Categories
Viewpoint

Hate has no place here

Last Wednesday, BridgeND hosted a debate between the College Democrats and College Republicans. What was intended to be an educational conversation and a model for civil discourse instead spiraled into a display of racist, transphobic and antisemitic rhetoric from the College Republicans’ representative. We believe that the College Republicans must be held accountable for their hateful words, if not by our University’s administration then by concerned students like us. This letter is not about liberals being unable to listen to opposing opinions or being intolerant of different viewpoints. It is about taking a stand against the growth of hateful sentiment on Notre Dame’s campus and holding those who perpetrate it accountable. 

You don’t have to just take our word for it: Listen to what the College Republicans’ representative said during the debate, which you can watch on YouTube.

The Republican debater’s election denial, promotion of QAnon conspiracies about Jan. 6, transphobic characterization of deeply personal experiences for trans children, comparison of Judaism’s position on abortion with Aztec child sacrifice, dogwhistles on race when discussing DEI and promotion of nationalism are not just factually inaccurate and problematic. These statements are unacceptable and harmful to our community at Notre Dame. What was meant to be educational was instead speech based on inflammatory lies and group defamation. For these reasons, we unequivocally condemn his statements. 

It seems that the Republican debater’s intent was to use inflammatory speech to elicit a reaction from the crowd. He could have spoken on a wide range of legitimate policy positions enumerated in the Republican National Committee’s official platform. He could have embraced civil discourse and been respectful toward the College Democrats’ debater. Instead, he drew on conspiracy theories, alt-right rhetoric and dangerous nationalist ideas. The debate could have been an opportunity for educational, civil discourse, but instead it was an event that made students in the audience and those watching the recording feel unsafe and unwelcome at their own university.

Unfortunately, what we witnessed last Wednesday is not an isolated incident of hate speech and political extremism. Rather, it represents the emergence — or rather, the explosion — of antidemocratic and hateful sentiments at Notre Dame. 

Last year, the editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover published a homophobic article, arguing that the affirmation of LGBTQ+ students’ sexuality was inconsistent with the University’s Catholic mission, purposefully timed after National Coming Out Day. Her argument was that truly loving and including queer students unconditionally is un-Catholic. This year, the Rover’s articles included assertions that selling Pride-related products at the bookstore was tantamount to heresy.

We also held our first-ever PrideFest last year, a major milestone for Notre Dame’s LGBTQ+ students. And yet, some students were overheard ridiculing the event, mocking what Notre Dame had become and showing disgust for the celebration. Remarks like these are disheartening. On top of that, the Young Americans for Freedom put up a sign in the Duncan Student Center last year that read “Lia Thomas is not a woman.” This isn’t emblematic of the Notre Dame family that we have touted and embraced.

Last Wednesday, when the College Democrats’ representative Blake Ziegler called out an antisemitic comment made to him during the debate, members of the audience booed him. It is disgusting and highly offensive that an antisemitic comment was made on stage by the College Republicans’ representative, but even more so that students of this university booed someone who was simply holding his opponent accountable for insulting his religion.

{Editor’s note: Blake Ziegler is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer.}

These actions of hate need to be addressed and need to be condemned.

When students at the University of Notre Dame, a prestigious academic institution, are allowed to make offensive comments in an official, public capacity, they normalize it for extremists everywhere. We may not realize it in the moment, but for people watching this debate with hateful ideologies in their hearts, it is validating. We allow it to become an academically sound argument, when it’s pure lies and hate. Introducing such ideas under the guise of “academic debate” and “intellectual freedom” does not make them legitimate — it just gives them an undeserved place at this university. And, by giving them a place here, we use the power and prestige that comes with the words “University of Notre Dame” to tell the world that hate is acceptable.

We want the Notre Dame administration to formally condemn the dangerous rhetoric promoted by College Republicans at the BridgeND debate and commit to requiring comprehensive anti-bias training for student club officers.

Notre Dame’s motto is to be a force for good, but we can’t do that when we don’t uphold our educational mission of pursuing the truth — rather than promoting conspiracy. We proclaim the promise of the Notre Dame family above all else, but we are not treating all of our members with love and respect. We are the Fighting Irish, but what are we fighting for if not the dignity of our own home?

With love for Notre Dame and hope for its future,

Alexandra Conley

junior

Riya Shah

senior

Anna Guzman

senior

Benjamín Rascon Gracia

junior

Katie Werner

junior

Megan Keenan

junior

Sydney Dittmar

junior

College Democrats board members

Nov. 10

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