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 Replies

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

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

  • 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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