Groups ask Board for more funding

first_imgSeveral Saint Mary’s clubs and organizations asked for more funding at the Student Government Association meeting Wednesday. SGA recently gave out allotments, which is the amount of money each club or organization receives for the year to cover start-up costs for events. The Board’s Finance Committee will take three of the five appeals into consideration. Al-Zahra, a club representing the Middle Eastern and North African cultures, appealed the money allotted to it because funds were low following their first event, Kaitlyn Sahd, president of the club, said. “The purpose of club is to try and raise awareness of Arabic culture and issues on Saint Mary’s campus,” Al-Zahra vice president Caroline Proulx said. “It’s an outlet for [Muslim students] to help express their identity and what it truly means to be Muslim in the United States.” The Board voted to have the allotment appealed and it will be presented to the Board again once the Finance Committee reviews it, Rachael Chesley, student body president, said. Circle K, a club that encourages volunteering in the community, appealed their allotment as well. Club President Amanda Garrett said entrance fees to the national organization have changed, which made it harder for the club to hold its usual events. “We do a lot of volunteer activities throughout the year,” Garrett said. “We have parties for the Center for the Homeless and work with the convent here.” The Board voted for the Finance Committee to review Circle K’s allotment. The National Student Speech-Language & Hearing Association (NSSLHA) organization on campus also attended Wednesday’s meeting in search of more funds. Katie Staak, president of the group, said a fundraising event to sell apples would not be possible year because inclement weather destroyed their supply. As a result, the group’s budget for the year has changed. But Chesley said no new information could be added during the appeal to help keep the process fair. The Board voted against the appeal. Saint Mary’s Straight and Gay Alliance (SAGA) also appealed their allotment. Karen Borja, president of the club, said the group’s executives were new to the process and didn’t understand how allotments work. Treasurer Meg Griffin said the instructions and bylaws for the allotments were included in e-mails sent to club and organization presidents, and that student government was also available for questions. The Board voted against reviewing the appeal. The Social Work Club was the last to present their appeal to SGA. President Maria Kenney said she was concerned with the allotment because the club’s events don’t reach the minimum for sponsorship through SGA and their estimated revenue from club dues was not as high as anticipated. Kenney said the club hosts events with Hope Ministries and St. Margaret’s House in South Bend during the year. SGA voted to have their allotment reviewed by the Finance Committee.last_img read more

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Blog considers diversity at ND

