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Congresswoman Liz Cheney to deliver lecture at Notre Dame

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney will visit Notre Dame on Oct. 14 to deliver a lecture on the future of democracy, according to a University press release.

Her speech, titled “Saving Democracy by Revering the Constitution,” will be held in Washington Hall at 2:30 p.m. and sponsored by the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government.

Cheney, who has served as Wyoming’s sole member of the House of Representatives since 2016, lost Wyoming’s Republican primary in August to Harriet Hageman, whose campaign was endorsed by former president Donald Trump.

Currently, Cheney serves as the vice chair of the January 6 Committee and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Previously, she served as the third-ranking Republican in the House when she was Chair of the House Republican Conference, according to her Congressional profile.

The event is free but ticketed for any students, faculty, staff or alumni of the tri-campus. Students can pick up tickets ahead of the event at the LaFortune box office, and leftover tickets will be distributed at the Washington Hall box office at 1:30 p.m. Alumni can request tickets through a form online.

The event will also be livestreamed on the center’s YouTube channel.

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Fight for economic, civil and environmental justice. Regulate cryptocurrency, now.

It’d be incorrect to say that we don’t know much about cryptocurrency. It’d be a blatant lie to claim that what we do know about cryptocurrency is good. Realistically, our knowledge of the innovation’s impact is disheartening.

The first form of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, was circulated in 2009. Initially, Bitcoin, and other digital coinage, appeared promising, intended to limit government power, eliminate middlemen and provide equal opportunity for profit.

However, it’s proven to be quite different. Over the past decade, we have watched cryptocurrency’s volatility disrupt the flow of economy, its anonymity enable criminal activity and the extortionate energy requirements of its “mining” process take a toll on the environment. It’s time to regulate cryptocurrency.

Demand for cryptocurrencies has skyrocketed, reaching a market cap of over $3 trillion. This is a striking value — roughly equal to the GDP of Britain or India. What is most striking, however, is that it was reached without having any traditional monetary backing.

Cryptocurrencies are “decentralized autonomous organizations,” or DAOs, meaning that one-on-one transactions are unrestricted and effectively anonymous. The creation and exchange of cryptocurrencies are wholly unregulated and unbacked by financial institutions or governments.

Decentralization triggers damaging economic effects. In September 2019, the Bank of Canada estimated that the overproduction and underuse of Bitcoin in 2015 produced a welfare loss about 500 times as large as a cash economy with two percent inflation. This massive loss signals a clear market inefficiency. Moreover, the nature of the cryptocurrency market is such that double-spending, or stealing cryptocurrencies, is not only possible, but present. Double-spending puts honest individuals in competition with criminals, threatening the average users’ investments and generating market volatility. The lack of centralized regulation over cryptocurrency allows for market inefficiencies and volatility that may soon have dire economic consequences.

Further, the anonymity of cryptocurrencies as DAOs enables untraceable crime. Many of the advantages provided by cryptocurrencies — efficient payment, low transaction costs, simple exchange — are commonly used to conduct illegal business. Cryptocurrency critics recognize that this creates a prime environment to purchase drugs, launder money, avoid capital controls and engage in various criminal activities. In 2019, the FBI seized over $4 million worth of Bitcoin from the first darknet market called the “Silk Road,” which sold everything from stolen credit card information to murders-for-hire. Studies of Bitcoin exchange patterns uncovered that nearly half of all transactions are associated with illegal activity… and that’s just Bitcoin.

The most damaging impact of cryptocurrencies results from its mining process and extortionate energy requirements. Cryptocurrencies were crafted so anyone with a computer could own, trade and “mine” them. “Mining” is the process of winning cryptocurrency by solving mathematical puzzles. During mining, thousands of individuals race to solve these problems. Those who solve them first are granted cryptocurrency. However, the system was designed such that, as competition grows, so does the puzzle’s complexity. 

