistant vice president for student health and wellness Christine Caron Gebhardt, Miller said.

“Since the inception of the program, greeNDot was implemented under the gender relations center,” Miller wrote.

This initiative to strengthen greeNDot oversight began back in May of 2022, Miller said. In the past, the greeNDot program had been managed by a volunteer steering committee. 

“The University has invested in establishing a staff position to oversee the greeNDot program. Starting in May 2022, the position of program director of student health and wellness initiatives manages the day-to-day operations of greeNDot and since has implemented a newly paid student program assistant position and hired six senior fellows to help with bystander intervention trainings, campus outreach, relationship building and marketing and communications,” Miller wrote.

These recent administrative change mirrors the expansion of greeNDot’s focus this year from violence prevention to all forms of harm, Miller said.

“With the program now transitioning its focus on all forms of harm, to include mental health, discrimination and harassment and alcohol, instead of just power-based personal violence, the new mission of greeNDot is to inspire a culture of care by creating awareness, teaching intervention skills and promoting a campus environment that does not tolerate harm,” Miller wrote.

So far this year, greeNDot has targeted their mission to first-year students through efforts during welcome weekend and the Moreau first-year seminar. The senior fellows have also helped with the initiative to offer larger campus-wide bystander trainings for students of all grade levels, Miller said.

“The scheduled trainings, which are already at max registrations, started on September 11 and go through October 9, also overlap with Moreau first year course, where first year students were re-introduced to greeNDot during week four’s curriculum,” Miller wrote.

Micah Finley, a greeNDot senior fellow, said he has been happy to see greeNDot become more receptive to student input this year following the program’s administrative revamp.

“We are trying to transition [greeNDot] to being more student-run so that students’ request in how they want to see greeNDot can actually be formed around how they feel and what they want to see,” Finley said.

Finley said he is taking initiative this year, under the expansion of greeNDot’s mission, to publicize campus safety efforts equally between genders.

“One thing I definitely want to do for greeNDot more in the future is to put more emphasis on the male aspect. Males tend to really not express their feelings a lot and they tend to ignore situations even though stuff happens to them as well just as equally as it does to women,” Finley said.

Finley said he is hopeful about good that will be brought out of greeNDot’s new overarching health and wellness perspective, provided that the message continues to spread.

“I want [everyone] to know that greeNDot is a place where they have a voice, that they can be heard and to let them know that they’re not alone,” Finley said.

Though greeNDot has begun to pivote outward in new directions this academic year, Miller said the fundamental goal of the program has not changed.

“Our message is that any forms of violence or harm are not okay, and everyone has a role to play.”

Contact Peter at pbreen2@nd.edu

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News

Architecture students help revitalize South Bend, Kalamazoo

An architectural drawing of a proposed design for downtown Kalamazoo. / Credit: Kate Naessens – The Observer

Marianne Cusato is leading a new initiative to revitalize underutilized areas of South Bend and Kalamazoo, Mich., while also providing a professional environment and learning opportunities for students.

“It’s a combination of looking at human community development patterns and how we can use that to build a better home,” said Cusato, professor of the practice and director of housing and community regeneration initiatives within the School of Architecture.

During a four-day period, a team of students and faculty from the School of Architecture met with public officials, city planners and various industry professionals in a practice known as a “charette” to discuss and map out plans to make better use of Kalamazoo’s layout. The goal of the project is to make the city more accessible and enjoyable for the public.

“There is no hierarchy in charette” is a phrase senior Angelica Ketcham heard repeatedly throughout her experience that describes the teamwork involved.

“Small, midwest towns are an interesting urban design puzzle because a lot of them experienced urban renewal in the ’80s and ’90s,” Ketcham said. “The goal of the charette is less ‘this is what’s wrong with your city, and this is how we are going to fix it’ but ‘this is what is great about your city, how can we do more of it? How can we emphasize it? How can we revitalize what’s around it?’”

Dylan Rumsey, a third-year graduate student, explained that after the “core downtown area” of Kalamazoo was identified, the next step was to create a zoning plan to support the commercial areas.

Then, the architects had to decide what buildings were worth preserving or replacing, how to better direct traffic to make these areas more commercially friendly and how to utilize the surrounding alley networks to make the street itself more accessible on foot.

“We were really just thinking how we could take the space in between the buildings and best utilize it for traffic and pedestrians,” Rumsey said.

While reflecting on his time in Kalamazoo, Rumsey said he hopes urban planning can be more centered around the consumer experience in the future.

“Designing public spaces should be the number one approach to any kind of urban planning, and I think that is something we’ve really missed the mark on here, especially in middle America, because cities just aren’t nice places to walk around,” he explained.

An architectural drawing created by Notre Dame architecture students participating in the charette project. / Credit: Kate Naessens – The Observer

Now, with the plan itself finished, Ketcham and Rumsey said they are going through the process of compiling the results of the charette to present in a public report in the coming months.

The next charette will be with Habitat for Humanity in Mishawaka during fall break, Cusato said.

