January, 2021 Archive
In April 2011, newly elected student body president Pat McCormick and vice president Brett Rocheleau began enacting an ambitious plan to transform student government. Sunday, McCormick handed the reins to Rocheleau, now student body president, and incoming vice president Katie Rose. McCormick said his administration sought to unite student government, augment its constituent services capacity and “build a kind of student government capable of building a Notre Dame for the 21st century.” Through reforming elections and fusing the Council of Representatives and Student Senate, McCormick said his team cut through the red tape that had accumulated in student government. The Department of Constituent Services addressed issues of convenience through projects such as restoring the price of quarter dogs to 25 cents and hosting Puppy Days and Circus Lunch, McCormick said. “Our hope for the Department of Constituent Services was that it would serve as the front door to the student government office,” McCormick said. “Through the leadership of [sophomore department director] Heather Eaton and her Constituent Services team, we’ve seen, I think, an enormous increase in the ability of student government to deliver on constituent service needs.” McCormick said student government advocated for a University sustainability strategy, promoted the Playing for Peace initiative and proposed a peace summit and charity benefit concert, tentatively titled “3.17,” to administrators. “We have submitted the proposal [for 3.17] to the University, and the University now is pursuing its own due diligence, as it would for any project of this scope,” he said. “It’s been positively received, and we’re grateful to the administration for considering it.” McCormick said his and Rocheleau’s 2011 campaign centered on students’ hopes that Notre Dame could serve as a crossroads where ideas could intersect and a lighthouse that could serve as the conscience of higher education. “From the beginning of when this journey began to where we sit today, I think that my greatest hope for student government was that we might be able to … serve as a means for students to realize their own greatest hopes for Notre Dame,” McCormick said. “If there’s even one student who believes still in that greatest hope that we have for Notre Dame, then the work goes on and the hope lives on.” The death of sophomore Sean Valero last spring was the most challenging experience of his term, McCormick said. “Any time that there’s a student death, that is the most challenging part of serving in student government,” he said. “And I think at the same time, it’s consistently those times of tragedy where we most see the Notre Dame family coming together.” The incoming student government team is uniquely suited to furthering the outgoing administration’s vision, McCormick said. “I think that one of the greatest gifts of all has been getting to work alongside of such an extraordinarily gifted and talented team,” he said. “To the extent that we have made progress in realizing the vision that brought us all together in the first place, it’s because of their leadership, and I’m beyond excited to see not only where Notre Dame will take them next, but where they will take Notre Dame.” During his time at the University, McCormick said he has learned Notre Dame is uniquely capable of educating students’ minds and hearts. “There is no university more capable of being a transformative force for a world deeply in need than the University of Notre Dame,” he said. “That’s our project and that’s our family, and I think that my hope is that the next generation of students at Notre Dame will find it to be the journey of a lifetime.” McCormick, who will graduate in May, said he will continue a few projects during the remainder of his time at Notre Dame and will participate in a research project in Ireland in the fall. He said he will then pursue a master’s degree in forced migration and refugee studies at Oxford University. “It has been the greatest honor of my life so far to serve the student body of this extraordinary University,” McCormick said. “Notre Dame will without a doubt be with me for the rest of my life. It has been formative in ways that I could never have imagined, and I couldn’t be more grateful for not only the place itself, but the people who make it.”,Student body president Brett Rocheleau and vice president Katie Rose, who took office Sunday, said Rocheleau’s experience as vice president last year, combined with their new platform, will help this year’s administration strengthen relationships on and off campus, improve safety and modernize Notre Dame. Rocheleau said the connections he made as last year’s student body vice president will be important in achieving the goals outlined in the new administration’s platform. “Pat [McCormick, student body president emeritus] and I began to build relationships with everyone, all the way from [University President] Fr. John Jenkins, the Provost’s Office, Faculty Senate, different student organizations, to the community as we took office,” he said. “Now we have those established, so we’ll just build Katie in.” Rose said she looked forward to joining the network established during the last administration. “I’m really excited … that the groundwork is laid for them,” she said. “The people we talk to can help us tremendously.” Rose said the first goal of the administration is to improve constituent services. “We want a two-way connection where we keep people updated on things they asked us to work on,” she said. Rocheleau said he hopes to run a student government that is transparent to the student body. “Every other week we will update them on the process,” he said. “Students need to feel comfortable working with us. The accountability side is important.” The Rocheleau-Rose platform also aims to reach beyond campus and deepen Notre Dame’s roots in the South Bend community, he said. “Five years ago tensions were at a high, but as each administration goes by, it gets better,” Rocheleau said. “Our administration will value keeping these up and working with the community.” Rocheleau said the pair has already worked to improve campus safety by advocating for the installation of more lights on campus and popular places for students off-campus. “Putting up simple lights can deter crime and assaults,” he said. “Also, off campus there was a lot of crime first semester this year. It will be a challenge to get lights installed since it’s not land owned by Notre Dame, but we’ll work with the mayor’s office.” Rose said the team also hopes to modernize the University through improvements in sustainability and the introduction of new campus groups. “We love Notre Dame and its traditions, but we also want to bring the campus up to a modern standard,” she said. She said the two would continue striving for the past administrations’ goal to connect Notre Dame to the global community, as well. “Like Pat and Brett’s administration, we want to make Notre Dame a forum for social concerns, and make it easier for student to access funding to go abroad,” Rose said. Rocheleau said he and Rose hope to represent the student body in the fullest capacity. “Our position is to represent the students, even if it goes against what other people say,” he said. “If it’s what the students believe, we want their voices to be heard. That will have made us successful, if we can embody what the students on this campus feel.”
