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Observer Editorial: The hole in our newsroom

As Walk the Walk week wraps up at Notre Dame, our predominantly white institution is left to think about how to put into practice the ideas we’ve engaged with this week. The University has poured funding and time into curating events with distinguished speakers and alumni and publicly uplifted its diverse students’ stories for the week.  This, of course, is an important first step in championing people of color on our campus and educating a majority white student body but it is, by nature, performative. So, how do we confront the actual problems we face when it comes to including students of diverse backgrounds?

The Observer strives to promote diversity and inclusion in our newsroom, but there are ways in which our efforts can be more performative than substantive. We cover many culturally diverse subjects, such as the Asian Allure showcase, Latinx Heritage Month events at Saint Mary’s, the Black Images talent show and the history of the Potawotami land on which Notre Dame is built. However, in an internal feedback survey we conducted last semester, some writers expressed that our coverage felt tokenistic at times. 

This semester, we pledge to focus on more in-depth coverage on the state of diversity and race relations in our tri-campus. 

Yet even with this new focus, there will inevitably be stories we miss. We want to hear from you on how you feel The Observer has neglected your particular corner of campus. You can email or talk to any of our editors, who are more than happy to discuss story ideas. 

At the root of our problem, The Observer is lacking diverse writers. Having writers of various cultures, identities and backgrounds — and even from various areas of study — expands the range of interests and story ideas of any media organization, therefore, making its coverage more representative. 

This issue is mirrored in newsrooms across the country. In 2021, the New York Times reported that 70% of its leadership was white. In the summer of 2020, during the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, more than 150 employees of the Wall Street Journal signed a letter to their editor saying that the Journal’s coverage of race was “problematic” and that its staff was not diverse enough. The Chicago Tribune, a paper that serves a city where 55% of the population are people of color, does not officially publish their employee demographics, but stated in a 2021 article that legacy news organizations like theirs “must do a better job of telling the full stories of the city’s Black and brown communities.”

In theory, The Observer doesn’t have as many barriers to entry as most other news organizations. Unlike other college newspapers, we do not require our writers to apply before they write their first story. An opinion piece written by the former Editor-in-Chief of Georgetown University’s student newspaper The Hoya argues that student journalism is often stacked against low-income students because student newspaper roles often require long hours, taking away time that could be spent working part-time jobs. While working at The Observer is time-consuming, we are able to pay our staffers who edit and produce our content five days a week — contrary to practices at many other colleges.

Still, there is clearly something about our culture that is failing to bring in a diversity of students. We want to make joining and writing, editing and photographing for the paper as accessible as possible. Let us know of any way we can make this newsroom more welcoming. If you’ve ever had any interest in working for The Observer, visit our office in the basement of South Dining Hall for our meetings on Sundays: 2 p.m. for Scene, our arts and culture section, 2:35 p.m. for Sports and 3:30 p.m. for Notre Dame and Holy Cross News. If you’re at Saint Mary’s, stop by our office in the basement of the student center for the Saint Mary’s News meeting at 7 p.m. Sunday evenings. If you’re not ready to dip a toe in just yet, we would encourage you to read our site and paper as well as follow our social media accounts to see the variety of work you could do.

The Observer must be a more inclusive place. If you feel you could assist us in that goal, we would also like to invite you to apply to be a part of our Talent and Inclusion department. The department is led by the Manager of Talent and Inclusion (MTI) and includes an assistant MTI position. In this role, you would directly be involved in making our coverage more representative, recruiting more writers of color and other identities and backgrounds, building our presence at Holy Cross and making our newsroom one where everyone feels welcome. Do consider applying here before next Friday.

We take our responsibility to the tri-campus community seriously. We want our staff to reflect the University’s and Colleges’ student bodies as closely as possible. We are your paper and we are independent for a reason — to tell all stories. But we are missing some voices in our newsroom, and we intend to do all that we can to rectify this. Reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions for ways we can do better. We want to be a paper you can be proud of.

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Observer Editorial: Let’s talk about the scooter problem

Notre Dame’s campus has a few givens: Touchdown Jesus, the Golden Dome, Saint Mary’s Lake and, of course, electric scooters. Electric scooters, which can reach speeds over 20 miles per hour, are ubiquitous at the University and have become a nuisance.

Scooters can be a fun way of getting around and can be important alternatives to costly transportation or a way to get around for students who are mobility-impaired, but they won’t be for much longer if unsafe scootering persists. It is time for pedestrians to reclaim the sidewalks.

Think about it. How frequently do you have to dodge a scooter while walking to your class in DeBart? How often do you watch it happen to someone else? Pedestrians should not have to slow down or jump out of the way as scooters recklessly zoom past. It is time we recognize that scooters don’t have the right of way and some riders need to start being more careful.