first_imgWhen senior Zuri Eshun created the blog “I, Too, Am Notre Dame” for a photography class project, she didn’t know it would grow into a vehicle for conversation about race and culture at the University.One week after the Tumblr page launched, messages on the blog drew students’ and faculty members’ attention to issues of diversity on campus.“It started out as just the [class] project, but once I started reading more about [a similar campaign at Harvard University] and different schools that were doing it, I wanted it to be something … that had some kind of impact on campus,” Eshun said. “So that’s why I then turned it into a project involving a lot of diversity students on campus, rather than just my friends.“I wanted it to be something that was widespread and something that caught attention and something that really brought that sense of where we are with race as a campus to the forefront.”The blog, located at itooamnotredame.tumblr.com, and a Facebook page titled “I, Too, Am Notre Dame” feature photos of students with messages written on their arms, palms or other parts of their bodies. Eshun said those messages are either hurtful statements that other people have said to them or reactions to those statements.“I know that a lot of the [other schools’] campaigns use white boards or a chalkboard or something to write their saying down, and so what I wanted to do to make it unique to Notre Dame was I had them write it on them somewhere, so that it was their experience and that that couldn’t be taken away,” Eshun said.Courtesy of itooamnotredame.tumblr.com/ Eshun said she reached out to students of racial and cultural minorities via email and Facebook to invite them to participate in the project. She said she included students of various minority backgrounds to make the point that “as an entire [minority] group on campus, we are going through this together.”Eshun said she instructed volunteers to make their written messages “whatever is honest to them.”For senior Olevia Boykin, who participated in the project, that message was “Oh, you’ve got it good. You can play that diversity card!”“I’ll be going to law school next year, and that was the most pertinent thing that’s been said to me recently,” Boykin said. “I think a lot of people think I got in because I’m Black or I got to write a diversity statement, but … that’s not why I got in.”Eshun said she thinks the blog scares some people because it suggests that Notre Dame is imperfect.“Being told that something negative has happened, people take it as an offense to them,” she said. “[But] no one is blaming anyone for anything. If this is anything it’s saying there is no blame, there is no anything, there’s only going forward with this.“If you were to take this project, respond to it negatively and move backwards, that would be a problem. But if you see this project and you see what your peers have gone through, you can only go forward with it. You can only have a change in mindset.”Sophomore Kay Kay Fiannaan said she decided to participate in the “I, Too, Am Notre Dame” project because she wanted to encourage people to discuss issues of race and culture on a personal level. She wrote on her palms, “Are you dating [blank]? He is black too!”Fiannaan said she realized that after someone made the comment to her, she had talked about the experience only with her friends who were also minorities.“I thought this would be a good chance to get other people to understand that this has actually been said. This … kind of view that someone has or this idea that someone has, it’s surprising, but it’s out there,” Fiannaan said.Eshun said she has received both positive and negative feedback to the blog.Fiannaan said although she has heard people call the project “attention-seeking” or “unnecessary,” she believes the blog strikes at the heart of issues of diversity at Notre Dame.“Notre Dame is a family, and it’s not perfect. And really working toward that is what matters the most, which is why all these efforts that the administration has been putting in really mean a lot,” Fiannaan said. “However, it’s one thing to be up there in the office and making all these rules and changing different parts of the structure of Notre Dame … but it’s another thing to get to the heart of the issue, which is the students.“And that’s what this project is supposed to do, really to get students talking about this on a very personal level.”Eshun said the blog has recently started to gain momentum.“Where it is now is that it’s starting to kind of be talked about, but what I want it to be is something that you have to go and see or you have to kind of be a part of,” she said. “I want it to be at a point where everyone has seen it and everyone can start that dialogue.”Freshman Manny Caballero, who participated in the blog, said Notre Dame students’ different racial and cultural backgrounds are very apparent.“I think it’s a beautiful thing, but also, at the same time, the [blog] project helps people kind of develop a sense of community and lets them know who we are, where we come from, what we are about,” he said.Eshun said the students featured in the “I, Too, Am Notre Dame” project are shaped by their cultures and backgrounds. She said the project displays parts of these students’ identities and people should acknowledge their messages.“It’s not sympathizing, it’s not being sensitive,” she said. “It’s respecting that person enough to know ‘I see who you are, I see that you’re African-American, I see that you’re Asian or that you’re Hispanic or Latino. I see that, and I’m going to respect you, not only as the person that I know you as, but as the person who is attached to this lineage and this history and this culture.’“And ultimately, when the whole thing is done, that’s what I want.”Tags: blog, Diversitylast_img read more

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Business professor concludes Spirituality Monday

first_imgProfessor of business and economics Jerry McElroy ended Saint Mary’s semester-long Spirituality Monday series with a discussion on the sacramentality of nature.“Poetry is really a sense language, what did you see, what did you hear, feel and taste, and so sacramentality means that through the window of the senses, we somehow taste and find God,” McElroy said. “I just saw this article called ‘Poetry is the Best Theology,’ and it says, ‘It imagines the unimaginable. It describes the undefinable. It’s theology leaping out of the file cabinet and into the heart. It’s the word of the word that stirs our souls.’”McElroy invited junior Rebecca Walker to read an opening poem by Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English poet and Jesuit priest of the 19th century. McElroy then read one of his own poems, the first he ever wrote and sent in for publication, “Spring Fine.” “[My wife] Birdie and I lived for many years in the tropics, and the first year we came to South Bend, the winter was like this one — the winter would never end,” McElroy said. “No one knew when spring would come. So this is a poem about when spring really started.”“In the year of the late snowmelt, no one knew when spring came, until the one day warble song rolled suddenly through the fence row and broke the chill in winter’s wake, and unexpectedly, the wild plum tree bloomed so loudly against its skin that travelers slowed just a nod. At last the cold was past, and earth would green and green again,” McElroy said, reciting his poem.   McElroy said his next poem, “Spring Delights,” drew heavily upon the senses with assistance from alliteration and irony.“As far as I know, the angels can’t smell the lavender, or smell the creek ice cracks. That’s a privilege we have,” McElroy said.  One particular poem described the odyssey of the spawning of salmon, drawing a parallel to the Holy Spirit and the Paschal Mystery, McElroy said. Another poem painted a peaceful image of an island, a sacred scene right before the break of dawn.McElroy said though he received his doctorate in economics, his interest in nature and poetry began early in his life. “I spent a lot of time observing nature,” he said. “When I was a kid on my grandad’s farm, I began to sing, so I know when to start, stop the lines.” Having already published four books, McElroy said he will release his fifth book this coming August through Finishing Line Press.“The best part is the poetry itself,” McElroy said. “If you really absorb yourself in the poetry, you’re going to get in contact with the divine eventually, because the nature is so incredible.”Tags: SMC, Spirituality Mondayslast_img read more