“We’ll do three charettes a year, plus a charette lab course, which does the prep work and follow-up for each of the charettes,” she said.

Cusato said students can expect to experience real-world problem-solving from being involved in this initiative.

“For so long, we have been on autopilot, just accepting that the world around us is just the world around us, but with these charrettes, there’s a real energy around them from feeling like you can actually be a part of a solution,” she said.

Contact Kate at knaessen@nd.edu.

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Viewpoint

Our communities are struggling. Are we to blame?

Our communities are increasingly divided and weakened. Is Notre Dame partially to blame?

During the last presidential election, nearly eight in ten registered voters believed that their disagreements with the other side were not only about politics and policies, but “core American values.” While the right and left diagnose society’s ills differently, they surprisingly identify one of the same symptoms. Scholars as disparate as Patrick Deneen and Cornel West agree that the loss of community felt by many Americans is a problem of immediate and fundamental concern. At the University of Notre Dame, community is foremost; the mission statement affirms that “[i]n all dimensions of the University, Notre Dame pursues its objectives through the formation of an authentic human community [emphasis added] graced by the Spirit of Christ.” Why, then, is Notre Dame and its student body a significant — and often unknowing — perpetrator of this loss of community?

The answer to this question is simple: Notre Dame suffers from the same destructive meritocratic hubris infecting elite institutions everywhere. In his book “The Tyranny of Merit,” Michael Sandel defines meritocratic hubris as “the tendency of winners to inhale too deeply of their success to forget the luck and good fortune that helped them on their way.” Meritocrats believe people should and do get ahead on their own ability, and that credentials are the gold standard for determining success and prestige. Thus, in a meritocracy, the most credentialed and talented rule. For all the talk about Notre Dame’s unique Catholic identity, we often forget the Catholic Church’s universal call to family, community and participation when we hyper-fixate on self-fulfilling credentials such as prestigious internships, fellowships and job offers. 

What makes meritocratic hubris so pernicious is the ease with which it develops in people who genuinely mean well. It often arises from supportive friends and family telling us that we deserve the opportunity to attend Notre Dame because of our hard work. While there is nothing wrong with kind words from others, we often internalize the notion that we’ve gotten ahead all on our own. We convince ourselves that because we worked hard, we deserve all the success that comes from it. We forget — especially at a university where 75% of students come from families in the top 20% of income — that without our family, teachers, friends, neighbors and overall community, we would not be where we are today. In “A Theory of Justice,” John Rawls reminds us that “[e]ven the willingness to make an effort, to try, and so to be deserving [emphasis added] in the ordinary sense is itself dependent upon happy family and social circumstances.” Tragically, our hubris weakens the communities most worthy of our support and gratitude.

Let me be clear: We should still celebrate our accomplishments. But having a healthy dose of meritocratic humility and understanding the sacrifice of the people around us and the inevitable luck involved in our success can go a long way in making the world a more inclusive, community-oriented place. We can’t build up our communities if we fail to realize their value. Without incredible teachers, a supportive family, a bit of luck and financial assistance from my community, I would not be attending Notre Dame. With humility, we can better understand the importance of community and work toward strengthening it, not diminishing it.

If we don’t strengthen our communities, our democracy is at stake. In “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt warns that societies are more susceptible to authoritarianism when loneliness becomes an everyday experience. It is no surprise that Donald Trump has risen to power during the present time of isolation, inequality and cultural grievances. He tapped into a growing number of Americans who felt forgotten, detached from their communities and disdained by the meritocratic elite. Without a course correction and newfound emphasis on community, illiberal forces will only get stronger. 

This gets back to my first point. As more Americans feel a loss of community because of the disconnect between themselves and the credentialed elite, Notre Dame and its student body must do some introspection about the role they play in cultivating this tension. Meritocracy and credentialism are not completely morally bankrupt; I’d definitely prefer to have a surgeon remove my appendix and an electrician wire my house. If we want to thrive, we can’t completely avoid a society where technical/professional competence is valued. But if we are to get serious about addressing what’s ailing our society and the role Notre Dame plays in perpetuating it, it’s time to acknowledge their corrosive effects. As a Catholic institution, we can play a critical role in affirming the dignity of all humans — regardless of credentials or merit — while also promoting the virtue of humility. It starts by acknowledging and reflecting on the hubris we hold.

We must not forget Jesus’s teaching, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jacob Sherer is a junior majoring in political science with a minor in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). Originally from Wisconsin, Jacob lives in Duncan Hall on campus. He currently serves as the President of BridgeND. Feel free to contact him by email, jsherer@nd.edu, with any questions, comments or general inquiries.

BridgeND is a student-led discussion club that is committed to bridging polarization in politics and educating on how to engage in respectful and productive discourse. BridgeND welcomes students of all backgrounds, viewpoints and experiences who want to strengthen their knowledge of current issues or educate others on an issue that is important to them. The club meets weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in the McNeill Room of LaFortune. Want to learn more? Contact bridgend@nd.edu or @bridge_ND on Twitter and Instagram.