In case you need evidence of this, here it is spelled out in the Personal Electric Vehicle Policy from the NDPD: “Personal electric vehicle users must stay to the right on all roadways, crosswalks, pathways and sidewalks. Pedestrians have the right of way.”

There is no need to travel 20 mph on campus, let alone on sidewalks. While the appeal of scooters is understandable — especially for students who live off campus and don’t have a car — the way students use them on campus is unsafe. Almost getting hit by a scooter has become a running joke and a campus-wide issue.

This isn’t just a problem at Notre Dame either. In August, an incoming Indiana University freshman hit a bump on his scooter, lost control and crashed. This student eventually died from his injuries, the Bloomington Herald-Times reported. While this tragic example may seem extreme, it occurred just a few hours away from our own campus and should serve as a sobering reminder of how scootering can become dangerous. 

These are not Razor Scooters we’re talking about. Scooters don’t need to be banned, but safer scootering needs to be practiced for the well-being of everyone. 

Here are some tips: 

  1. Yield (please) to pedestrians around campus and signal if you need to pass.
  2. Consider riding a bike or a manual scooter instead if you are able to. 
  3. Don’t text and scooter.
  4. Don’t drink and scooter.
  5. Obey traffic rules as you would when driving a car. 
  6. Stay to the right on roads and sidewalks. 
  7. If you’re scootering in the dark, consider buying a light or reflector for cars that might not be able to see you otherwise or pedestrians who may not know you’re coming. 
  8. As the weather changes, be even more careful in the snow. Ride slowly and look out for ice and slippery roads. Leave for class a little early to accommodate that pace.
  9. This applies to other seasons, too. Pay attention to bumps in the road and rocks or sticks that could knock you off your scooter. 
  10. Be alert. This means don’t listen to music so loudly you can’t hear anything. 
  11. Register your scooter with NDPD. 

And for some recommendations from NDPD

  1. Limit speeds to 10 miles per hour. 
  2. Avoid use in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. 
  3. Use a U-type lock when you aren’t scootering, just in case. 

While banning scooters is extreme and preposterous, so is fearing injury on your daily walk to class. We’d rather not report on scooter injuries.

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Observer Editorial: Now what? Activities for post-football season

Fall can be quite an overwhelming season in college. School, club activities, job applications and social events make a week fly by. Football season makes the weekend almost as tiring as the week, leaving you with even less free time to diversify your schedule. With just one home football game left, you might be wondering: What is there to do when Notre Dame’s most famous sports season is over? Well, look no further because here’s a guide to all the happenings around the tri-campus — from sports to art to music and everything in between — so you can really explore everything this community has to offer. 

Sports

In just two weeks, we won’t be spending our Saturdays at Notre Dame Stadium. However, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the world of Irish athletics. 

Remaining Fall Sports

Fall sports aren’t done! Notre Dame volleyball is a sneaky fun environment to catch a game, and they’ve got only two home games left, including one tonight at 6:30 p.m. And if you missed it, the Irish women’s soccer team earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, meaning they’ll host all their postseason games at Notre Dame through the Elite Eight. They start against Omaha on Saturday. Enjoy watching Michael Mayer be the best at what he does on the football field? You’ll also enjoy watching Korbin Albert being the best at what she does. Get out and watch this team during its final few games. 

Hockey Games 

You’ll find a lot of students who argue that the best athletic environment sans football is a hockey game. Notre Dame students frequently pack the student section and the band sits in the middle, blasting everyone’s game day favorites. The Irish finished a goal short of the Frozen Four last year and are consistently a ranked team, competing against some of the nation’s best. 

Your next chance to see them? This weekend against the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines. And if you can’t get a ticket in time, the Irish will return to Compton Family Ice Arena in December, and you can catch them in Big Ten action all winter long.

Men’s and Women’s Basketball

Two programs on the rise, Notre Dame men’s and women’s basketball, surged in student popularity last year. The men are coming off a Round of 32 appearance and host Youngstown State this Sunday. Want to wait for a bigger game? The Irish play Michigan State and Syracuse on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, respectively, in a pair of massive home tilts.

On the women’s side, the Irish boast one of the best players in the nation in Olivia Miles, and she’s just a sophomore. The Irish reached the Sweet 16 last year and are eyeing bigger goals this season. They’ve got massive matchups against ranked rivals Maryland and UConn on Dec. 1 and 4, respectively. 

With halftime contests, t-shirt tosses, performances from the Notre Dame Pom Squad providing entertainment and the leprechaun, cheer team and band boosting the energy, Purcell Pavilion is the place to be when either basketball squad is in town. 

Olympic Sports

Notre Dame is a fencing school? You may have heard the expression, and it just might be true. The 12-time national champions have won back-to-back titles and will host the DeCicco Duals at the end of January. You can double up that weekend as well and catch the swimming and diving team host the Tim Welsh Classic. The Notre Dame track and field team usually hosts a meet or two throughout the season, so keep an eye out for that, as well. 