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Saint Mary’s adds two administrators

first_imgWith the new year underway, Saint Mary’s College welcomed administrative change at the start of the spring 2015 semester. The single office once dedicated to “Student Involvement and Multicultural Services” is now split and led by two new directors, Brittany House and Gloria Jenkins.“They provide different services and opportunities for students,” sophomore Lydia Heller said. “Now that the offices are separate, they will be able to cater to more people on a more detailed level.”Heller said she believes the combination of offices will have a positive impact on the College.Saint Mary’s newest administrators said they expect the positive impact of their offices to extend to the students and themselves.“I enjoy working at smaller, private liberal arts colleges, and I wanted to work for a women’s institution,” House, the new director of Student Involvement, said. “When I interviewed here, everyone was friendly and genuine. I was impressed — and still am — by the students I met during my interview. Their maturity, dedication, and intelligence are inspiring.”Both Jenkins and House were introduced to the College just last week, but both said they found Saint Mary’s appealing because of its identity as a liberal arts college and the character of its faculty, staff and students.“[The campus] made a very good impression,” Jenkins, the new director of Multicultural Services, said. “The mission and the values, everything that [students] do here.”Jenkins said she intends to actively reach out to the women of Saint Mary’s College and cater to their needs.“The most important thing is making time for the students, getting to know them and trying to find out how in my role I can help the students and meet the mission of the institution as well,” Jenkins said. “I want to find out how our offices can better serve the students.”Since Jenkins started her new role, she said she finds fulfillment in realizing her mission.“My highlight of my workday is just meeting all the great students and having the opportunity to sit down and talk with them,”  Jenkins said. “I’m someone that really believes in serving others and mentoring women leaders. Whatever the needs are, that’s my job to do those needs.”Both offices, though similar in services offered to students, have different ways of implementing their ideas through the focus of their respective offices, House and Jenkins said.“The Office of Student Involvement will work with students and student organizations both,” House said. “In my role as director, I plan to be interacting with students through the programs and events our office will be hosting.”House said she is especially excited to help with the College’s annual spring festival Tostal this semester.Jenkins said she is particularly interested in “working on the Belles Connect Scholars Program.”Both halves of the former office have an open-door policy meant to encourage students to engage in the planning of college events.“I’m always open to ideas and suggestions from students on the types of programs and events they would like to see on campus,” House said.“We will be working closely together,” Jenkins said.  “We will be continuing to work and collaborate together. We’re partners in making sure that there’s a good campus life on campus and that we meet the needs of the students.”Tags: Brittany House, Gloria Jenkins, Office of Multicultural Services, Office of Student Involvementlast_img read more

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University celebrates MLK Day

