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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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‘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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College Republicans’ response to the College Democrats’ Letter to the Editor

This week, the College Democrats published a Letter to the Editor accusing our club of promoting “racist, transphobic, and antisemitic rhetoric” in the 2022 midterm debate that took place on Wednesday, Nov. 2. They call for our debater’s remarks to be formally condemned by the University administration and to require our officer corps to face “comprehensive anti-bias training.” The allegations made by the authors of the letter are categorically false and defamatory. We call on the College Democrats to retract them and issue a formal apology immediately.

The College Democrats fail to provide any evidence for their charge of racism, while any rational person can judge for themselves the intellectual seriousness of the allegation that opposing the genital mutilation of children constitutes “hate speech.” And although the Democratic letter claims that our representative made antisemitic comments during the abortion segment of the debate, their accusations contradict the plain meaning of what was said that night. Their deliberate misinformation campaign is reprehensible, and we encourage anyone who wishes to hear the full debate to watch it on YouTube. At the thirty-eight minute mark, the Democratic representative, makes the following charge.

“[The Republicans are] trying to impose their own worldviews. The science is not clear on when life begins.”

Ultimately, what lies at the heart of the College Democrats’ argument is their defense of the indefensible: the grave evil of abortion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion … Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (no. 2271). It further states that “the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation” (no. 2273). Despite the Democratic representative’s claim to the contrary, we know — through both science and the exercise of reason — that life does begin at conception. The sanctity of unborn life cannot be left up to pluralistic interpretation.

Our representative made no claims about Judaism, even taking care to point out that he could not speak for the Jewish faith on the matter of abortion when he said, “I’m not making any kind of claim about Judaism.” Therefore, the College Democrats must promptly withdraw their libelous claim of antisemitism. Additionally, we ask that their officers receive adequate pastoral care to inform them of the Church’s teaching on the evil of abortion in light of their spiritually perilous position. Using the platform of Our Lady’s University to promote an industry which has claimed the lives of more than 63 million American children since Roe v. Wade is unacceptable and represents an attack on all pro-life students on this campus who are committed to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

We condemn moral relativism. We condemn the barbarism and depravity of the Culture of Death, which is predicated on the false notion that abortion is a necessary means to the attainment of human flourishing. We affirm the intrinsic value of every human life. Putting an end to abortion is, without question, bigger than politics. However, as partisan legislative attitudes with regard to abortion move increasingly further apart, we believe that our club and our party have no choice but to take a stand.

We, the Notre Dame College Republicans, will not be intimidated or harassed for holding true to orthodox Catholic doctrine. Our members — and the millions of Republican voters across the country — care deeply about safeguarding the sanctity of life in the face of direct attacks on the unborn by the Democratic Party. As the country’s leading Catholic university, Notre Dame has a duty to boldly witness to life. The administration can succumb to intimidation, or it can defend the truth.

In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI writes, “In Christ, charity in truth becomes the Face of his Person, a vocation for us to love our brothers and sisters in the truth of his plan. Indeed, he himself is the Truth.” The Catholic character of Notre Dame still matters. We take seriously the work of proclaiming the truth, even when our peers deny it. As the words of the First Epistle of Saint John the Apostle remind us, to love our neighbor genuinely requires us to share in the charity of God’s very nature:

“And we have known, and have believed the charity, which God hath to us. God is charity” (1 John 4:16).

PJ Butler
President of Notre Dame College Republicans
Mark Ballesteros

Vice President of Notre Dame College Republicans
Jose Rodriguez
Secretary of Notre Dame College Republicans
Merlot Fogarty
President of Notre Dame Right to Life
Nov. 16

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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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.

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Let’s put labor back in Labor Day

Let’s focus on labor this Labor Day. Let’s not forget the heroism of American workers in the past, who by banding together won victories that we take for granted, such as the eight-hour workday, the 40-hour workweek, the end of child labor and salaries sufficient to support their families.  After declining for decades, the labor movement in the U.S. is growing at a pace not seen since the Great Depression.  For example, last December a single Starbucks store in Buffalo successfully voted in a union. Today, employees in more than 200 Starbucks stores nationwide have voted for unions.

A year ago, JusticeND, a coalition of concerned faculty and staff, began a university-wide discussion about the fairness of the wages being paid to hourly staff.  Noting that Notre Dame’s minimum wage fell far short of meeting the basic needs of families of living in South Bend, we called upon Notre Dame to follow Catholic Social Teaching, which demands that employers pay living wages.   Notre Dame students joined this dialogue by launching their own “Raise the Standard Campaign,” which pushed for raising student wages and widening participation in deliberations about salaries and working conditions.  

We were encouraged that, in July, Notre Dame announced salary increases, which raised the pay of faculty and staff by 3% and set a minimum wage of $15 per hour for work-study students and $17.50 per hour for all other hourly workers.  These increases are an important first step. But much more needs to be done. According to new research last year by the Notre Dame Center for Social Research, the new minimum wage for entry-level positions at Notre Dame does not provide a financially stable situation for most families.

Raising low wages benefits not just Notre Dame staff and faculty. It benefits the entire the South Bend community. Notre Dame is the largest employer in South Bend, a poor city with a median household income of only $42,657, which is far below the national average of $64,994 (these figures are 5-year averages from 2016 to 2020 in real (2020) dollars).  Black households in South Bend average only about half the income of white households. If Notre Dame is to be, recalling Fr. Sorin’s words, a “powerful force for good” in South Bend, we must take responsibility not only for the poverty in South Bend but for the policies that created and maintain the racial wealth gap. 