At least 143 Notre Dame professors and faculty have signed a letter requesting Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill., to renounce controversial statements he made in an April 14 homily, or to resign from the University’s Board of Fellows, of which he is a member. The group submitted the original letter over the weekend to University President Fr. John Jenkins and Richard Notebaert, University Fellow and chair of the Board of Trustees. The letter appeared in The Observer’s Viewpoint section on April 23 with 95 signatures. Members of the faculty and staff continue to add their signatures to the letter via email to its original signees. The letter also requests the University issue a statement distancing Notre Dame from Jenky’s “incendiary statement.” In his homily, the bishop criticized President Barack Obama’s healthcare policy and its impact on the Catholic Church. Jenky compared the current impact of such policy to other historical challenges the Church has faced, citing the regimes of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin as examples. “Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care,” Jenky said. “In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.” Under the revised contraception mandate, the responsibility for funding contraception was shifted from religiously-affiliated institutions to insurance companies, but will apply to self-insured employers. In his homily, Jenky said Catholic institutions cannot cooperate with pro-choice legislation “under any circumstance.” “No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions,” he said. In the letter to the editor, the signees said it was “profoundly offensive” that a member of the Board of Fellows should compare Obama’s actions to “those whose genocidal policies murdered tens of millions of people, including the specific targeting of Catholics, Jews and other minorities for their faith.” “Jenky’s comments demonstrate ignorance of history, insensitivity to victims of genocide and absence of judgment,” the letter stated. Patricia Gibson, diocesan chancellor of the Diocese of Peoria, released a statement April 19 that claimed Jenky’s statements were taken out of context. “Bishop Jenky gave several examples of times in history in which religious groups were persecuted because of what they believed. We certainly have not reached the same level of persecution,” the statement read. “However, history teaches us to be cautious once we start down the path of limiting religious liberty.” Calls to the bishop’s office Wednesday were not returned. Associate Dean for the Arts Peter Holland wrote the initial version of the letter, which was edited and signed by professors and faculty before it was submitted to Jenkins and Notebaert. “I was incredibly angered and distressed by Bishop Jenky’s comparison of anything President Obama has done to Hitler or Stalin,” Holland said. Theatre professor Kevin Dreyer, who also signed the letter, said professors and faculty were upset media coverage of Jenky’s homily strongly associated the bishop’s statements with the University. “The homily and the reporting seemed to us to be tying the words to Notre Dame,” he said “And that’s where the reaction came from. It was one of those situations where there was a very strong sentiment.” Dreyer said his issue with Jenky’s statements is they are “adversarial,” and “cut off any discourse” that might take place in a university environment. “This is not the image of Notre Dame,” he said. “Notre Dame is a place of civility, of discourse, of engagement, and it is the thing that I have come to value about this institution above virtually everything else.” English professor John Duffy, a co-signer of the letter, said it is important to note the professors and faculty who submitted the letter are only looking to address Jenky’s statements, not to make a political statement. “The letter does not take a position on healthcare reform,” he said. “It does not take a position on life issues. It does not take a position on the relationship of the U.S. government to the Catholic Church. The purpose of the letter is not to address any of those subjects. The purpose of the letter is to address the analogy Bishop Jenky made in his sermon.” On Tuesday morning, professors and faculty received an email statement signed by Jenkins and Notebaert in response to the letter submitted. The email thanked the professors for the letter, but declined to comment on Jenky’s homily. “As you might imagine, members of the Board of Trustees have taken positions on a wide array of issues through the years,” the email stated. “When the person does not appear to be speaking on behalf of Notre Dame, as is the case here, it has been and remains our policy to refrain from comment.” Jenky, a 1970 graduate of Notre Dame, has served as a trustee and member of the Board of Fellows, the highest level of the Board of Trustees, since 2003. He previously served as director of Campus Ministry and rector of Dillon Hall. University Spokesman Dennis Brown declined to comment on Jenky’s statements. “Notre Dame does not comment on the personal views of Board members other than to say that they do not necessarily reflect those of the University,” he said.