Art

Did you know that there is a flourishing art scene at Notre Dame? Of course, you can’t miss the Snite Museum of Art, but there are other amazing opportunities to get involved and learn more about the University’s creative community.

‘Daughters of Our Lady: Finding a Place at Notre Dame’ — Ongoing exhibition in 102 Hesburgh Library, Rare Books & Special Collections

In celebration of 50 years of coeducation at Notre Dame, senior archivist for photographs and graphic materials Elizabeth Hogan curated an exhibition which explores the University’s educational and institutional evolution. Through carefully selected archival materials, visitors will have the opportunity to visualize and contextualize Notre Dame’s journey from the turn of the century to 1972. Most importantly, this exhibit aims to highlight the pioneering women who helped shape the University to what it is today.

Artist Lecture: Rodrigo Lara — Nov. 16 from 5-6 p.m. in 200 Riley Hall

Everyone is welcome to join the department of art, art history and design for a lecture by multidisciplinary artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas. Born in Mexico in 1981, Rodrigo Lara is known to explore the concept of fragmented memory as a result of his personal experiences with Catholicism, immigration and living in America. 

AAHD Gallery exhibition: ‘Darkness and Nothing More’ — Oct. 6 to Nov. 16 in 214 Riley Hall of Art

“Darkness and Nothing More” is an exhibition from Elizabeth M. Claffey, associate professor of photography at Indiana University-Bloomington and 2019-2020 research fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. Claffey’s work focuses on personal and familial identity, as well as an exploration of the body and culture.  

Pottery Sale — Dec. 6 to 8 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 122 Riley Hall of Art

Come support student artists! Shop unique pieces by Bill Kremer, Coleton Lunt, Alexander Carmen, Hans Miles, Norah Amstuts and more.

Music 

As Christmas fast approaches, the University is hosting a number of musical performances to get in the holiday spirit. Even though we have Thanksgiving in between, make sure to mark your calendars and purchase tickets to some of these spectacular events.’

ND Chorale presents Handel’s ‘Messiah’ — Dec. 2 & 3 in Leighton Concert Hall

Ring in the holiday season with The Notre Dame Chorale and Festival Baroque Orchestra with their annual performance of Handel’s legendary oratorio, “Messiah.” This very performance has been a tradition for over 30 years.

Concert by Brooklyn Rider — Dec. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. in LaBar Recital Hall, O’Neill Hall of Music

Brooklyn Rider is a string quartet from Brooklyn, New York, known for experimenting with genres, creating a uniquely contemporary sound. The string quartet has a long musical and cultural history, making it the perfect medium for invention and exploration. 

Jane Lynch’s ‘A Swingin’ Little Christmas’ — Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in Leighton Concert Hall

Remember when “Glee” star Matthew Morrison visited last year? Well, the trend is continuing and Notre Dame is welcoming Emmy-winning actress, singer, playwright, author and “Glee” castmember Jane Lynch to the stage. For one night only, Lynch invites everyone to come join her by the fireside for an evening of nostalgia and Christmans carols.

Film

Let’s all go to the movies! Many people are intimidated to go see a film at the Browning Cinema. Don’t be. There is something for everyone. Are you into indie films? Cult classics? International cinema? You can find anything that suits your taste and enjoy it from the comfort of campus. The Browning Cinema calendar has a list of showings and ticketing information.

Cultural happenings

Notre Dame Press Book Festival and Book Sale — Nov. 15 & 16 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Hesburgh Library Concourse

Are movies or music not so much your scene, but a quiet afternoon with a good book is? Try the annual Press Book Festival and Book Sale. This event has massive discounts and giveaways on all kinds of books, including $5 paperbacks and $7 hardbacks. Get great deals and replenish your reading supply.

An Evening with Ericka Huggins — Nov. 17 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Annenberg Auditorium at the Snite Museum of Art

Notre Dame gives you the opportunity to interact and listen to a wide variety of insightful guest speakers. One such opportunity is this conversation with human rights activist and Black panther leader Ericka Huggins. The conversation will be followed by a reception and book signing. Additionally, copies of Huggins’ new book will be available for purchase.

Editor’s note: This guide is not exhaustive! Look around on campus for other events. There is no shortage of things to do. 

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Observer Editorial: God, Country, Class Registration

With course registration looming, The Observer Editorial Board compiled a list of each member’s favorite class that will be offered next semester. This handy list is perfect for those who put off picking their classes until the last possible moment and want to pick engaging classes with as little research as possible. And for those who already know what classes you want to take, well, hopefully this will make you reconsider.