Notre Dame’s mission obliges us to cultivate in our students, “a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many.”  We cannot teach the history of the labor movement and social encyclicals without taking responsibility for the justice of our own labor policies.  The progress that we made last year was the fruit of disciplined reflection and dialogue about our collective obligations to the most vulnerable members of our community. JusticeND calls upon all members of the Notre Dame community to press forward, particularly as the cost-of-living continues to rise.  Let’s take time on this Labor Day to ask ourselves what new strides we will look back upon on Labor Day 2023. 

Clark Power
John Duffy
Steve Fallon

Aug. 29

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A welcome from Notre Dame Right to Life

It’s the start of a new, beautiful fall semester here at Our Lady’s University, and Notre Dame Right to Life (NDRtL) wants to extend a warm welcome to students returning to campus and all new students who are joining the Notre Dame family this school year! We are so happy to have you here. 

We are so excited to begin this year’s line-up of amazing speakers, service opportunities, social events, dialogue, education and activism. This is, after all, the first year ever that NDRtL has existed in a world without Roe.

NDRtL is the largest non-academic student-run club on campus. Our mission is to promote a culture of life in the Notre Dame community through education, service and prayer. We believe that all life has value, from conception to natural death. Our programming seeks to serve students at Notre Dame by promoting and upholding the sanctity of all human life. 

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, it is more important than ever for students to get involved in pro-life initiatives. We have waited 50 years for this first step in the fight against abortion. Yet this is only the first step. Building a culture of life means creating a society in which abortion is not only illegal, but also unthinkable. 

This means providing resources and aid to women in unplanned pregnancies, supporting candidates and legislation that stand for strong adoption and foster care reform bills, child support and mandatory maternity leave and finally, ensuring that each and every individual in our society knows and cherishes the unique, unrepeatable life and dignity of every human being from the moment of conception. 

As this year progresses, we will continue to reflect on the future of the pro-life movement and the state of our culture. We will not stop until every woman, child and family is treated with dignity and love in both the culture and the law. 

In addition to post-Roe initiatives, Right to Life holds many events throughout the semester which help to promote dialogue on life issues and bring awareness to the places in our society where the most vulnerable among us are forgotten. This year, we are excited to announce the inaugural Right to Life retreat, “Serve One Another Humbly With Love” (Galatians 5:13), which will be held on September 3, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

“Life Fest,” the annual kick-off event for Right to Life, a celebration of the joy of each and every life within the Notre Dame family, will be on September 2 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on South Quad. Any and all are welcome for burgers and hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy, cookie decorating, games, tie dye and fellowship!

As a Catholic club, NDRtL chooses a yearly patron saint both to guide and strengthen the spiritual dimension of our club’s initiatives. For the 2022-2023 school year, NDRtL’s patron saint will be St. Joseph! St. Joseph is titled the “Pillar of Families,” “hope in difficulties,” “protector and patron of the unborn” and “patron of fathers.” We recognize that fatherhood is invaluable and essential to promoting a culture of life. In a post-Roe America, fathers will need to step up, and St. Joseph will be their guide. Further spirituality initiatives include monthly Right to Life Mass in the Basilica, all-night adoration and weekly Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the Grotto for the unborn. 

Furthermore, this year for service is going to be huge! We have so many moms and families to help and we cannot wait to get started. Our service initiatives range from baby showers for moms in the community, free weekly babysitting for parenting students and faculty, spending time with the elderly at Holy Cross Village, raising money for a mom who chose life that we’ve adopted through “Let Them Live,” volunteering at the Women’s Care Center or Hannah’s House and so much more! 

Our education branch seeks to serve the Notre Dame community by providing the platform for conversation and dialogue and to open the door to changing hearts and minds in the Notre Dame community. We have a lineup of some wonderful (and very famous!) speakers coming our way this fall that you won’t want to miss out on. Lastly, we are ecstatic to announce we are partnering with the Saint Joseph FertilityCare Center to host a series on Natural Family Planning and living a comprehensive pro-life ethic that combines science and faith. 

While some may argue otherwise, we want to emphasize: We are a non-partisan club. All are welcome to participate in dialogue and events with NDRtL, and we joyfully receive newcomers into the Right to Life family. We recognize the controversy of the pro-life identity and the difficult conversations that are being had on all life issues across our nation. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or would just like to chat, please stop by our office hours! We have an open door for any and all who would like to engage — visit our website for hours. 

We strive to root our work in prayer and set all of our hardships at the feet of Christ, in constant intercession with Our Beloved Lady, the Virgin Mary. We maintain that every individual is made in the image and likeness of God and as such should be treated with dignity and kindness in all circumstances. Mothers, fathers, children, the elderly, those in prison, the disabled and each and every one of you deserve the dignity and respect owed to a child of God. 

Whether you are already an active member of the club or you are just interested in seeing what RtL has to offer, we would be honored to work joyfully alongside you to promote a culture of life here at Our Lady’s university. We will be praying for each and every one of you. 

If you or someone you know is going through an unplanned pregnancy, you are not alone! Notre Dame is committed to providing resources and helping students choose life. Contact Peggy at ND’s Family Resource Center (mhnatusk@nd.edu, 574-631-3000). Visit one of the several local Women’s Care Centers for free, confidential pregnancy resources (574-234-0363). Browse local resources via hermichiana.org, or contact NDRtL at prolife@nd.edu with any questions you may have! We are here to serve! Go Irish, Save Babies!

Saint Joseph, pray for us!

In Christ,

Merlot Fogarty

junior

president, Notre Dame Right to Life

Aug. 22

Editor’s note: A previous version of this letter to the editor used the terminology “anti-abortion” instead of “pro-life” due to The Observer’s adherence to AP style. The wording was changed back as the letter represents the views of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. The Observer regrets this error.

Letter to the Editor

The views expressed in this letter are not necessarily those of The Observer.