first_imgThis year, the University is taking new steps to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. That effort began last night with the beginning of the first ever Walk the Walk Week, a series of events designed to promote diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame.The week kicked off Sunday night with a march and candlelit prayer service in the Main Building, followed by a late night breakfast in South Dining Hall.Michael Yu | The Observer “The march marks — quite literally — the University community’s first steps in coming together that day,” a University-wide email said. “The hope is that our collective reflection on the values that are so central both to King’s legacy and to Notre Dame’s mission will continue in various settings throughout the days, weeks and months to come.”The President’s Office, Diversity Council, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, the Department of Africana Studies and the Institute for Latino Studies, in addition to a number of other clubs and departments on campus, will sponsor a variety of events over the course of the week.“So many people worked together to make this happen,” senior Chizo Ekechukwu, chair of Diversity Council, said. “A lot of different groups throughout campus came together in collaboration to create conversations about this topic.”This year, for the first time, Notre Dame cancelled all classes and other campus activities from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Students, faculty and staff with tickets may attend a luncheon and panel discussion in the Joyce Center during this time. All other members of the community may eat a special meal at the dining halls during this time by presenting a Notre Dame ID.Senior Rachel Wallace, a member of Diversity Council, said she thinks Walk the Walk Week will provide the Notre Dame community with more opportunities to reflect on the meaning of King’s legacy.“There’s been a lot of conversation about why we don’t have Martin Luther King Day off because we should be honoring him,” she said. “The whole week makes the celebration about something bigger than just the holiday. The best way to honor him is living out his ideas.”Senior Ray’Von Jones, Student Union representative to Diversity Council, said she is especially excited to listen to a presentation from Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, on Monday night in DeBartolo Hall.“What better way to understand an emerging movement, something that’s so widespread at this point, than hearing it from the people who cofounded it?” Jones said. “Hopefully the talk will help people better understand the significance of the week in general.”Throughout the rest of the week, the University will host various events and panels to highlight the themes of diversity and inclusion, both in the past and the present.“I think people tend to think that diversity and inclusion aren’t an issue that they need to be involved in,” Jones said. “It’s important not to look at the Civil Rights Movement as a static thing, because people are still fighting for civil rights, and there are still people who lack civil rights.“The week challenges us to live out what Dr. King was working for and what so many other civil rights leaders were and are working for.”Ekechukwu said the week is a chance for Notre Dame students to focus on little things they can do on a daily basis to make Notre Dame a better place.“Martin Luther King Jr. is someone that so many people really respect. He’s an iconic figure, but I feel like a lot of times his words and what he stands for can get lost,” she said. “ … I’m really hoping Walk the Walk Week will open people’s eyes about things and help them take a more active role to make Notre Dame a more inclusive place.”Wallace said she thinks Walk the Walk Week will continue in future years.“We’re stepping into new territory,” she said. “There’s a lot of visions that haven’t been incorporated yet and things that I’m sure we can do better every year. I think this is a great step in the right direction, but I would love to see this week continue to grow.”The hashtag #NDwalkthewalk will be used on social media throughout the week to engage students in the conversations about diversity and inclusion, Wallace said.“How are you going to walk the walk? What’s your next step?” she said. “That’s the theme of the week — challenging people to act or get involved.”Jones said she hopes Notre Dame students can send a message and inspire other schools to create conversations about civil rights in today’s age.“Hopefully people will come out and support and engage in the events,” she said. “I think people will walk away with more motivation to improve our community and get more involved, realizing what struggles were in the past and what we are still struggling with.”University President Fr. John Jenkins has been involved with the organization of Walk the Walk Week, Ekechukwu said, embodying the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.“Fr. Jenkins is going to be at all the events,” she said. “He’s really put this on his priority list when he’s a very busy man. It says a lot about his intentions and his goals for the University. … It shows that this is something Notre Dame believes in.”A full schedule of the week’s events can be found online at http://diversity.nd.edu/walk-the-walk/Tags: Martin Luther King Jr., MLK Week, Walk the Walk Weeklast_img read more

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China Night promotes culture, tradition

first_imgSaint Mary’s 8th annual China Night will take place in Moreau Center’s Little Theatre on Saturday.Alice Siqin Yang, associate director of international education, said China Night will feature a variety of performances centered around Chinese culture, presented by both Saint Mary’s international exchange students and local Chinese community members. “In addition to our Chinese international students, we have some community [dance groups] — children from six to 20 [years old] will come to perform from the local Chinese community,” Yang said.Although this is China Night’s 8th consecutive year, Yang said China Night has a long history at Saint Mary’s. “The first one was in 1967 and then 1969; they did two years of China Night on this campus in the … O’Laughlin Auditorium,” she said. “This should be our 50-year anniversary.”Yang said this year’s focus for China Night is the Year of the Rooster, one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs that cycle through the years. “Those born under the sign of the Rooster are hard-working, confident, proud and ready to meet challenges,” she said. “This will be a lucky year for those born under this sign.”Junior Chinese Culture Club president Jinglun Zhang said she likes sharing Chinese culture with American students because it helps to form a bond between all Saint Mary’s students. “It helps Chinese students not be so anxious, as we are in a completely new environment,” she said. “We feel a lot of pressure from both the academic areas and the social ones too, so this event can help us not feel so nervous, as we are all a big family here.” Zhang said many of the events to be performed are of traditional Chinese culture — namely dance, song and poetry — along with a costume show that spotlights traditional Chinese dress. There will also be several performances with traditional Chinese instruments, as well as a lottery game with red envelopes for the winners and a craft sale with products from China, she said. “The money we will raise will be donated to [young Chinese] girls in the rural areas who are not able to study because they are poor and their families cannot afford the fees for them to study,” Zhang said.“This is especially important because … [in Chinese culture] the family tends to ignore the girls and afford the boys the study opportunities.” The event is aimed at displaying the importance of having a diverse campus, Yang said. “This event is a part of our campus internationalization,” she said. “We promote diversity [and] inclusion, which is very important right now, so many people can have the opportunity to learn about Chinese language and culture.”The event is also a great opportunity for the College’s Chinese exchange students to showcase their talents, Yang said. “Many international students are very talented and this offers them a platform to showcase their talents and share their expertise with Saint Mary’s and the local community,” she said. “ … I think it is a great collaboration between Saint Mary’s and the local community,” she said. “We open Saint Mary’s doors and welcome community members to come to our campus and create a very good interaction. They come to celebrate the Chinese New Year with us and it’s a good outreach to the community. More people will know about and appreciate Saint Mary’s because of China Night.” The international students should be viewed as Chinese cultural conduits on campus, Yang said.“I send students to study abroad in 18 countries and we always say our students are cultural ambassadors in those countries,” she said. “The same thing is true here. We have about 30 – 40 international students, and half of them are Chinese international students. They are also playing the role of cultural ambassador and bringing Chinese culture to campus. “It’s a great opportunity for our students to learn about the culture because today, it’s as important as ever to have a global mind, to be open minded and have strong intercultural confidence. This event offers everyone the opportunity to access diverse culture.” Tags: China, culture, exchange program, International, traditionlast_img read more