  • Stochastic Modeling with Daniele Schiavazzi: ACMS students often feel that they don’t get enough hands-on coding experience in their classes. There are a lot of ACMS classes at Notre Dame that don’t have any in-class instruction on programming but still assign homework expecting you to know these skills. Stochastic modeling isn’t anything like these classes. In this class, you’ll find yourself running simulations of real-world scenarios to investigate statistics and probabilities. The class is challenging at times, but never feels like it has unfair expectations of its students, and you come out of the class actually feeling like you’ve learned applicable skills.
  • Sexualities and Moralities: Any Arts and Letters students who may dread the required College Seminar (CSEM) should consider taking Professor Gail Bederman’s Sexualities and Moralities class. Through a mix of short reading assignments and movies, Bederman makes in-class discussion about the intersection of the two topics engaging. So, if you’re stuck deciding which CSEM you want to take, this one won’t be boring! 
  • Ideas that Made America: This American Studies course crosslisted in many departments offers an overview of America through an intellectual lens. With readings by authors ranging from Alexander Hamilton to Malcolm X, this class gives you a chance to wrestle with and contest ideas on democracy and society with classmates and Professor Peter Cajka. (Plus, the midterm paper may or may not be a dinner conversation between historical intellectuals.)
  • American Politics: This political science requirement is an excellent introduction to the American political landscape for all students, regardless of major or school. The course takes key topics and issues you may think you understand and forces you to grapple with opposing viewpoints. After the course is completed you will walk out with a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the issues that tend to cause so much division today.
  • Beginning Logic: If you’re reading the student newspaper, you probably work for the student newspaper. And if you work for the student newspaper, chances are you’re majoring in the liberal arts and are starved for some puzzles and problem-solving. For an easy class that’ll knock out the quantitative reasoning requirement and scratch your brain, Beginning Logic does the trick.
  • Witnessing the Sixties: Witnessing the Sixties is taught by Professor Pete Cajka and will be one of the most exciting, engaging and fast-paced experiences of your life. The sixties were a whirlwind and so was this class. From thinkers like Betty Friedan to Timothy O’Leary and music by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Lesley Gore and the Beatles, this class doesn’t leave a single stone unturned. The mini essays throughout the course allow you to engage with the material in several different ways. Both Cajka and this course will blow the rest of your collegiate career out of the water. (For the undecided political science, history or American Studies major, this class is a great opportunity to discern if post-World War II courses are where you want to focus your collegiate career.)
  • Literature and Medicine with Julia Dauer: You can’t go wrong with this introductory literature course at Saint Mary’s. Open to all students who have completed their W, Professor Dauer’s class gives a historical overview of the American healthcare system, while also reflecting on a variety of issues like illness, mortality and accessibility. At the end of the semester, you walk away with a better understanding of the medical field and the ways society functions in it. 
  • Sports Marketing with Brian Pracht. For all the marketing majors out there, this is a must-take class as you fill out your major requirements. Between engaging guest speakers, relevant real-world examples and projects and a professor that continues to work in the industry today, this class has a lot of applicable skills without being one of the more challenging Mendoza classes. 
  • Intro to Comparative Politics with A. James McAdams: This class is a great introduction to a lot of famous Western thinkers like John Stuart Mill, Max Weber and Francis Fukuyama. But it also did so much more: through readings like ‘America the Unusual’, we learned about the backstory of ideologies in the country that have become the norm. There’s also a weekly discussion section to help you relate real-world examples to the theory you’ll be reading. 
  • Narrative in Fiction and Film with Barry McCrea: Narrative in Fiction and Film is an engaging and fun introductory English and writing intensive course. The syllabus for this course includes readings such as “A Thousand and One Nights,” the plays of Sophocles, and “Sherlock Holmes” and films such as Jason Bourne, “Arrival,” and “Rear Window.” Along with studying the different narrative devices at play in these works, Professor McCrea also promotes your creative development and gives you a chance to find your own narrative voice.
  • History of Famous Women with Professor Philip Hicks: History of Famous women is a Humanistic studies elective course that checks off multiple sophia requirements and is open to all students. Throughout the class you analyze the lives of history’s exceptional women from Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth I to Abigail Adams and Rosa Parks. The course discusses all their triumphs as well as their faults and gives you a well rounded history of who each woman was and how they affected the world we live in. Professor Hicks has a way of making their stories come alive with the help of his in-class reenactments and lively mock trials of women such as Mary Queen of Scots. He is also not afraid to jump into the debates alongside you at times, which gives you the idea that he finds your arguments strong enough to take on himself.  
  • Lincoln, Slavery, & Civil War with Professor Jake Lundberg: This class is cross-listed under the History, Constitutional Studies and Peace Studies departments. Formerly taught as a University Seminar, the class examines a wide range of primary and secondary sources relating to one of the most important events in U.S. history. You might think you know everything about Lincoln, slavery and the Civil War. You don’t. Through class discussions and writing assignments, Lundberg will guide you to think deeper than you have before about causation, agency, legacy and history itself.
  • Topics in Contemporary Art with Professor Elyse Speaks: This art history course investigates the development of three artistic trends of the 1990s — slackers, critics, and makers — and the ways in which they shape our understanding of art politically, socially, and institutionally. Students will learn about artists such as Mike Kelley, Cady Noland, David Hammons and Andrea Fraser and engage in active discourse surrounding their methodology and practice. Speaks specializes in modern and contemporary art, with an interest in contemporary sculpture, installation, gender studies and the politics of value. 
  • VCD 1: Fundamentals of Design: For all those looking to fulfil their fine arts requirement, VCD 1: Fundamentals of Design is a great way to expand your expertise and check off that box. Design is a great skill, regardless of your major or future career plans. Knowing how to communicate effectively visually can elevate your presentations, make your resume look spiffier or even just inspire you to create more designs for fun. In the course, you will complete a series of projects that make great portfolio pieces and give you a better understanding of how to use compositional, typographic and color choices to create good designs.
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Observer Editorial: It’s been 50 years. When will our campuses be safe?