While at first these puzzles could be solved using a traditional personal computer (PC), the evolving complexity of each puzzle now demands that competitive miners use more powerful technologies that require exorbitant energy to operate. These miners rely on specialized computers called Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (“ASICs”) that are more efficient at mining than a traditional PC but also consume much more energy. ASIC use has shattered the intended equality of cryptocurrency and created devastating environmental effects.

Considering the massive market, with thousands of people mining the same coin, the energy costs of ASIC operation have become excessive. Researchers estimate that mining and exchanging just one Bitcoin consumes 2100 kilowatt hours — the average American household consumption in 2.5 months. According to a 2021 study, a year of Bitcoin mining consumes 121.36 terawatt hours — more energy than used in the global consumption of Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft combined. Unfortunately, most of the energy used in cryptocurrency mining comes from nonrenewable resources. Thus, cryptocurrencies leave massive carbon footprints. Scientists warn that carbon emissions from Bitcoin mining alone could push global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius, taking a hefty toll on the environment.

To protect our earth, national security, economy and ultimately the future of humanity, we must regulate cryptocurrency and its mining processes.

This regulation should not criminalize cryptocurrency. Many critics of extreme cryptocurrency regulation argue the importance of technology neutrality and the impossibility of prosecuting over 46 million American cryptocurrency users were the coinage to be made illegal. It would be imprudent to ban cryptocurrency simply because it can be abused. If that logic was applied to other financial instruments, we would have to ban cash, which can just as easily facilitate anonymous or illegal transactions. Nonetheless, it is clear that cryptocurrency requires some regulation. A middle ground — protecting innovation and promoting freedom while addressing the economic, civil and environmental implications of cryptocurrency — should be the goal.

Given modern technological advances and the importance of maintaining freedom of choice, there is no easy answer. Potential solutions lie in ASIC regulation — placing a carbon-tax on users, implementing a pollution cap or even banning the use of mining-specific technology altogether. ASIC regulation could reduce the environmental repercussions of cryptocurrency while maintaining technological neutrality. By disincentivizing the use of ASICs and returning miners to traditional PC usage, governments could more easily track criminal activity and double-spending.

Leaders have taken small steps towards regulation, as seen in the President’s recent Executive Order and bills like the Responsible Financial Innovation Act. These are merely initial steps on the path toward effective regulation. We must continue to educate ourselves on the growth and impacts of cryptocurrency. With that knowledge, we must vote for leaders willing to address the negative impacts of cryptocurrency through measured regulation. 

Ainsley Hillman, a sophomore living in Johnson Family Hall, is studying Business Analytics and Political Science. She currently serves as assistant direction of operations within BridgeND. Some of her research interests include U.S. foreign policy and the intersection of environmental and social justice.

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

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

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Religion is for Democrats too, not just Republicans

You wouldn’t be alone in associating religion with the Republican Party and secularism with the Democratic Party. Over the last several decades, the rise of the Religious Right has cemented the fact that the Republican Party is dominated by white evangelicals inserting religious views into the party platform. Today, that sentiment is only reinforced as Republican candidates infuse Christianity into their campaign strategy. At Republican rallies this year, we’ve witnessed praise music, prayer, and other practices typically associated with religious worship. These religious practices at campaign events aren’t superfluous either, as Republican candidates call to end the separation between church and state and declare the United States a Christian nation. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, has struggled with religion due to the diverse religious and non-religious portions of its membership. In an effort to not alienate voters, Democrats have avoided religious rhetoric, often joined by criticism that they aren’t doing enough outreach to religious voters. 

However, that appears to be changing. During the 2020 election, a significant number of Democrats engaged in religious outreach. During the primary campaign, then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg routinely referenced his faith to demonstrate that Democrats can be religious too. In one debate, Buttigieg employed a religious offensive against the Republican Party for hypocrisy between its platform and profession of Christianity. Other presidential hopefuls like Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren and then-Senator Kamala Harris also utilized religious rhetoric, speaking about their connection to G-d and specifically Christianity. President Joe Biden worked on extensive outreach to white Catholic and white evangelical voters, reducing former President Donald Trump’s performance among those groups enough to help solidify his victory. 