Mallory Meter’s academic success at Notre Dame earned her the valedictorian honor for the Class of 2013, but she said one of the most important lessons from her college years did not come from the classroom. Meter said her valedictory address will reflect on ways to “appreciate what’s happening while it’s happening” to close the gap between past and present. “The main theme of the speech is basically to try to learn at our young age how to live consciously and to be present in the moment,” Meter said. “It’s this idea that we tend to go through our day-to-day lives and they seem repetitive and dull, but then for some reason we look back at that experience and see it as perfect. I want to talk about how to change that disconnect.” Meter, a psychology major from Beverly Hills, Mich., graduates with a cumulative grade point average of 4.0 and a string of consecutive Dean’s List honors from each of her semesters at Notre Dame. The former Lyons Hall resident said her freshman year Introduction to Psychology course helped her finalize her choice of major. “I had always been interested in something where I could work with people and something more science-oriented,” she said. “For a long time, I thought I wanted to do pre-med, but after taking that first psychology class, I decided on that instead. “I enjoyed it so much, it made sense to me and it was really interesting to me, so that made up my mind.” Though the courses for her major have been difficult, Meter said the most academically challenging part of her time at Notre Dame was the broad range of required classes taken during her first two years. “To be honest, I think probably the most challenging part was freshman and sophomore years when your classes cover a lot of different topics,” Meter said. “Freshman year, you have to do the science, the math, the English, the philosophy. … I think having to switch between so many different modes of thinking was really hard. “Once I got into my core psychology classes and I could really focus on just that, it became easier for me.” Meter said her family’s links with the Irish influenced her decision to come here. “My grandfather went here and played football in the 1940s for the national championship team,” she said. “He was one of the guys who was here, then had to leave for the war and came back. A few of my uncles went here, and then I have an aunt who went to Saint Mary’s. It’s big in the family.” Though she said she has “absolutely loved” her time here, Meter said her best memory as a Notre Dame student came during her one semester away from campus. “When I look back, I think going to London to study abroad in the fall of my junior year was my most valued experience,” Meter said. “I feel like living in another country pushes you to go outside your comfort zone, and you really mature while you’re there. Being able to learn in a place that’s so rich in history and culture – you really feel like you’re living what you’re learning.” Meter said she worked in several psychology research labs at Notre Dame, including a childhood/adolescent early education study involving Head Start program participants. During her junior year, she worked with Dr. David Watson and Dr. Lee Anna Clark at the Center for Advanced Measurement of Personality and Psychopathology, exploring the relationship between personality and psychopathology and the psychometric properties of various measures of mood and personality. “When I was working specifically with Dr. Watson, I was able to do actual clinical interviews with the participants, which is awesome because as a psychology major, you really can’t do a lot of one-on-one work with people until you have a Master’s or PhD degree,” Meter said. “The specific study was looking at how different traits and personality facets line up with different forms of psychopathology, … which refers to every mental health disorder from depression to anxiety disorders to schizophrenia.” Meter’s ideal career would blend psychopathology and interaction with children, she said. “I’m going to the University of Chicago to get my Master’s in social work, and I hope to focus on the clinical track rather than administrative,” she said. “Afterwards, I hope to become a licensed clinical therapist working with people with mental health problems and someday, probably, I could see myself going back to get my PhD, too.” Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at [email protected]
Thanks to the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), women from around the world can improve their English language skills at Saint Mary’s College. The CWIL provides English language instruction through its English Language School for all degrees of English proficiency, from the beginner to advanced levels. Terra Sniadecki, the director of the English Language School, said that the focus of the program is for participants to become proficient in English and to be prepared for higher education in the United States. “It is important to us that the students not only become proficient academically at English but that they also become more comfortable with English socially,” said Sniadecki. Sniadecki said this goal is achieved by offering both traditional classroom-based lectures and electives that include service-based learning and university-level academic preparation. The English Language School, now in its third year, has attracted students from Saudi Arabia, China, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Zambia, India and Korea, Sniadecki said. Students at the school have many opportunities to be part of the Saint Mary’s College community and many live on campus with Saint Mary’s students, she said. Sniadecki said the rewarding interactions that the students of the school have with Saint Mary’s students is another benefit of the program. “Both education majors and those seeking their TSEOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification at Saint Mary’s work with these students both for the hands on experience and for the benefits of interacting with others from different countries,” said Sniadecki. Sniadecki said The English Language School has certified many students who have gone on to become successful at the university level, including students who are now enrolled at Saint Mary’s.
Notre Dame Student Body President Alex Coccia joined other student government leaders from Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) universities last weekend for a first-annual gathering he described as “enormously beneficial.” The student body presidents’ conference coincided with the first ACC game of the year on Labor Day, Coccia said, a matchup between Pittsburgh and Florida State at Pittsburgh. “[The University of] Pittsburgh had invited the ACC student body presidents onto the field for that first home game, so we decided we should make a conference out of this opportunity,” he said. Coccia said one of the highlights was a meeting with ACC commissioner John Swofford, who discussed his 16 years of experience leading the ACC. “Swofford really aimed to make the ACC a premiere conference in athletics, academics and the integrity that comes with both,” Coccia said. “If you look at the conference’s history, that has really come true. He welcomed the new members, [Pittsburgh], Syracuse and Notre Dame and really talked about how much we fit there. “I think it’s really true, especially when you look at academic records from the ACC schools.” Swofford used a metaphor centered on a house with a front porch to describe the proper relationship between athletics and academics in a university setting, he said. “He said athletics are a front porch; they can really make a house beautiful and they’re the first thing people will see, but they don’t change the structural integrity,” Coccia said. “You have to have a house built on academics and leadership to succeed.” The conference connected representatives from Notre Dame, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, University of Miami, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. Presidents from Boston College, Wake Forest University, University of Maryland and Georgia Tech were not present. Coccia said he came away with ideas for Notre Dame based on productive conversations with the other presidents about campus life issues they each share. “This conference went right along with what we’ve been doing with student government here and our goal of connecting student bodies nationwide to promote our students’ voices nationally,” he said. “If we can build personal relationships with other student governments, we can better gauge ourselves and our progress.” Key issues on the table were food services on campus and medical amnesty for students, Coccia said. Although the grouping was based on athletic connections between the schools, the conversation did not center on those issues, he said. “The common athletic conference presented the opportunity for us to meet, but what we felt at this weekend conference was that it really encompassed all kinds of campus life discussion,” Coccia said. The group spent part of the time planning how to move the event forward and expand it, he said. “We drafted the components of a founding document about when this conference will be held in the future,” Coccia said. “Our goal is twice a year, first at the first ACC football game which will always be Labor Day. At that gathering, the goal would be to discuss campus and national issues and share best practices in terms of what different colleges are doing that’s working. “The second meeting of the year would be during the ACC basketball tournament, and the goal with that one would be to develop a national legislative agenda in preparation for April where there already exists an ACC lobbying day.” Although the Labor Day conference was a pilot run, Coccia said the presidents left with a strong sense that it should continue in future years for the benefit of the individual schools and the ACC as a whole. “As a whole, I think the student body presidents’ conference is really going to build a sense of unity within the ACC,” he said. “Hopefully, with the support of the ACC and the excitement and passion we left with, we can really create something that is lasting and that suits the needs of the current student body presidents in that time.”