Editor’s note: This story includes mentions of sexual assault. 

Fifty years ago in the fall of 1972, the University of Notre Dame enrolled its first class of women. One hundred twenty-five freshmen and 240 transfers joined the once all-male student body and, in the half-century since, Notre Dame women have boldly contributed to the accomplishments and community of our tri-campus. 

Fifty years, and our tri-campus still isn’t safe.

Last week, at least five students between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s came forward on social media to share stories of alleged sexual assault. Three said they reported their experiences to Notre Dame’s Title IX office. None believe they got justice.

As leaders of an organization comprised of students from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College, The Observer Editorial Board is troubled by these stories. It is our responsibility to serve this community — that means fostering a safe and compassionate workplace where sexual misconduct and violence are not tolerated. Our Letters to the Editor seek to give a voice to that community. We invite you to share your story if you are comfortable doing so. The Observer cannot publish every submission, but at the very least, we will listen.

In the last several months, Notre Dame has hosted several events to commemorate both the 50th anniversary of Title IX and coeducation. Bearing these milestones in mind, tri-campus administrators have not met our expectations for communicating about sexual violence — an issue that impacts all three student bodies. While we understand administrators can’t legally comment on ongoing disciplinary cases, students, especially survivors and allies, demand acknowledgment from campus leaders. 

For example, in the wake of derogatory Yik Yak posts about Saint Mary’s students last fall, Saint Mary’s president Katie Conboy released a statement stating she and her administration “[stood] in solidarity” with students. In addition, she advocated for more opportunities to build tri-campus relations. We commend Conboy for speaking up about how demeaning language hurt the College’s students. However, we encourage her, University President Fr. John Jenkins and Holy Cross President Marco Clark to address their respective students about how they will prevent incidents of sexual violence in our community.

The problem is not a lack of resources; Notre Dame, for example, has many. SpeakUp is the University’s primary online reporting tool, not only for incidents of sexual misconduct but all forms of bias, discrimination and harassment. It is comprehensive and user-friendly, providing students with examples of harassment, confidential and non-confidential resources, what to expect after filing a report and strategies for helping friends.

But in the 2022 Inclusive Campus Student Survey, the University revealed that only 15% of student respondents knew how to use SpeakUp to report harassment, and only 24% of respondents even knew the purpose of the resource. Further, the survey observed that of the nearly 4,400 incidents of adverse treatment reported by more than 2,000 respondents, only about 300  — a little less than 7% — were officially reported. And then, only 7% of that 7% of reports were filed through SpeakUp, less than 0.5% of incidents experienced.

That is the problem. What good can these resources provide if students don’t know that they exist, much less how to use them? And in the face of the silence of leadership, do students even trust our institutions to listen when they “speak up?”

The survey also pointed to the intersectionality of this issue. According to the 2022 results, 31% of cisgender women said they at least somewhat agreed with the statement, “I have seriously considered leaving Notre Dame.” Thirty-three percent of students of color concurred. These statistics correspond to the students who came forward last week: Of the five, four are cisgender women, three are Black and one is non-binary. These are the students our campus is failing — these are the students who are hurt. 

In addition, three of the five students attend Saint Mary’s. Based on the relative size of the schools in the tri-campus community, we are alarmed by the disproportionate number of Saint Mary’s students who have been impacted by sexual violence. 

In recent years, the College has improved the accessibility of student resources with the revival of the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) and the student-led group, Belles Supporting Belles. The College also hosted its inaugural sexual violence symposium last spring, hosting a variety of speakers and events in a week that culminated with Take Back the Night. 