Religion also made an appearance with both Democratic candidates for the two seats in the 2020-2021 U.S. Senate elections in Georgia. Senators Warnock and Ossoff’s election was a pivotal moment for the Democratic Party, securing a majority in the Senate. The infusion of his progressive views and background as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King preached, was a key factor in Senator Raphael Warnock’s victory. Although more hesitant to mention religion during the campaign, Senator Jon Ossoff referenced the Jewish values that informed his political views and became the first Jewish candidate to win statewide office in the South since 1974.

Additionally, we’re witnessing candidates in the 2022 midterm elections build off the religious momentum over the last several years. Warnock has made religion a central message of his reelection campaign, emphasizing the joint nature of devotion to faith and commitment to social justice. His messaging routinely references his religious work and how it informs his political views. Just like it delivered him for his initial election, Warnock is hoping Georgia voters will be drawn to his religious fervor. 

Also in Georgia, the Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, uses religion, but in a different way. As abortion becomes a pressing issue in all elections after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Abrams has discussed the role her faith has played in shaping her views on the subject. She’s openly discussed how her upbringing by Methodist preachers informed her initial stance against abortion, but she’s since changed her beliefs after viewing it as a health issue, not a moral one. Her approach to abortion opens a new vantage point for Democrats to reach voters who may be personally opposed to abortion, but are hesitant to attempts throughout the country to reduce access to it. 

In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is running for governor openly as a Jew and refusing to cede religious voters to his opponent, Doug Mastriano, a state senator. Shapiro has used his devout faith to reach out to religious voters, especially Black Protestants in the state by attending worship services and speaking from the pulpit. He’s routinely referenced his faith during campaign events, hoping that some voters who typically vote Republican on religious grounds consider switching. Among other Democratic candidates who employ religious rhetoric, he’s especially notable for attacking Christian nationalism as an assault on religious liberty, especially for religious minorities.

Although religion may appear to be a new winning strategy for Democrats, it isn’t risk-free. In the last two decades, Democrats themselves have become less religious in their membership. This isn’t to say that non-religious Democrats would vote Republican, but it does risk alienation and low voter turnout. These candidates are wagering that religious rhetoric will either deliver more voters or drive voters away from Republicans, but the threat of alienation will always be present for a party as religiously diverse as the Democratic Party. This isn’t to argue that Democrats who reference religion will lose (we’ve seen that’s not always the case), but to point out there’s a reason why Democrats have been cautious about religious rhetoric in the past. Even if elected, the division in the Democratic Party between the religious and non-religious suggests that while religious rhetoric may contribute to electoral victory, it doesn’t necessarily translate to religious influence in policymaking. 

This column is not an endorsement of religion as a political tool for Democrats or Republicans. The question of religion’s role in politics is separate from my observations of the trends in the Democratic Party. The last few years are a demonstration that Democrats can successfully utilize religion as an outreach method on the campaign trail. Although religion may still be tied heavily to the Republican Party, we’re beginning to see pushback from the Democratic Party and a potential shift in the way that religion operates in the political sphere. 

Blake Ziegler is a senior at Notre Dame studying political science, philosophy and constitutional studies. He enjoys writing about Judaism, the good life, pressing political issues and more. Outside of The Observer, Blake serves as president of the Jewish Club and a teaching assistant for God and the Good Life. He can be reached at @NewsWithZig on Twitter or bziegler@nd.edu.

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

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State Senator Monique Limón discusses elevating voices, women in politics

On Friday morning in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium, California State Senator Monique Limón spoke about the intersection between her experience working in public office and her Latina identity. The lecture is part of Hispanic Heritage Month and was hosted by the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and the Institute for Latino Studies. 

Limón is a first-generation college student and was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and received her master’s degree from Columbia University.

In 2016, Limón won the State Assembly seat and in 2020, she won the State Senate seat. She serves the nineteenth Senate District, which includes Santa Barbara County and part of Ventura County. 