Since its founding in 2009, Uber has spread to more than 100 cities – and since it added South Bend to that list a week ago, it has already won the support of many students who see it as a streamlined way to find a ride.Mary McGraw | The Observer Uber offers an alternative to traditional cab companies by integrating technology in the process of finding transportation. The system is simple: users download a mobile app, check for a driver in their area, wait to be picked up and pay with a credit card. Registered drivers get online any time they’re available, locate anyone who requests their services by their GPS coordinates and pick passengers up using their own vehicles.The term “sharing economy” is tossed around to describe this untraditional system, and Kristen Collett-Schmitt, associate teaching professor in the Finance department, said the concept appears to have evolved in the last 10 to 15 years alongside emerging new technologies that allow people to collaborate and allocate scarce resources. The rising popularity of Uber and other similar businesses such as Airbnb reflects a cultural shift in the past decade, she said.“Social networking has increased the willingness of individuals to actually share with each other, encouraging this type of economy,” Collett-Schmitt said. “One might argue that the ‘sharing economy’ is not just a function of changing technology, but also the financial crisis of 2008 and the uncertainty that still exists regarding the stability of the economy.“Economic uncertainty reminds us that resources are scarce, and increasingly-present environmental concerns encourage us to use resources more wisely. I think the ‘sharing economy’ supports this idea completely.”Junior Rachel Broghammer took advantage of an Uber promotion offering free rides during Labor Day weekend. As a native of San Francisco, where Uber started, she had used it in the past and said she was “really kind of shocked” to hear it would come to South Bend.“It’s really, really popular in San Francisco, partly because taxis there are so pricey,” she said. “And you don’t have to wait as long if you can find a driver that’s closer to me.”Her first South Bend experience with Uber went well, she said, but she expects it will improve as it becomes more widely-used – some students were unable to get rides because no local drivers were available at certain times.“Our driver came right up in the car we expected, and he was really incredibly nice, a South Bend resident who said he does this on his days off,” Broghammer said. “Everything was really nice and clean; they really research their drivers.”She said she’s comfortable with Uber because of the comprehensive review system available, where riders can give feedback about particular drivers that’s available for other riders to view. As it takes off in South Bend, though, it will likely take time before there are enough reviews to be helpful, she said.“With the reviews, you know ahead of time what you’re getting,” she said. “You don’t necessarily know that about a taxi. … For me, I think I would be very comfortable with using it anytime if I’d looked at the reviews of the driver.”For Broghammer, there are still situations in which she’d still stick to a traditional cab instead, though.“The only time I would prefer a traditional cab would be going from something off campus late at night, because at least then you can pack a lot of people into the cab,” she said. “And even if I don’t know the driver, I can trust the cab company.”Senior Quinn O’Heeney used the free ride promotion last week with a group of seven people and said it went well. The driver arrived at library circle when he said he would and was polite and funny, O’Heeney said. He said regular cabs would be more affordable in some situations, but the Uber payment system is more appealing overall. “I would rather use a flag drop cab if it was just me or maybe one other person since $3 each would probably be less expensive,” he said. “In any other situation, I would prefer Uber because of the cashless aspect of it. I have been in many cab rides where one person pays way too much because people don’t have small bills and the driver doesn’t have correct change.”There are limitations to Uber’s availability — South Bend International Airport officials issued a statement Aug. 28 to inform travelers that Uber drivers would not be allowed to pick up passengers at the airport, according to a report in the South Bend Tribune.The “sharing economy” has run into legal issues in some cities, especially with regard to licensing and taxing, and Collett-Schmitt said this is because laws are not yet written to handle this new type of consumption.“I believe these concerns are legitimate,” she said. “The goods in this type of economy might also not be subject to the same laws that protect consumers. With car-sharing services, it’s not always clear who would be liable in the case of an accident. “Taxis bring up the larger issues involving regulation. Many large cities require drivers of taxis to purchase ‘medallions’ or licenses, which are very expensive. . . . This regulation might also stabilize prices and require drivers to meet certain quality standards, thus protecting consumers.”Collett-Schmitt said she sees services like Uber as solving market failure by generating transactions that would not otherwise take place if new technology had not lowered transaction costs. In this way, the additional transactions benefit society, she said.“Services like Uber will also create competition for taxi drivers who had not previously been innovative because of the lack of competition,” she said. “One hopes this will encourage producers that offer substitute or complementary goods to be more innovative.“Or, as the ‘sharing economy’ becomes more popular, larger, more well-known companies that already offer complementary or substitute goods may invest in goods that are part of the ‘sharing economy,’ like a car manufacturer teaming up with Uber.”Tags: Ride sharing, sharing economy, South Bend, taxi, Uber