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Students examine effects of Title IX policy on survivors

first_imgNotre Dame community members gathered in Geddes Hall on Friday to learn more about Title IX policy and how potential policy changes may affect victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence.Senior Grace Watkins began by going through the history of Title IX and its various processes. She said one of the biggest concerns with Title IX is that the criminal justice system, rather than Title IX officials, should handle sexual assault cases. She said this argument doesn’t take into consideration the lack of victim-based mentality in the criminal justice system.“It’s really important to emphasize that not only is gender-based violence something that could go through the criminal system, it’s also a civil rights issue,” she said. “If gender-based violence is occurring on campuses, that prevents the victim or the survivor’s educational access. Criminal rights, civil rights — both are valid, and in my opinion, the criminal justice system isn’t really built to handle sexual violence cases.”Because Title IX does not have the power of subpoena, Watkins said, one of the biggest concerns that has been expressed about potential changes in Title IX policy under the new administration is the evidence standard with which Title IX cases will be judged.“The main thing that we’re really concerned about is whether the preponderance of evidence standard will shift up to clear and convincing,” she said. “So right now, it sits that you need to have 50 percent, plus one or above, certainty that an act of gender-based violence occurred in order for the party to be found responsible. Clear and convincing moves it up to 75. … We need to value survivors’ ability to access education over having a higher standard.”The transgender community is also expected to face greater resistance than it did under the Obama administration, fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts said.“The Obama administration put forth guidance on Title IX saying that its protections under gender discrimination and sex discrimination apply to transgender students,” he said. “If they are denied appropriate housing, or bathroom access or things like that, that is discrimination on the basis of their sex that falls under Title IX. This is not something that is expected to stay intact under the Trump administration.”According to Ricketts, Title IX policy does not discriminate on the basis of whether or not an assault occurred between two members of the same sex, but there are additional challenges for LGBT survivors of sexual assault.“Underreporting is more prominent [in the LGBT community], but sexual violence happens,” he said. “ … Not only do you have to be reporting an incident of sexual voiolence, but [you’re] also outing yourself as LGBT — maybe to friends maybe to family, maybe to administrators. Whatever that looks like, you have to go through the coming out process.”Senior Gabriela Malespin spoke about the additional obstacles immigrants are facing in reporting instances of sexual assault, domestic abuse or other gender-based violence due to the increased authority of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).“The Trump administration has eliminated a lot of existing barriers for ICE officials,” she said. “This poses a challenge for a lot of undocumented survivors who might have to face a choice between reporting their abuse and facing the risk of deportation.”In addition to sources such as Know Your IX — an organization intended to inform students about their Title IX rights, Watkins cited several initiatives being introduced to Notre Dame as ways for students to become more aware of Title IX policy and issues on campus. Freshman Isabel Rooper, the student government director of gender relations, said student government is working to implement programs such as Callisto, a survivor-friendly reporting system, to improve the University’s response to sexual assault.“It’s hard to know what the problems are with our school’s Title IX compliance if people don’t talk about it and if we don’t hear about it,” she said. “ … We have some recommendations in terms of releasing aggregate data, and the Callisto reporting system has been passed on to [vice president of student affairs] Erin Hoffman Harding. So that’s in her hands now. We’re really hoping that both of those get kind of accepted, and we’d love to get Callisto implemented by fall of 2017.”Tags: teach-in, Title IX, Title IX policylast_img read more