While these initiatives are promising steps in the right direction, Saint Mary’s students deserve a more complete set of resources to address the ongoing issue of sexual assault. Currently, Saint Mary’s students can choose to report to several confidential sources, like the BAVO coordinator, or submit a non-confidential incident report to the Title IX office. However, in comparison to Notre Dame’s SpeakUp, the resources for reporting and healing after an incident of sexual violence seem less comprehensive. The Saint Mary’s Title IX website is merely a page in the Student Life section of the College’s website — rather than a larger, individual site like SpeakUp or Notre Dame Title IX. On the page, there is no link to Notre Dame or Holy Cross resources, despite students being required to submit their reports to the school where the incident took place. Although the Saint Mary’s student population is significantly smaller than Notre Dame’s, it is clear that the College needs to continue expanding avenues for survivors of sexual violence. 

But, of course, our community includes three schools — Holy Cross students face similar problems to Saint Mary’s students and in addition to their own unique obstacles. Similar to Saint Mary’s, Holy Cross’ online resources are confined to a subsection of its Campus Life page, and other than a helpful diagram of reporting options linked at the bottom, they do not offer the depth of knowledge of SpeakUp or Notre Dame’s Title IX website. Holy Cross, in fact, links directly to Notre Dame’s Title IX site, but the Holy Cross resources Notre Dame offers can be broken and contain inaccuracies. One link to a PDF of Holy Cross resources returns a 404 error, while the options listed for reporting offenders from Holy Cross link to the Title IX office at the wrong Holy Cross — the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. This lack of clarity discourages Holy Cross students from reporting misconduct, particularly Gateways, as these students already struggle with navigating resources and reconciling their identities between two schools. And as first-years, Gateways are also at greater risk in their first semester of college.

Clear communication is especially important when the very nature of Title IX is confusing and complex. Notre Dame’s Title IX website explains that Title IX is a law enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that bars discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual violence. However, both the scope and minutiae of the law are unclear to many students, as Title IX is also commonly used in reference to athletics. Misunderstandings about what Title IX is — and uncertainty about the Title IX process — discourage students from coming forward and allow administrators to hide behind bureaucratic jargon. To increase awareness of resources, tri-campus leaders must also increase awareness of Title IX. 

But mere promotional efforts will not be enough to address what has become a deep wound in our tri-campus culture. The fact that at least five students have taken to their personal social media to share their stories demonstrates a fundamental lack of trust in our institutions to handle cases on their own. The act of sharing these stories itself has only worsened that trust, as students once unfamiliar with Title IX reporting are now most aware of the students who feel betrayed by it. Tri-campus leaders must not only promote their resources appropriately but earn back student trust.

Of course, it is also on us, the students, to create a safe campus community. At Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, for example, you can become greeNDot certified through a popular bystander intervention course. However, all trainings this fall at Notre Dame have already reached maximum capacity. Students, it seems, are eager to combat sexual violence in the ways that we can.

What about the adults?

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Observer Editorial: Students deserve more than just group counseling

As the first full month of the semester comes to a close and midterms are on the horizon, it is essential that mental well-being is a priority. The tri-campus community boasts a multitude of resources for student mental health, but it’s time to ask: are they enough?

In a winter 2021 survey sent to students by the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being, 90% of students surveyed expressed “some level of concern” about their emotional well-being. With this amount of demand, the tri-campus community must invest more time, money and resources into caring for the mental health of its students. 

Right now at Notre Dame, the two most prominent resources for mental well-being are the University Counseling Center (UCC) and the McDonald Center, colloquially known as McWell. The UCC advertises free counseling services for all Notre Dame students as well as psychiatric evaluations and group counseling sessions. On its website, the UCC reports that approximately 16% of the Notre Dame student body utilizes its services every year, with 30% of students utilizing the center by the time they graduate.

Similarly at Saint Mary’s, students can find counseling services within the Angela Athletic and Wellness Complex. The Health and Wellness Center is located just inside the main south entrance of the complex. The Health and Counseling Center has four full-time counselors on staff who are available to assist students by appointment. 

While the UCC serves an essential role on campus, it struggles to accommodate student demand for counseling and psychiatric care. Because of the limited number of counselors on staff and the high need for individual counseling, the UCC has encouraged residential hall staff and other campus leaders to direct their residents toward group counseling sessions instead of individual counseling this year. While group counseling can be helpful for some people, it’s often difficult to share mental health struggles with a professional, let alone a group of strangers.

Students who do receive time slots for individual counseling are met by the UCC’s care plan,  which is built to find “brief, solution-focused treatment” for their emotional needs. And although the counseling at the UCC is advertised to students as free, it is only the first 12 sessions that are free of charge. The number of free sessions is the same at the Holy Cross Counseling Center. While this might be enough sessions for some, many students require more individual counseling than the brief plan that these centers are currently offering.  