Limón is the first woman of color to be elected from the district to the State Assembly and the first person of color from the district to be elected to the State Senate. 

Although she represents a mostly white voter base, demographics are changing, and “as issues become more complicated and include many different communities, we are starting to branch out to think about who reflects the values that are important for the voters,” Limón said. “With my background, I have felt not just an honor to represent my community, but also a way to bridge stereotypes.”

Women make up just over 30 percent of the California State Legislature, but over 50 percent of California’s population.

Limón said there needs to be “an individual and collective commitment to ensure there are more marginalized communities represented in public office,” and women need to see others they identify with and support in these positions. 

Another problem Limón identified in her community is that, when people think of Santa Barbara, they only think of the pockets of wealth.

“This makes other people in my community invisible,” she said. 

It’s been important as a representative to ensure the voices of the community who aren’t always at the table are elevated and do so in a way that creates more allies, Limón said.

Before she became involved in politics, Limón was a member of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education, and her educational background taught her about the issues she cares about from a policy perspective. She worked with many students who were the first in their families to go to college and qualified for financial aid. 

“I very quickly understood that the issues that our community cares about weren’t limited to the classroom, because it turns out that whatever’s happening in the community is going to show up in the classroom,” Limón said. 

She became involved with non-profit community organizations to help students, and this motivated her to make the switch from implementing policy to creating it.

Limón said her connection to her community and her large network of students and their families made her a successful candidate for public office. 

She was able to build this network because she grew up in a big household with a large extended family.

“Family has taught me a lot about politics,” Limón said. “There are times when you have to break bread with individuals and not always agree with them.”

Her family also taught her important skills that helped her persevere when running for office.

“My parents always taught me the skills that it takes to work hard to overcome barriers and move forward,” she said. 

Although Limón’s commitment to higher-level education has influenced her policies, she said people assumed that when she got to the legislature she was only going to focus on education, since that was her strength.

“I did go in really focused on education, and I had this history being on the school board, and I cared a lot about it. But what happens when you’re in office is that, sometimes, you don’t get to pick what you work on,” Limón said. 

A year into her term was the beginning of the Thomas Fire. The fire affected Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and was the largest fire in California for six months. Over 100,000 people were evacuated from her district.

“And at that moment, no matter how much I cared about education, I had to turn immediately to become a policy expert in natural disasters,” Limón said.

She explained that she had to use her skill set to tackle different issues.

“I’ve always been a big believer that no matter what you do in life, you have to know how to transfer your professional, academic, intellectual and interpersonal communication skill sets to every environment,” she said. 

Some of Limón’s most important policies have been in different areas not related to her educational background.

“Most of the policy that I’m known for is actually not education,” Limón said. “I’m known for environmental policy, consumer protections, women’s issues and natural disasters.” 

Limón said she hopes to act in the best interest of the communities she serves, and her main goal is to elevate the needs of the individuals in these communities.

“I have adapted to being a leader that the community needs of me, and the community will decide when they no longer need the skill sets and the values that I move forward,” she said.

Contact Caroline Collins at ccolli23@nd.edu.

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UK Diplomat Catherine Arnold visits University

The University of Notre Dame welcomed Catherine Arnold as a guest speaker at the Eck Visitor Center on Sept. 12.

Arnold is a British academic administrator and former UK diplomat. Since Oct. 2019, she has been the Master of St Edmund’s College at the University of Cambridge. Arnold is the fifteenth person to hold that post and the first woman.

After being introduced by vice president and associate provost for internationalization, Michael Pippenger, Arnold gave a speech reflecting on the roles of academic institutions and religion in shaping ethical, global leaders.

Arnold used the example of the recently late Queen Elizabeth II of England to reflect on change and constancy.

“’I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,’” she quoted from the British monarch. “Even before taking the reins of power, she proved to be an exemplary leader.”

Arnold said she believed human nature was the primary obstacle to leadership and unity.

“As technology changes all around us, humans remain stubbornly constant,” she told the audience.

