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Irish for Inclusion calls for University to amend non-discrimination clause

Two Notre Dame students, under the banner of Irish for Inclusion, are leading an initiative to change the University’s non-discrimination clause. Pablo Oropeza, a sophomore and vice president of Stanford Hall, and Dane Sherman, a junior in Siegfried Hall, have been working together to add categories to the University’s notice of non-discrimination. 

{Editor’s note: Dane Sherman is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer.}

“Our movement is centered around the changing of the University’s non-discriminatory clause to add sexual orientation, gender identity and religious affiliation,” Oropeza said.

The current notice in ‘du Lac: A Guide to Student Life’ says that Notre Dame does not “discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, veteran status, genetic information, or age in the administration of any of its educational programs, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletic and other school-administered programs, or in employment.”

Sherman says the pair felt as though the exclusion of religion, sexual orientation and gender identity from the non-discrimination clause needed to be changed, so they developed a strategy to change the existing clause.

“It’s a fundamental question of who is considered a Notre Dame student and who is welcomed here. I think it’s not only who is welcomed, but who feels like this is their home,” Sherman said.

The pair have been visiting hall councils and club meetings, collecting signatures for their petition. Oropeza says the aim is to have a referendum on their proposed amendment.

“We are trying to initiate what’s called a student body initiative. Once you gain 15 percent of the student body’s signatures, then that goes to a student body vote. And so our goal is to basically get that to vote, get it ratified and have it sent to the administration for the decisions,” he said.

In an email, University spokesman Dennis Brown said that the current clause is sufficient.

“Our non-discrimination clause complies with the law, and our policies make clear that the University does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind on any basis,” he wrote.

Sherman said that the proposed change in the clause would help show institutional support for the groups added to the clause.

“I think the biggest thing is institutional backing. I think currently we do a lot of lip service to communities, but we don’t fundamentally support them in policy apparatuses, in representation, in fundamentally making people part of the student body,” Sherman said.

Oropeza explained why he believes this change is important for all Notre Dame students.

“Everyone has a stake in this change. And so I try to drive home that even if you’re not affected by it, people you love, people you care about, people who you want to be welcome here are affected by it. And I think that is what makes people sign a petition. It ultimately means that they’re there for the support for the initiative,” Oropeza said.

He said that their efforts have been received largely positively.

“The response by the student body has been widely supportive,” Oropeza said.

The pair is currently working on social media posts on the project’s Instagram account, expanding their team and collecting more signatures, according to Oropeza.

“We are currently working on getting dozens of co-signatory clubs and faculty and so it’s a wide sweeping coalition that spans [all sorts of clubs]. We’re trying to bring together a whole bunch of different groups on this because this is an issue that affects the entire student body and how we exist as a student body,” Sherman said.

You can contact Colleen Farrell at cfarre23@nd.edu