CEO of edX and MIT professor Anant Agarwal kicked off the first annual ND Digital Week on Friday with the keynote lecture entitled “Reinventing Education.”Agarwal said online education not only provides access to superb teaching where educational infrastructure is weak, but it also has the potential to improve the quality of education at existing universities.EdX, a massive open online course (MOOC) provider, reaches a global audience and offers 300 courses to nearly 3 million learners, Agarwal said.Featuring courses in a variety of disciplines taught by professors from Harvard, MIT and other renowned institutions, edX also caters to a broad range of students, many of whom do not have access to a formal education. Agarwal said in developing countries, university expenses and hyper-competitive admissions bar the vast majority of people from pursuing higher education.“One of edX’s main goals is to offer instruction to those who either can’t qualify academically or financially,” he said.The numbers are encouraging, Agarwal said. For edX’s first course, “On Circuits and Electronics” offered by MIT, over 155,000 students from 152 countries signed up. Agarwal said over 7,000 students passed the same course that electrical engineering majors at MIT take.“These are very big numbers … I would have to teach for 40 years to reach these many students,” he said.Behind the large numbers are the “amazing” individual stories of the learners, Agarwal said citing a student from an African village who took a course on solar energy.“In the village, the power kept coming and going,“ he said. ”Based on what this student learned in the course, he actually set up a solar system … because of that, the power is more continuous in the village.”Agarwal said edX implemented a free and publicly accessible open-source version of its platform, named Open edX, to further increase access.“Open source is good for all of us because people can contribute to the platform,” he said. “Today…there are 50 Open edX sites and 500 courses running on these sites.”EdX also aims to integrate decades-worth of educational research into the American university system, Agarwal said.“In many fields research has been rapidly moving into practice,” he said. “But in education, things don’t look all that different today … we really have not adapted all these ideas.“On the edX platform, there are no lectures as such, but learning sequences: an interleaved sequence of videos and activities. This form of learning, where [the student] is not just listening to the lecture, but engaging with the material, is called active learning.”In addition to implementing educational research, Agarwal said edX uses A/B testing and big data analysis to determine the most effective methods of teaching. EdX groups its users into separate tracks and exposes them to different methods of instruction.“The A group will continually see A material, and the B group will continually see the B material,” he said. “Then you can give them a common assessment and see who does better. This way, we as educators, can continually examine the engineering and improve what we do.”Despite questions as to whether MOOCs like edX seek to replace traditional education, Agarwal said the aim is to blend online learning with classroom interaction. In multiple experiments with San Jose State University, Agarwal said students who supplemented their in-class instruction with corresponding edX videos fared better than students who only took the course.“In the traditional sections the failure rate for the course was historically 41 percent,” he said. “But in the blended version, the failure rate was 9 percent.”Agarwal said there is a synergy between online learning and traditional instruction and hopes more schools will adopt this method of instruction.“Whether you are a community college or private university, I believe that blended learning can be used by everybody,” he said.Tags: Anant Agarwal, Digital Week, edX, MIT, MOOC, Reinventing Education
Student body presidential candidates, junior Bryan Ricketts and sophomore Neil Joseph, and their respective running mates, junior Nidia Ruelas and sophomore Noemi Ventilla, answered questions from the Notre Dame Judicial Council and student attendees during a debate Monday night in the basement of LaFortune Student Center. Emily McConville | The Observer Sophomores Neil Joseph and Noemi Ventilla (left) listen while juniors Bryan Ricketts and Nidia Ruelas respond to a question during Monday’s presidential debate in the basement of LaFortune Student Center.Joseph, the current treasurer of the sophomore class, said his ticket’s biggest priority is increasing communication between students and the University administration. Ventilla, the current sophomore class president, said she and Joseph hope these lines of communication last beyond their term in office.“Students do so much at this University, but unless you have the administration backing you up, things can’t really change,” she said. “I don’t know if you guys are in clubs and know how difficult it is to get funding, but those are systematic changes that you can only achieve by dealing with the administration and having a positive relationship with them.”Ricketts, president of PrismND and a Gender Relations Center (GRC) peer educator, said his ticket’s biggest priority is its “identity-based initiatives.”“What we can provide is a way to make sure that students feel comfortable, feel safe and feel welcome as a community at Notre Dame, and that is why we wish to pursue these policies as our primary goal,” he said.Ricketts said his administration would encourage students to participate in student government by increasing its social media presence, creating a Reddit-like online forum for students to share ideas and having an “open-door policy” in the student government office in order to hear students’ concerns. Ruelas, who has sat on the Diversity Council for two years, said she and Ricketts would also implement student-generated ideas such as host families for international students during breaks.“These ideas that [students] bring to the table, we would be willing to take into consideration in student government,” Ruelas said.Ruelas said she and Ricketts also want to recognize underrepresented students through the host family initiative and by creating a database for internships and study abroad opportunities.In response to a student’s question about how Ricketts and Ruelas would address non-minority students’ concerns as well as those of underrepresented groups, Ricketts said many of his initiatives apply to all students.“[Our platform] contains initiatives that affect the entire student body like the online platform, like the grab and go in the dining hall, like the comprehensive social media platform,” he said. “Our platform is not meant to be exclusive, and that’s why we have our open-door policy. We are serious when we commit to answering the questions and concerns of any student on campus, regardless of what those may be.”Ruelas said she and Ricketts intend to include all students in discussions about race and ethnicity on campus.