In contrast, the Saint Mary’s Health and Counseling Center only offers enrolled students up to eight free counseling sessions per semester. While students can receive care from their designated counselor throughout the semester, they can only schedule appointments every other week. This makes it difficult, especially for those who are experiencing acute issues, to see their counselor as regularly as they need. And while the counseling centers can offer referrals to off-campus services, the cost of individual counseling or therapy can become a major barrier to students receiving the care they need. 

In order to support students fully, all three schools must direct more money and resources to make individual counseling more accessible to students. All students should have access to consistent, individual counseling for as long as they need it. 

One possible step to improvement is to bring back the mental health days of the 2020-21 school year — keeping the current calendar but adding period days for students to maintain their mental well-being. It is already a practice for some professors to recommend their students take a mental health day or two if needed, but expanding the practice to apply to all classes would benefit students hesitant to take time for themselves and professors worried about telling students to skip class.   

Recently in states such as Utah, Maine, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Virginia and Arizona, legislative actions have passed to allow high school students to take mental health days. This trend of legislative action has continued into 2022 with Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia introducing measures in support of mental health days for students.  

The tri-campus already has some helpful mental health resources, and it’s important to take advantage of them. But our three schools must do more, especially when it comes to the availability of individual counseling and mental health days. As it stands, the tri-campus is sending students the message that some mental health concerns are too big to handle. They shouldn’t be.

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Observer Editorial: Let’s create a safer campus

Being back on campus means getting back into the swing of things. Whether that means getting used to school work routines, friend groups or even drinking and going out, it’s not always easy. In addition to a list of resources from our rolodex last week, we want to not forget general reminders that can go a long way in keeping you and your friends safe.

Have each others’ backs

Going out to a bar, a party or even dinner can be fun. Unfortunately, what can start as a great night can take a turn for the worse if we aren’t there for each other. When you go out, make sure you go with friends you trust. Watch out for over-consumption, and respect each other when someone says they’ve had enough to drink, or simply don’t want to. And, help enforce that answer if someone else won’t respect it. 

If a friend finds themselves in a dangerous situation, call the authorities for help — even if people in the group have been drinking underage. Indiana’s Lifeline Law provides immunity for anyone seeking help from law enforcement for a friend who needs medical attention due to alcohol. Don’t let the fear of getting in trouble keep you from protecting — or saving — your friends. 

If you see someone outside of your friend group who might need help, reach out to them. Make sure they are okay and invite them to come home with your group if they seem alone or in an uncomfortable situation. You may not be comfortable with this yet, and that’s okay. One great way to become more comfortable with helping others is to complete GreeNDot training. Bystander intervention is an important resource — the more people who know how to use it, the safer our community can be.

Watch out for yourself, too

No one knows your limits better than you do. If you haven’t drank before, pace yourself. If you have, still pace yourself and listen to your body. It’s not the same every time, and other factors can have an effect on how your night goes. Be careful not to put your drink down, leave it with anyone else or place it out of your sight for too long. If you think you see someone else’s drink tampered with, tell them. 

Don’t walk alone at night 

When you’re in unfamiliar places, travel in packs. Walking home with friends can be convenient, but it’s also important to make sure you’re careful. Even if you Uber to different dorms a few feet from each other, make sure you have a system to let friends know you’re home. Send a quick text saying “Made it!” or even something as simple as “Home.” If you have to be alone, call someone. You don’t have to talk. They can just continue whatever they are doing while you stay alert for what’s going on around you. If that doesn’t work for you, set up some kind of system that will. Another option to help you make it home safely is the new ND Safe App. There you can find several resources including safety options like a virtual walkhome. 

For students heading to Saint Mary’s, Blinkie is always a safe and reliable option. Blinkie runs Sunday through Thursday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. to 4 a. m. Times will be adjusted as it becomes darker out earlier. For Saint Mary’s students heading back to campus after Blinkie’s hours SMCurity (Saint Mary’s Campus Safety) can always be called. They are able to pick students up from the Grotto bus stop and drive them back to Saint Mary’s.     

These preventative measures are especially important this time of year. The start of fall semester through Thanksgiving break has been dubbed “the Red Zone” by the MeToo Movement. More than 50% of sexual assault instances on college campuses occur in that window, and it is especially unsafe for women — even those who know their campus well. Walking home with a group and having friends you trust to check-in with are two ways to make your evenings feel a little safer and a bit more manageable. 

You don’t have to drink alcohol

The social pressure to drink, while more monitored in some ways than other college cultures, is still present. Whether at dissos, a house party or a pregame, drinking is often a big part of people’s evening plans. But it doesn’t have to be. If you want to go out, meet new people and hit different events throughout the year, try FlipSide, a Notre Dame club that provides activity alternatives without the social pressures of drinking. You can also go out to dinner, bowl or see a movie. Or even if you’re at one of those dissos or weekend parties with friends, you still don’t have to drink. Bring a water bottle and have fun with your friends anyways. Drinking is not a requirement at these events, and if anyone makes it seem like it is, that’s a good time to leave. 