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Cervelli addresses repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

first_imgEditor’s note: This is the third story in a four-part series examining the effects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and its potential repeal at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. Today’s story highlights the support the Saint Mary’s administration has demonstrated for DACA and undocumented students at the College.Last November, students assembled in Le Mans Hall to distribute signs with messages of support for their undocumented peers. Saint Mary’s president Jan Cervelli asked for a sign to put in her car.When a panel discussion before Thanksgiving offered her the opportunity to address how post-election tensions might influence underrepresented groups, Cervelli did not hesitate to speak.When community members hosted an open forum last April after the College decided not to declare itself a sanctuary campus, she was there. The recently announced decision end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program represents another opportunity for Cervelli to stand up for affected members of the Saint Mary’s community. And she’s taking it.“We’re living in a diverse world — increasingly so,” Cervelli said. “[DACA students] bring to us very important perspectives, and our doors are completely open. We are committed to protecting those students in every way that we possibly can.”Cervelli explained that the College exemplifies values of selflessness and resourcefulness in the face of adversity.“We’re honoring all of our financial aid commitments to those students, and I can say that the Saint Mary’s community has really stepped up as well,” she said. “We have … experts at immigration law, and they are providing — at no cost — legal advice to any DACA student who so chooses. I’m very pleased about that.”Welcoming vulnerable populations and celebrating their contributions allows Saint Mary’s to meet the expectations its founders had, Cervelli said.“Particularly with the Sisters of the Holy Cross, one of their primary tenants is hospitality, which means more than providing meals and such,” she said. “It means opening doors to all, and particularly to refugees.”Cervelli said the College rejects discrimination and judgment, and promotes unity and curiosity.“I think [acceptance] is a key to excellence in education here,” she said. “Being able to understand different perspectives, being able to embrace those, is key to being able to function in any respect — both professionally and personally — upon graduation.”The appointment of Cristal Brisco as college counsel, moves to diversify the faculty and staff hires and the administration’s desire to collaborate more regularly with Student Government Association (SGA) will establish an unbreakable sisterhood, Cervelli said.“It is our obligation, and we’re very much committed at this point in time, to create a more inclusive and diverse campus,” she said. “We’re taking specific steps in that direction, I’m happy to say.”The influence a small college can have should not be underestimated, Cervelli said.“I think the president speaks on behalf of the institution and has to have a critical voice — not only on the campus to reinstate our values and what are principles are — but in the community as well: to bring the voice of Saint Mary’s to both the regional and national stage,” she said. “I’ve used every opportunity that I can to do that. There have been a series of letters that college and university presidents have signed over the course of this year, and I’ve taken advantage of every one of those.”When students came directly to her office to speak about their concerns after the presidential election, Cervelli said she knew Saint Mary’s was unlike any other place.“To be able to understand students’ perspectives, what their concerns and passions are — that’s why we’re here,” she said. “There’s no more important thing.”An inclusive atmosphere can best be achieved if individuals with dissenting viewpoints respectfully voice their disagreements, rather than angrily debate, Cervelli said. In scenarios when opposing stances may easily surface — as they have been since last week’s DACA update — having peaceful, constructive conversations is essential, she said.“There’s a discussion across the nation right now on how campuses can encourage this free speech, because … it’s been very difficult,” she said. “I encourage students to create venues where they’re able to, in a civil way … express their opinions in a way that’s factual, informational … non-confrontational and to begin to look for areas of commonality.”Cervelli said compassion for DACA and undocumented community members should be high at a women’s college, since students at least partially understand the plight of being misrepresented and oppressed. “It’s important that all Belles are able to learn about and explore themselves and to be able to establish their beliefs,” Cervelli said. “That’s what our campus should be all about.”Students who may feel excluded or nervous about their future should trust in Saint Mary’s commitment to preserving ideals of love and empathy, Cervelli said.“Our doors are open to all,” Cervelli said. “We respect all, without exception.”Tags: cervelli, Cristal Brisco, DACA, Diversity, inclusion, saint mary’s, Sisters of the Holy Cross, Student Government Associationlast_img read more