She specifically provided one of her alma maters, Cambridge, as an example of how allowing a Catholic influence through its St. Edmund’s college would strangle free thought.

“Both [the church and the college] had a fear of change,” Arnold commented. “It is not enough to hold a world-class degree… indeed, there is more room in educational establishments other than just academic fundamentals.”

She followed by saying that Notre Dame is a leading example of how the combination of mind and heart can be accomplished.

Pippenger said he sees this theme at work in his duties overseeing Notre Dame international gateways and their goal to attract parts of the world not traditionally attracted. He said he calls Notre Dame an “experiment of globalization.”

Through discussion, Arnold and Pippenger said they agreed that by going out into the world and training to be a global citizen, students can recognize how religion plays into education, free speech, public policy, ethical business practice and other areas.

Arnold said she hopes Notre Dame will foster more “conscious leaders.” She said she believes that it is crucial to train leaders who understand their impact on others and that a conscious leader must be comfortable and resolved in making decisions that exclude others.

“The more power you have, the more you realize that there is often no right or wrong answer; you almost always exclude someone,” she explained.

Arnold also was able to provide the Observer with some guidance for Notre Dame students, connecting her lecture themes with real-world advice.

“Don’t ever listen to just one person’s piece of advice,” she said. “Seek out different people’s perspectives, and then continue to press both them and yourself with existential ‘why’ and ‘so what’ questions.”

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Rep. Brendan Boyle, ’99, discusses career, current legislative efforts

On Friday morning, Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘99, spoke to a group of students about his career path, pursuing opportunities in politics and current legislative priorities. 

Boyle, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania’s second district serving his fourth term, is an alumnus of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Program in Public Service and the inaugural semester in the Washington program.

Friday, he opened with brief introductory remarks and then fielded questions from students invited from various majors, minors and political clubs.

Ricardo Ramirez, director of the Hesburgh Program and an associate professor of political science and Latino studies, introduced Boyle. 

“Congressman Boyle has served as a champion for the working and middle-class families, particularly on issues related to social and economic justice. He, himself, is the first in his family to attend college, and he’s the son of a janitor and a school crossing guard,” Ramirez said.

In his introductory remarks, Boyle discussed his work across policy issues in the House of Representatives, identifying himself as a “generalist.”

“On any given day, I could be voting on energy policy, and then, next, voting on tax policy, and then voting on NATO, and then next voting on a welfare issue and next voting on a defense issue,” he said. 

Boyle, who serves on the influential Ways and Means Committee, recounted key experiences as a lawmaker.

Boyle was in Brussels days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, to which he’s a delegate.

“At our opening dinner, the vast majority of parliamentarians from the UK, France, Germany … did not believe there would be a war and did not believe there would be an invasion,” he recalled.

He tied the issue to political practice, saying he’s been especially active on the issue because of a large Ukrainian presence in his district in and around Philadelphia. 

Boyle said that this combination of constituent services and policy encapsulates the job of a congressman.

“There’s in the district and there’s in the Capitol. The time that I’m back home is not time off … So in some ways, it’s almost a hybrid of two different positions combined into one,” he said.

Many of the students identified themselves as residents of a particular representative’s district. Boyle interjected when a senior from Sarasota, Florida, mentioned he was from Republican representative Vern Buchanan’s district.

“I’m friendly with Vern, too. That should reassure people that people on both sides of the aisle actually are much more friendly with one another than cable TV would have you believe,” he said.

In response to a question about America’s role on the global stage, Boyle emphasized two priorities after reflecting on the Arab Spring and other events from the past twenty years.

“Two goals immediately come to mind, and they’re sometimes in conflict. One would be to promote democracy and human rights as much as we can around the world. And then the second is stability,” he said. “We can not retreat from the world.”

He also talked about recent legislative action. Boyle, who made history as the first House member to cast a proxy vote on behalf of a colleague amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, discussed being in committee hearings and voting during a trip to Notre Dame a year ago.