“A very important part of that, which I think radiates in our platform and which we stress as people in our daily lives and in the relationships we have built, is to realize that this is a structural problem,” she said. “A lot of the race relations problems are structural problems and should not be seen as personal attacks. Stressing this point is how we wish to include everybody in this conversation.”Joseph said he and Ventilla would increase student engagement by holding office hours in the student government office and creating policies based on students’ ideas.Joseph said his administration would prioritize voicing students’ concerns about University decisions, such as the student printing quota, the physical education requirement and Campus Crossroads.“When we meet with administrators, we’re going to make sure that they’re going to have students involved in these decisions directly,” he said. “Not necessarily us, not necessarily people from student government, but a variety of opinions from a variety of people around campus.”Ruelas said she and Ricketts would voice students’ concerns to the administration about moving graduation from the football stadium and advocate for free fitness classes. Ricketts said he and Ruelas would also prioritize communication between students and administratiors.“We believe the relationship with the administration is a two-way street,” he said. “When you come to us, we promise that your concerns will be communicated directly to the administration, and when the administration makes their decisions, we promise that we will push them to make the decisions with your feedback in mind and make the announcements recognizing the contributions that students have made.”In response to a student’s question about reforming the DARTing process, Joseph said he and Ventilla would work to make course syllabi available in online class descriptions. Ventilla said their administration would also make comments from all students’ CIFs available to anyone who fills the forms out.“We need a better way of keeping teachers accountable for what they’re teaching us and making an easier way to know what you’re getting yourself into in terms of class registration,” she said.Ruelas said she and Ricketts would also work to publish syllabi on the class search page, encourage communication between students and professors and talk to computer science majors to simplify the DARTing system. Ricketts also said his ticket’s new initiatives include the online forum, allowing dorms to sell apparel during football weekends and holding a “Dorm Week.”In response to a student’s question about how the Joseph/Ventilla platform differed from those of previous student governments, Joseph said some of his ticket’s original initiatives include reforming the dining system by allowing students to take hot food out of the dining hall and turning extra meals into flex points.Joseph added that the platform also included improvements to campus safety communications.“We don’t think the current policy is conducive to students’ interests, so we want to increase the ways in which students are informed about potential threats and potential warnings,” he said. “We also really want to connect with off-campus students to make them aware of the different dangers, connect with the South Bend [Police Department] to educate students about potential risks.”In response to a question about how they have worked with administration on issues that affect the entire student body, Joseph said he had worked with Program Director for New Student Engagement Paul Manrique on a curriculum for new students, and Ventilla said the Sophomore Class Council worked with both student senate and Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann-Harding on policy initiatives.To the same question, Ricketts said he had worked with the GRC on developing sexual assault policies and sat on an advisory council on LGBT issues, and Ruelas said as a Diversity Council member she helped craft the 21 diversity recommendations and the socioeconomic status board report under student body president emeritus Alex Coccia’s administration.Ricketts said he and Ruelas would also work to develop a medical amnesty policy.“We have seen progress from the University on the stance on medical amnesty, and we believe that a full solution can only be reached with a codified medical amnesty policy that protects students who are helping others in need,” he said.Joseph said he and Ventilla did not include the policy on their platform because it was not feasible.“We really are going to work towards it, because we think it’s very important for students, but we didn’t want to put it in our platform so that we promised something that we couldn’t achieve.”In response to a question about improving Notre Dame’s relationship with South Bend, Joseph said he and Ventilla would create a database of things to do and places to volunteer in the city. Ventilla said they would also expand quad markets and publicize transportation options.“We should push South Bend as an opportunity for student engagement beyond just service, because there are so many new things popping up in South Bend,” she said.Ruelas said she and Ricketts would promote AroundCampus, a nationwide app that helps college students find nearby businesses.“We also want to stress that South Bend is a community to be a part of,” she said. “There are people to engage with, there are servicers and businesses that are great to frequent beyond the services on campus.”Tags: Bryan Ricketts, Neil Joseph, Nidia Ruelas, Noemi Ventilla, student body presidential debate, Student government elections
Amid the triumph and turmoil of the civil rights movement, the changes of the Second Vatican Council and the push for academic freedom for Catholic universities, the 1960s saw what Fr. Theodore Hesburgh called one of his greatest administrative achievements: placing University decision-making power in the hands of laypeople.“I would have to say that of all the accomplishments during the 35 years of my presidency at Notre Dame — improving the academics, the quality of the students, the endowment, the building program — the greatest change made during my administration was turning the University over to lay control,” Hesburgh wrote in his 2000 autobiography, “God, Country, Notre Dame.”Until 1967, Holy Cross priests made all major decisions for the University, which was valued at half a billion dollars, Hesburgh wrote. A lay advisory board existed, but it had no real power.In the summer of 1965, at a University retreat house in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, Hesburgh and several other Holy Cross leaders set out to change that.“The time had come for the priests of the Holy Cross to relinquish ownership and control of the university to a lay board of trustees who would be better equipped to oversee its future well-being,” Hesburgh wrote.A key motivating factor was the recently-concluded Second Vatican Council, which emphasized involvement of laymen and laywomen in the Church. Hesburgh even wrote his 1945 doctoral dissertation at Catholic University of America on the role of the laity in the Church.