Clusterfuck at The University of Notre Dame

I had a brief chance to check out my old uni­ver­si­ty news­pa­per dur­ing a break in the di­rect­ing over the week­end. I jumped right to the Viewpoint sec­tion to see if the same old was still the same old. And it is. I read a let­ter from two of my fa­vorite pro­fes­sors that frankly and suc­cint­ly il­lu­mi­nates the cen­tral prob­lem at ND: a stu­dent so­cial life re­tard­ed by a re­ac­tionary in­sti­tu­tion wield­ing an ob­so­lete moral­i­ty.

Most of the peo­ple who ask me about Notre Dame seem sur­prised to hear that I hat­ed it there. The on­ly thing that kept me from trans­fer­ring to an­oth­er school where I could have re­ceived an equiv­a­lent­ly ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion was the fenc­ing team. My main rea­son for want­i­ng to leave was the im­ma­ture and un­con­struc­tive so­cial life led by the stu­dents. The pit­falls of binge drink­ing have been dis­cussed to death, in­clud­ing the spec­tre of date rapel; but the caus­es of binge drink­ing it­self are rarely touched up­on. I’d like to of­fer my own sup­po­si­tions on this mat­ter.

I was amazed at the sheer num­ber of Domers who had spent their en­tire lives en­scon­ced with­in the Catholic school sys­tem. Even more amaz­ing to a coun­try boy like me was the fact that many of the­se same Domers has spent their en­tire lives en­scon­ced in sin­gle-sex Catholic schools. Twelve years of seg­re­ga­tion and in­doc­tri­na­tion in sex­u­al re­pres­sion by sex­u­al­ly re­pressed priests and nuns. I’m not ad­vo­cat­ing free love, here. Everyone is al­lowed to be as sex­u­al­ly re­pressed as they want to be; but I see an ob­vi­ous bi­as and fun­da­men­tal dis­con­nect with al­low­ing the celi­bate to tell us how and when we should pork. It should be no sur­prise then, that when young men and wom­en who have had lit­tle to no un­cod­i­fied in­ter­ac­tion with the op­po­site sex and a life­time of sex­u­al re­pres­sion fi­nal­ly come in­to every­day con­tact with each oth­er that they have no knowl­edge of healthy mech­a­nisms with which to com­port them­selves.

Enter the hookup cy­cle. The main rea­son my col­lege so­cial life sucked. The week­end hits and every­one gets shit­faced and hooks up and pre­tends noth­ing hap­pened come Monday. Girls who have had 12+ years of nun-warn­ings about pro­tect­ing their vir­gin­i­ty have a cou­ple very bad first week­ends their fresh­man year when Boys who have had 12+ years of priest-ad­mo­ni­tions fi­nal­ly let their pent up sex­u­al en­er­gy go wild. Social life at ND re­mind­ed me more of Connersville Junior High School than one of the top 25 Universities in the na­tion.

And now the new President of the University, Fr. Tim Jenkins, prob­a­bly as a re­sult of his Bishop’s di­rec­tives, is fur­ther­ing and broad­en­ing the scope of sex­u­al re­pres­sion on cam­pus.

Of all things there are for a priest to get his panties in a twist about, The Vagina Monologues of all things, should be low on the list. For a brief time in col­lege I dat­ed a strip­per. Who at­tend­ed the University of Notre Dame. Who was smart as yeah. Who par­tic­i­pat­ed in a packed house [in DeBartolo 101] per­for­mance of The Vagina Monologues. I was a mem­ber of the cam­pus Knights of Columbus at the time, and the Grand Knight tried to or­ga­nize a pray­ing of the rosary out­side of the room dur­ing the per­for­mance. I ran in­to one of my an­thro pro­fes­sors, Fr. Gaffney on the way to the mono­logues and dis­cov­ered that he was go­ing to the per­for­mance as well. The Grand Knight saw us com­ing and as­sumed we were there for the rosary. Woops. As a play I think the Vagina Monologues is crap, but its use­ful­ness in em­pow­er­ing both wom­en and men in an ex­am­i­na­tion of the net­work of re­la­tions be­tween sex and gen­der roles is ex­treme­ly im­por­tant. Especially in a re­pres­sive en­vi­ron­ment like Notre Dame.

Similarly, the University’s pantytwist about a GLBT Film Festival is just as stu­pid. For a bunch of [seem­ing­ly] pow­er­ful celi­bate old men, wig­ging out over a movie or two is ridicu­lous. Yet all I have to do is think back to oth­er things that have been wigged out about at ND [The Last Temptation of Christ, that penis video at the stu­dent film fest, the VM every god­damn year, oth­ers I’m sure I’ve re­pressed by now] and I re­al­ize that the more things stay the same, the more they suck.

