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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.