“In this very building a few floors up while my wife and daughter were enjoying campus all that Friday, I was up there casting votes and participating in hearings. So literally at Notre Dame, congressional votes have been cast, and I was casting my votes for our amendments, defeating the other side’s amendments for the Build Back Better Act, which ultimately did pass out of the Ways and Means Committee,” Boyle recalled.

He discussed the upcoming midterms and said that while “bread and butter issues” and contrasting the Republicans’ agenda with that of the Democrats under Biden, maintaining a big tent party is key.

“You have to tailor it to your district. The message I would have in northeast Philadelphia would be different than I would have in suburban Philadelphia,” he said.

Boyle also discussed moments when he had to make tough decisions in politics. Sitting on the foreign affairs committee, he opposed the Iran Nuclear Deal and remained steadfast despite pleas to support it from powerful places.

“President Obama lobbied me on Air Force One. Fortunately, it turns out the flight from D.C. to Philadelphia is a very short flight,” he said. “And I was never invited back.”

Throughout his remarks, Boyle emphasized the importance of getting involved in politics. He pointed out that people in high positions of power within congressional offices are often young and can make a significant impact.

“If you walk around Capitol Hill and you walk into congressional offices, you see just how young the individuals are who have a great deal of responsibility,” he said. “And I can tell you from the perspective of wanting to hire good people, we’re constantly looking, and the best thing you can do is be the person who, on a campaign, shows up, volunteers for things, is on time and has a great attitude.”

Contact Isa Sheikh at isheikh@nd.edu.

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Ladies, bring your folding chairs. We’re getting a seat at this table.

Duncan Student Center replaced the legislative chamber of the United States Capitol for Senator Mallory McMorrow this past March. Returning to her Alma Mater, the 2008 graduate joined a panel of eight Notre Dame alumnae to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the admission of undergraduate women at the University of Notre Dame.

Part of the celebration dubbed “Golden is Thy Fame,” Career Conversations with Trailblazing Women invited Sen. McMorrow to share her experience building a career in the contentious domain of American politics. More specifically, building a successful career as a woman. The aforementioned title of the event deserves commendation for its accuracy. The female panelists boldly blazed trails in their respective fields — trails that others now have the option to follow.

Sen. McMorrow in particular is a critical figure for young women aspiring to work in politics and government. She represents what is possible for women given enough strength and passion. She proves what is possible for women when we risk, persevere and demand a seat at the table.

Sen. McMorrow currently serves Michigan’s eighth district — a significant feat considering the state of Michigan did not elect a woman to the U.S. Senate until 2000. Michigan’s first female senator, Debbie Stabenow and Sen. McMorrow both campaigned in the 2018 election cycle. 2018 continues to be a beacon of hope for proponents of equal political representation. Women candidacies reached a historical high in 2018, exposing a promising trend in American politics—the increased mobilization and political engagement of women. Female leaders benefit society as a whole; however, real, lasting change requires more than individual successes. It requires action. Now. When inadequacy translates to candidacy, things get done.

Despite the unprecedented number of women running for office, the discouraging reality is that we still have a long way to go. While 51 percent of the United States population are women, women make up just 24 percent of the Senate. The result? The underrepresentation of women in American politics.

Of the people. By the people. For the people.

The issues we face as a country are women’s issues. If social, political and structural barriers exist for women in electoral politics, we must find a way to alter the system. Our country suffers when half of its population is granted a quarter of its voice.

Trailblazers like Sen. Mallory McMorrow provide an essential perspective on Capitol Hill. Women’s issues must be at the forefront of the American agenda — not only for lawmakers, but for the general public. The U.S. lags behind other established democracies when it comes to women’s representation in politics. But we cannot win seats if we do not run. At our current rate, the U.S. will not reach complete legislative parity for another hundred years. We must accelerate this timeline. Instead of asking for a seat at the table, women must demand a seat at every table.

You can contact Ashlyn at apoppe2@nd.edu

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5pm in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues, and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.