If the University aims to teach holis­tic and catholic val­ues, it needs to stop fo­cus­ing on the world­ly in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Catholic doc­trine, the im­per­fect hu­man in­ter­pre­ta­tions of God’s love for us, and re­al­ize that ap­pre­cia­tive in­quiry and di­a­logue can do more to fos­ter Christ-like liv­ing than os­tracism and close-mind­ed tra­di­tion. I’m still work­ing my way through a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween the good that the Church does and the harm it has done to me in terms of my own de­vel­op­ment, my own re­la­tion­ships and my own un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of sex in my life. These are all per­son­al choic­es, and while the Church has every right to provide its own guid­ance it shouldn’t re­strict the ex­pres­sion of dis­sent­ing opin­ions. The University al­ways hears the rustle of mon­ey over rea­soned at­tempts at di­a­logue, so un­til the stu­dents and fac­ul­ty of the University take or­ga­nized ac­tion on their own, or fig­ure out a way to make ND’s poli­cies hurt its pock­et­book I ex­pect few things will change. I do know that when­ev­er I have chil­dren, I’ll en­cour­age them to at­tend a University that will provide them with an open and wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment in which to ed­u­cate them­selves both men­tal­ly and so­cial­ly. If ND keeps on as it has been keep­ing on, it def­i­nite­ly won’t be on the list.

8 thoughts on “Clusterfuck at The University of Notre Dame

  1. The ma­jor­i­ty of Catholic school teach­ers at pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary lev­els are lay. I didn’t at­tend pub­lic school un­til col­lege, and this will prob­a­bly get hor­ri­ble re­ac­tions, but I was gen­uine­ly shocked at the pub­lic school boys’ lack of re­spect for wom­en. Not to say Catholic schools don’t churn out their fair share of jack­ass­es, but I have nev­er heard a Catholic school boy speak of wom­en in such deroga­to­ry terms as I have pub­lic school boys. I guess all that means is that col­lege is filled with id­iots and if you don’t fit the typ­i­cal col­lege stu­dent mold, then you’re gonna have to find your own lit­tle group no mat­ter which col­lege you at­tend.
    You’re right that the Church and its mem­bers need to stop be­ing so re­ac­tionary. It makes them less rel­e­vant every day.

  2. I know most Catholic school teach­ers are laity, hav­ing at­tend­ed a Catholic grade school my­self, yet the prob­lems at ND are quite ob­vi­ous­ly the pro­duct of the Catholic bub­ble. The pres­sure to fit the mold is over­whelm­ing at ND, and since 85% of the stu­dents there seem to fit it…

  3. I don’t know Adam, I see the an­gle you’re tak­ing here, but I didn’t see the whole pent up con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues as be­ing the main prob­lem with what is wrong at ND. To me the biggest prob­lem here was the loss of the work­ing class kids. Take a look at most of the folks that you (and I to some ex­tent) had a prob­lem with. While you may be right about the pri­vate school an­gle, I think the big­ger prob­lem is/​was a lack of a work­ing class at­ti­tude. I’m not say­ing the­se kids were trust-fund kids or any­hing, but I’d say a ma­jor­i­ty of them didn’t have much for stu­dent loans (un­less they took them out for beer) and prob­a­bly didn’t earn some sort of tu­tion as­sis­tance schol­ar­ship. I look at most of the friends I had at ND and I can on­ly think of 2 that didn’t have both par­ents work­ing hard to help put them through.

    I have a hard time see­ing it as a prob­lem with people’s re­li­gion since I didn’t think ND pushed that as hard as they could (grant­ed it could have been pushed a lot less too). I see it as be­ing more of an eco­nom­ic prob­lem.

  4. They’re prob­a­bly bound up to­geth­er, to some ex­tent, since work­ing class folks are un­like­ly to be able to af­ford to send their chil­dren to parochial schools in the first place. But the class an­gle is def­i­nite­ly one worth ex­plor­ing.

  5. Yea it’s sort of fun­ny that I still work at ND con­sid­er­ing how bit­ter I was/​am about owe­ing so much mon­ey for the un­der­grad years. Nothing like hav­ing cripling debt for 10 – 20 years. By cripling I mean a stu­dent loan pay­ment that is larg­er than car pay­ments. The fun­ny thing is that I have a friend who went to K-State, ba­si­cal­ly got paid to go there, had a bet­ter time, didn’t have to switch ma­jors to fin­ish in 4, he could take 5.5, and is make eas­i­ly 2x what I am. But I’m not bit­ter or any­thing…

  6. at least we had a bet­ter foot­ball, er uh bas­ket­ball, no um base­ball, no yea fenc­ing team than KSU

  7. Damn…

    At my col­lege we had Coming Out Week (com­plete with girls wear­ing noth­ing but Saran wrap) and Bacchanalia (screw the binge drink­ing, where’s the coke?!), and if your fourth year theater/​dance/​painting/​photography/​sculpture/​etc etc the­sis had no nu­di­ty in it, every­body just thought you were strange.

    Sometimes the op­po­site of sex­u­al re­pres­sion is just as nau­se­at­ing…

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