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A student at Notre Dame Stadium flashed a disputed hand gesture. A debate about campus rhetoric ensued

first_imgMinutes before the start of the Sept. 28 Virginia-Notre Dame football game, an NBC camera zoomed in on the announcers reporting from the student section. Many students were cheering. One was not.This student stuck out his arm, his thumb and forefinger touching to form an upside down OK sign out to his right side. The gesture was fleeting and may have gone unnoticed by many viewers. In a video of the incident, students nearby did not seem to see it. It is the universal symbol for OK, widely-used to signal understanding or approval and even appears as an emoji.But to others who saw it, the student’s gesture had a sinister cast. In recent years, the OK sign has been appropriated by white supremacists, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Observer File Photo In a file photo from 2016, the Notre Dame student section cheers on the football team with rally towels in hand.The student’s motives are unknown. Nevertheless, his gesture has become the latest flashpoint in ongoing conversations about the importance of tolerance, the boundaries for freedom of expression and the viral nature of hate speech.The incident also underscores tensions on campus in recent months, where divisiveness — centered around issues as varied as gay rights, pro-life and pro-choice movements — has heightened sensitivity surrounding both political and apolitical discourse.The student who made the gesture — editors at The Observer have chosen not to identify him by name — has been criticized online since the game. Through faculty in his program, the student, who denied multiple interview requests from The Observer, said the gesture was just an innocent way for him to show excitement about the game.What began as a mockery of liberals has stuck with the white power movement. In 2017, members of the discussion board 4chan began a hoax to convince liberals the symbol has racist connotations in the hopes they would take up the charge and face ridicule. However, white supremacists later began using the sign.The Christchurch mosque shooter, who killed 51 Muslims in New Zealand last March, flashed the gesture during a court hearing. President of white nationalist think tank the National Policy Institute, Richard Spencer, was photographed making the gesture outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. on the night of the 2016 presidential election.The ADL notes context is critical when evaluating the gesture’s intent, and uses of the OK symbol in many contexts is completely innocuous. In addition to being used to signal approval, the sign is also used in the “Circle Game,” in which a person attempts to trick another person into looking at an upside-down OK symbol made below the waist.Regardless of intent, public use of the symbol has sparked controversy and backlash.An individual who made an OK hand sign in May at Wrigley Field in Chicago was banned from the venue indefinitely. A high school near Chicago announced it would reprint more than 1,700 yearbooks after students making the sign were noticed in photographs.This is not the first time a hand sign has been co-opted by a group, effectively changing the sign’s meaning. The gang MS-13 uses a once-innocuous sign which originated in heavy metal culture — a fist with the forefinger and the pinky extended.Regarding the student in Notre Dame Stadium, Paul Browne, the vice president of public affairs and communications at Notre Dame, said, “I’m unaware of evidence that anyone at the game used a gesture knowing it had racist connotations.”The state on campusIn the 2018 Inclusive Campus Student Survey, 47% of students said they had experienced adverse treatment they felt was due to a personal characteristic. One in five students felt the adverse treatment was due to their political views. Among those students, 68% said it had a somewhat or very negative effect on their feeling of belonging on campus and 20% said the treatment had a somewhat or very negative effect on their feeling of safety on campus.In recent weeks, charged battles have played out in the Observer Viewpoint section, from the poem “There’s queer blood on homophobic hands” to “There’s innocent blood on pro-choice hands.”“We’ve kind of ripped off the facade of civility, so we’re really, really struggling,” linguistic anthropology professor Susan Blum said.Since the 2016 election, Blum said movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have gained a more prominent voice, but also have been challenged and mocked more.Language use causes tension in partisan spheres. Despite what a word or symbol means to one group, others might understand it differently, Blum said. A Confederate flag, for example, dredges up character assumptions even if the person holding sees it to be nothing beyond a flag.“I think it’s important that intention is not the only thing to pay attention to in language and in signs in general, but how they are received,” Blum said. “The effect they have is just as important as some sort of claimed intention.”Anthropology professor and department chair Agustín Fuentes noted that at such a divisive time, people are hyper-attentive to potential instances of racism. According to Fuentes, the incident in the stadium is larger than just the student who made the hand sign. The issue lies in why people should care about the hand sign and what the response should be in instances of bigotry.“How do we make it so that everyone knows what that sign is and no one wants to see it?” Fuentes said. “How do we get to a place where people understand why these perspectives are problematic, why they’re antithetical to what we believe as a country?”To achieve that, Fuentes believes there should be more dialogue on campus dealing with issues like racism and white nationalism, and that Notre Dame has not yet done enough to address the increasing hate seen around the country. “Notre Dame should be leading in many more ways than we are. I have no trouble saying that,” Fuentes said. “We should be a beacon for an absolute stand against hate.”Among the student body, Student Government hopes to build more bipartisan understanding through their program, Converge, which pairs together people of differing political views to discuss their views amicably.Senior Alex Yom, director of community engagement and outreach, is leading Converge this year. In 2018, its first year, Converge had around 150 participants. This year, there are 209. After the 2016 election, Yom said he has seen polarization increase on campus. Yom said people struggle to talk about race, in particular.“If people say something that they might not want to come off as insensitive, but they genuinely made a mistake, I think it’s important not to immediately call them out and say that they’re crazy and rude,” he said. “We have to come to an understanding of being open to mistakes.”The reason behind the student’s gesture in Notre Dame Stadium remains uncertain. But it added to a conversation about free speech and the politicization of language on campus and beyond, Blum said.As seen with the man at Wrigley Stadium, gestures, however innocuous, can have consequences.“Kids joke around,” Blum said. “But joking around at this tense moment doesn’t feel very good to me.” Tags: Anti-Defamation League, OK Sign, OK Symbol, Racism, racist, White Power, White Supremacylast_img read more