On the other hand, a night in can be one of your most memorable and fun nights on campus. Order a pizza, decompress, do a face mask, paint your nails — anything that isn’t homework — and just relax for the evening. It’s a great way to spend time with friends, catch up about your week and take a moment to take care of yourself. 

Look out for your mental and physical wellness

Getting a reasonable amount of sleep is a game-changer. Studies show that sleep deprivation has profound effects on human health in many different facets of life. It may seem like a pipe dream to get seven hours of sleep every night, but repeated sleep loss can lead to increased risk of depression, anxiety, hypertension and diabetes. It may even take longer for you to recover from your case of the freshman plague.

Anxiety and depression mixed with sleep deprivation can create a positive feedback loop of worsening mental health. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, you may get less sleep, and less sleep will worsen your symptoms.

When we start to neglect little acts of self-care like getting enough sleep, taking care of friends, drinking water and spending time with loved ones, our overall wellness is impacted. Checking in on each other shouldn’t stop at the edge of your social circles. If you see someone struggling, whether it be on a night out or just because of a bad day, offer a hand. 

Now that we are a third of the way through the semester, classes are in full swing and football season fatigue is kicking in. Keep taking care of yourself and others. Small acts make a difference.

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Observer Editorial: Numbers to know: Safety and wellness rolodex

Credit: Maggie Klaers
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The Observer’s declassified school survival guide

With another academic year comes the day-to-day stress of being a student on the tri-campus: early morning labs, long hours studying and papers that won’t write themselves. Then, there’s adjustments in dorm life, from having a random roommate to feeling the pressure to go out every weekend.

No matter where you are in your college experience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with balancing everything you have on your plate. As we come to the end of the second week of the semester, The Observer editorial board has some tips on how to make the most of your time academically, socially and personally. 

Ask for academic assistance

If there’s a particular class you’re struggling with, take up your professor on open office hours. Professors are very approachable, especially when you ask for help early. Going to office hours early in the semester can lead to strong relationships with professors, making it easier for them to help you. Beyond office hours, the Learning Resource Center at Notre Dame provides free tutoring for first-year classes such as accounting, applied math, microeconomics and chemistry. If you’re struggling with an essay prompt, you can talk to a peer tutor at the Writing Centers at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. If you want to practice speaking another language, visit Notre Dame’s Center for Study of Language and Culture (CSLC).

Become a Google Calendar guru

We’re not saying that you have to become one of those people who sends their friends calendar invites to hang out, but it definitely helps to use some sort of calendar system in college. Writing down all of your deadlines for the semester in advance is an easy strategy to feel on top of your school work. This can help you plan ahead for weeks when you have three exams and two essays due in the span of a few days. Even for extracurriculars, clubs often plan their events in advance, so it’s useful to have a calendar app notify you of things rather than having to remember it all. (And don’t forget to color code!)

Advocate for mental health 

College can be difficult, and ensuring the stability of your mental health after living through a pandemic is crucial. Notre Dame’s University Counseling Center, Saint Mary’s Health and Counseling Center and Holy Cross counseling services  provide students free access to licensed mental health professionals. If you need a ride off campus to access mental health resources, don’t hesitate to ask an upperclassman or a member of your hall staff. Be aware of your own feelings and check in with your friends — whether they look like they are struggling or not. Remember, taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. 

Email enthusiastically

College can be an intimidating place when you first arrive. The next four years are full of possibilities —  research, study abroad, extracurriculars, work-study jobs, supplementary majors, honors programs and more. The plethora of options can leave you wondering where to start. When exploring these opportunities, remember that all of these people are either your peers or your teachers, and they would be very open to talking with you about whatever you’re interested in. So email that professor who’s researching the anthropology of hip-hop, get lunch with that senior who spent a summer in Jerusalem and reach out to that leader of a club you’ve been eyeing. College is an amazing time to learn the kind of wacky, joy-inducing things adults pay to learn about later in life.

Don’t sleep on dorm life (but do sleep in general)

Living in dorms can get old pretty quick. To have an enjoyable experience, make the best of the time you spend on campus. Be friendly to your roommate(s). Be courteous of the spaces you share with others. Spend time outside your room (and make the most of the nice weather while you still can) so you can meet people outside your hall. You never know where you will meet your best friends.

Pursue your passions

After attending activity fairs, you’ve probably realized, you don’t have time to join all the clubs you expressed interest in. Be realistic about what you are able to commit yourself to. If you have trouble deciding which listservs to unsubscribe from, think about where you want to see yourself at the end of your time here. To which clubs and activities do you want to devote your time? Try new things, so you can find your passions and stick with them. You can always come back to something else if you realize down the road it becomes a better fit for you! It’s never too late to join different clubs. 

Welcome to the tri-campus community! Let’s make it a great year.