“Vatican II had said that laypeople should be given responsibility in Catholic affairs commensurate with their dedication, their competence and their intelligence,” he wrote. “Many people may not have taken that seriously, but we did. For me, it was the most natural thing in the world.”The separation of the University from a religious order would also be a step towards establishing its independence and academic freedom, Hesburgh said.“An organization as big as a Catholic university, which is totally faithful to the Church, wants to go on and be a Catholic university, needs a lot of elbow room,” he told National Public Radio’s Fresh Air in 1990. “And I thought we’d have more elbow room if we were run by lay people.”In early 1967, the process of transferring ownership of the University from the Congregation of Holy Cross to a lay board — which required Vatican approval — began. According to Hesburgh’s autobiography, Fr. Edward Heston, Holy Cross’ procurator general in Rome, put in a request for the transfer.Approval “sailed right through,” Hesburgh wrote, “which is highly unusual for the Vatican.”Hesburgh then called in Ed Stephan, a 1933 graduate and a Chicago lawyer, to legally transfer ownership and to set up a new governing structure. A continual priority, Hesburgh said, was to be “careful not to load anything in favor of the clergy.”“We all wanted Notre Dame to continue as it had before, as a premier Catholic university, and also to grow stronger academically and economically,” he said.The result was a two-tiered system of governance: a 12-member board of Fellows — six Holy Cross members and six laypeople — and a Board of Trustees, whose members could be lay or religious. The Fellows would set the number of, elect and oversee members of the Board of Trustees, allowing the laity to make decisions but maintaining the voice of the clergy.Fr. Thomas Blantz, a professor emeritus of history and a trustee emeritus, was an assistant rector on campus in the mid-1960s. He said while he was not involved in the decision to transfer control, Hesburgh was open with the Holy Cross community throughout the process.“There were very good discussions,” Blantz said. “Fr. Hesburgh was very open in his discussions with the Holy Cross. He’d bring [Stepan], and he was there to answer our questions also, at these meetings.”Over the next several decades, the new structure resulted in the input of trustees from a range of backgrounds and fields, such as law, business, media and academia, who could both act as examples for Notre Dame students and bring their expertise to the University’s decision-making, Blantz said.“One of the things a Board of Trustees does is represent the wider public at the University,” Blantz said. “We are, at Notre Dame, every University, training people for life in American society and maybe even leadership in American society. Therefore, it’s probably good to have that perspective of these leaders in American society overseeing your product and how you are doing.”The expertise of those leaders also helped Notre Dame expand financially. For example, Don Keough, the former chairman of the board of trustees who died last Tuesday, donated or raised billions of dollars for the University.“We reached out into the world and picked out some of the best leaders in the country like Don Keough, head of Coca-Cola, and he came in, and he helped us carry off a great fundraising campaign,” Hesburgh said in an interview with The Observer in 2013.One of the biggest impact of the transfer, Hesburgh wrote, was to give Notre Dame the independence it needed to expand intellectually.“I think we are more Catholic today than we were in the past — both big C and little c,” Hesburgh wrote. “One could argue with that, as many do, but I stand by that statement. It is very important that we continue to have independent Catholic universities. They are the very places that do the most of advance Catholic thought and influence in this country.“We have, and deserve to have, the respect of everyone who values academic freedom and commitment to the principles of reason seeking faith, and faith freely seeking a deeper understanding of all that faith means in our times.”Tags: board of fellows, Board of Trustees, Catholic university, Don Keough, Hesburgh, lay board, lay governance
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor discussed a wide variety of issues, including court procedure and diversity, in a public conversation with NBC News correspondent Anne Thompson at Leighton Hall in DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Students and faculty from across the University attended the discussion, which was moderated by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Ann Claire Williams.Sotomayor, who Williams described as a “dreamer of big, impossible dreams,” said the day she accepted her nomination to the Court was a profound moment in her life. When entering the room behind President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, she said she felt a sense of detachment from reality.“And at that moment, I felt like my spirit had left my body,” Sotomayor said. “I was looking at myself from up there … I couldn’t connect with my emotions and I knew, ultimately, that the reason for that was if I did, I wouldn’t be able to do what I needed to do: to give a speech. I thought that feeling would end that day, but it lasted for about a year and a half. I watched myself doing things that I would have never thought possible.” Caitlyn Jordan Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, left, converses with NBC news correspondent Anne Thompson, a member of the Notre Dame class of 1979, on Wednesday night in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.When Thompson, Notre Dame class of 1979, asked how justices reach decisions on court cases, Sotomayor said the process relies heavily on personal interaction and discussion.“A lot of the initial decision making is personal. Generally speaking, the first time we get to talk about a case is oral argument,” she said. “Through our individual questions our colleagues are understanding each other. We’re exploring the strength and weaknesses of the case through our questions.”The justices then hold a conference amongst themselves and disclose their opinions and reasoning, Sotomayor said.“So the chief [justice] will start, and his is usually the most forceful explanation. He’ll come up and say, ‘Well, this is the way that I’m voting, but I’m a little bit unsure, and this is what’s still troubling me,’” she said. “He also explains why some counterarguments don’t convince him. What happens is then we go down in descending order, around the room, in descending order of seniority. … By the end of the discussion, we all sort of know what each is thinking.”Sotomayor acknowledged that while the justices can hold conflicting opinions, the justices’ commitment to upholding the Constitution unites them.