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Saint Mary’s extends spring break to March 20, suspends all in-person classes while providing option to return to campus

first_imgSaint Mary’s will extend spring break until March 20, providing faculty time to prepare online courses, the College announced in an email Wednesday. All in-person classes are suspended from March 23 to at least April 13, and students will be provided with online coursework.This announcement follows the suspension of all in-person classes at Notre Dame and several other Indiana universities, in the midst of the continued spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.“To be clear, all students must take their courses online,” interim president Nancy Nekvasil said in the email. “An email with further instruction regarding coursework will be sent to students next week.”Titi Ufomata, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, will contact faculty regarding the preparation of these online courses.Students in clinical programs will hear from their departments.Registration for fall courses has also been pushed back to March 23. The remaining Saint Mary’s study abroad programs are not suspended at this time, Nekvasil said.“We continue to work with our study abroad programs and host institutions to develop the best course of action relating to the remainder of the semester,” she said. “Know that this is a dynamic situation and we are monitoring the CDC, the State Department, and the World Health Organization very carefully.”All non-essential faculty and staff domestic and international travel is suspended at this time.Though classes will be held remotely, students in the residence halls are provided the the option to return to campus. “Our campus will remain open,” Nekvasil said. “Administrative offices will remain operational, as well as campus safety. Staff will continue reporting to work as usual.”All students — those remaining at home and those returning to campus — will be required to complete their coursework online. Students returning to the College will be asked to fill out a travel information form scheduled to be provided soon. The Noble Family dining hall will remain open with adjusted service hours, though its “configuration … will be modified in response to the recommended social distancing guidelines.”All other campus dining options will be closed. “Some essential student personnel who are currently not on campus will be asked to return to campus and will be directly notified,” Nekvasil said. “Following social distancing recommendations, non-essential interactions between staff and students should be avoided.”Those who regularly visit the convent are asked to refrain from doing so until notified.“Some of our most vulnerable campus residents are our Sisters,” Nekvasil said. “We do not want to expose them unnecessarily.”Larger gatherings and group events are to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.Meet Me on the Avenue, a prospective student event has been re-scheduled for April 19, and Junior Moms Weekend has been cancelled. All registration fees will be refunded.“The College has taken proactive steps to try to minimize the risks for our community,” Nekvasil said. “Other future College events will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”Further information will be provided by Linda Timm, interim vice president for student affairs.“Now, more than ever, we need to be mindful of practicing healthy habits,” Nekvasil said. “Unfortunately the fear that comes with a threat to communities, such as we see with coronavirus, often leads individuals to target certain ethnic groups resulting in incidents of bias and harassment. I will uphold my commitment to respecting the dignity of every individual and expect all members of the Saint Mary’s family to do the same.”Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, Interim President Nancy Nekvasil, Online classes, Spring Breaklast_img read more

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