“Many of us have similar approaches to constitutional interpretation, but the fact that we have similar approaches doesn’t always mean we come to a similar result. And there is no one who is shy on the court about either expressing themselves or who has a failure of courage to vote for a position that is unexpected,” she said. “I think every justice on the Court is devoted to the Court. Each one of us cares deeply about the Court’s institutional responsibility to society. … But we also have a very deep abiding passion about the Constitution, our system of government, about our respect for the law, which leads us to believe that some things can’t be compromised.”When asked what the inclusion of women as justices brings to the Court, Sotomayor said the Court started ruling on cases that supported women’s rights.“It was only when Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the Court that we had the first case that found gender discrimination that was unacceptable, and that was the Virginia Military School case [United States v. Virginia]. Before that, the Supreme Court had almost routinely never voted in favor of a women’s issue,” she said. “A lot of people don’t remember or realize that. The court might have been a slight step ahead of the society when it came to race inequality; it was ten steps behind society when it came to gender inequality. I’m not saying that it was only the presence of women, but I am saying that the presence of women does change the conversation a little bit. … There is a difference in sensitivity in the way you address things when you have some diversity on the Court.”Sotomayor said that since her appointment to the Supreme Court she has realized the humanity of the people involved in making history.“We are ordinary human beings, with strengths, with weaknesses, with foibles, with courage, and sometimes fear. When we get disappointed in our elected officials, often it’s because we see the human side of them,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we should respect them less but that you should respect them because they’re trying to do jobs that are hard.“In my explaining to you what the process of the court is, what the process of the law is, I hope you come away with a respect for the people who are trying their best, human beings that are trying their best, to do what’s right. And that doesn’t mean that they always succeed according to your judgment, because there’s going to be court opinions that you agree with and that you disagree with. But it is a product of people trying to do what’s right. I will hope that will lead people to less disillusionment, to more respect for the court instead of less, and more respect for the people who have the opportunity to try to do the right thing.”The crowd was taken aback when Sotomayor responded “no” after Thompson asked if she felt as if she “belonged” on the Court.“I am different and yet I’m not because we’re all engaged in the same enterprise. We’re all trying to come to the right decisions together, and we’re all part of that conversation,” she said. “To that extent, I belong. But will I ever quite feel that I have their same background, their same understanding of the world that I operate on? Not really.”Sotomayor said she has learned to respond to differences as an opportunity to learn something about new institutions, people and situations.“For me, it’s very, very important not to think of differences as good or bad, but just different, and understanding what moves people to the choices they make,” she said.After her discussion with Thompson, Sotomayor responded to questions posed by Notre Dame undergraduate and law students.In answer to a question about her experience of discrimination as a successful Latino woman, Sotomayor said expectations for women of color are higher than for the average citizen. She also said discrimination can come from unexpected places, and often results from misunderstanding and miscommunication.“People don’t really understand their own prejudices,” Sotomayor said. “Most people do things that are discriminatory, or say things that are hurtful, without really knowing they’re doing it.”In the face of discrimination, Sotomayor said, people have a choice – either to retreat from a negative experience, or to try to reach a greater level of mutual understanding and respect with those who have offended them.“Those small slights, those senses of not belonging, can make you not belong if you let them,” she said. “You can belong and make friends in almost any place or setting you’re in, but sometimes you have to make the effort to bridge that gap.”Indeed, Sotomayor said making friends, particularly with people of differing opinions, is invaluable for personal growth. She said although she has found it difficult at times, she has been able to maintain friendships with other justices on the Court despite their opposing outlooks.“We disagree with each other, but we do listen,” she said. “We try to persuade each other, we try to convince each other, and often we fail.“The challenge is to make friends who don’t agree with you, who try to talk you out of your mistakes, who try to change your mind. Whether they succeed or not is irrelevant – you learn something from them.”Sotomayor said one failing of the Court as a whole is its lack of diversity – not only in terms of gender or race, but also in terms of the legal backgrounds of the justices. She said all current justices on the Court were prosecutors, and only one, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has a civil rights background.“We have areas of practice that people have never experienced: immigration law, family law,” she said. “But we’re making decisions that affect every one of those areas of the law.”The members of the Court are not the only ones who could benefit from being more well-rounded, Sotomayor said. Addressing the students present, she said college students should take advantage of opportunities to expand their learning in a variety of areas.“You should be learning about the world, and to do that you have to get out of your comfort zone and study things that you know nothing about.”In particular, Sotomayor said taking courses in religion, economics, sociology and philosophy are essential for understanding current events.“When you leave this university, you should have a working knowledge of all the things that affect the human condition,” she said.Tags: DPAC, Sonia Sotomayor, Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court