British consul visits Notre Dame

first_imgBritish Consul General Robert Chatterton Dickson visited Notre Dame’s campus Monday to meet with University President Fr. John Jenkins and undergraduate students. Dickson was appointed Her Majesty’s Consul General in Chicago on June 26, and he said the job has been both fascinating and busy thus far. He is responsible for relations between Britain and 13 Midwestern states, including Indiana. He said his position involves a variety of responsibility in terms of relations between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and the geographical range of his responsibilities has led to frequent travel. “Campus visits are one of the best parts of my position,” Dickson said. “This is my fourth campus visit, and I always enjoy them. It was a real privilege to visit Notre Dame.” Dickson traveled from Chicago to South Bend to meet with Jenkins Monday morning, and he said the two discussed cooperation in higher education relations. According to Dickson, higher education is one of the most important connections between the United States and the UK. Dickson said he recognized just how important education is for the future of, and the relations between, both nations. During his visit the Consul General also lectured in an Introduction to Political Science Class and toured campus. He said he enjoyed his visit and interactions with Notre Dame students. Both the quantity and quality of student questions during his lecture told him a lot about the caliber of students at the University, he said. “I was impressed by the Notre Dame students,” Dickson said. “They were intelligent, thoughtful and engaging. I was also very impressed by the campus and the spectacular Basilica. I am keen to do more with Notre Dame; I’ll be back.” Dickson has had an extensive career leading up to his current post. A self-described career diplomat, he said he enjoyed the variety of his 12 different positions during his 20 years of service. In 1990, he left his “more lucrative” job at a bank to work in the government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and said he has never regretted that decision. As a British ambassador to Macedonia, he managed a team that aided the Macedonian government in gaining admittance into both the European Union and NATO. Dickson described his work in the British embassy in Manila, Philippines, as both fascinating and challenging. He dealt with poverty, floods and earthquakes, but said he enjoyed position and was struck by the spirit of the Filipino people. He also worked in the British embassy in Washington, D.C., which he said is most similar to his current position. “Our relationship with the United States is the most important relationship we have with any country,” Dickson said. He was involved in shaping the UK’s contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein. Dickson advised British officials and was involved in diplomatic negotiations. For a time, Dickson was the joint-head of the counterterrorism department at the FCO in London. In that capacity, he said he managed teams that helped various countries develop strategies to counter terrorist activities within their borders. He focused on countries in South Asia, North and East Africa, and the Middle East. He described the work as both busy and unpredictable. One particularly unpredictable facet of his work was crisis response, wherein his team was responsible for advising the British Government on how to respond to terrorist attacks and activities. The worst attacks during his tenure were the shootings and bombings in Mumbai in 2008.last_img read more

Saint Mary’s changes options for on-campus living

first_imgWhen campus opens for the fall semester, Saint Mary’s will welcome back returning students, members of the Class of 2016 and possibly some four-legged guests. Next year, Regina South will be open exclusively to seniors and, if approved, their pets as well. The newest senior housing option, announced by the Department of Residence Life and Community Standards last month, is an example of how the College is working to retain students on campus for all four years. Janielle Tchakerian, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of Residence Life and Community Standards, said 72 percent of the graduating senior class signed housing agreements to live on campus next year. “For some students it is cheaper to live on campus than off because of financial aid reasons,” she said. “Others choose to live on campus because of the conveniences and the new senior living option in Regina South.” Tchakerian said in addition to the growing list of senior-only living options, the College is also retaining so many seniors due to changes in the housing selection process. “[Some students chose to live on campus] because we had senior room selection in February which allowed [the seniors] to know sooner if they got into a particular hall, floor, etc. instead of waiting until April,” she said. In addition to private access to kitchens, a new visitation policy, upgraded computer labs and flexibility when selecting a meal plan, Tchakerian said Regina South residents have the opportunity to bring a small pet to join them in the room, which has drawn a positive response. “I do not know any exact number [of how many pets will live in Regina South],” Tchakerian said. “However, there are 21 students who have indicated a strong interest and want the pet registration information,” Tchakerian said she is excited for the opportunity to collaborate with students to further improve the senior housing options. “I am looking forward to working with a group of women to help further enhance the senior living experience,” she said. “We have the framework in place but are allowing the students to help further define their experience.” Regina South is not the only exclusive housing option available to seniors next year. Annunciata Hall and Opus Hall are also living accommodations designated for seniors. Annunciata, located on the top floor of Holy Cross Hall, features a private kitchen and common room for residents. Junior Alyssa Baz said she is thrilled she secured a room in Annunciata for her final year of college. “My stepmom was one of the founding residents of Annunciata when she was a senior, so I knew that I wanted to live there to keep the tradition alive,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to live in any other building during my last year at Saint Mary’s.” Opus is filled to capacity for the 2012-2013 academic year. Each apartment features a furnished living room, a full kitchen and private bedrooms. Junior Hilary Whitsett will live in an Opus quad next year. She said she has been hoping to spend her final year in Opus since she was a freshman. “The apartments are really nice and it will be great to have my own room,” she said. “I am looking forward to moving out of the dorms and having a real type of apartment and not living in one big room with a bunch of people. It will feel like a real living space.”last_img read more

Graduate student passes away

first_imgA first-year master’s degree student passed away unexpectedly at his off-campus residence, where he was found early Tuesday morning, according to a University press release. Graduate student Michael Thigpen, 23, will be remembered during today’s daily Mass at 5:15 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Thigpen was a native of Monument, Colo. Dr. Joseph Bock, director of the Global Health Program, first spoke with Thigpen when he was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado last year and interested in entering the one-year master’s program at Notre Dame. Bock remembered Thigpen as “a wonderful young man who was interested in helping people.” “He was somebody who really had a bright future. … He was interested in health in kind of a global sense, certainly he was interested in clinical practice in going to medical school,” Bock said. “That was his intent. He was also interested in the humanitarian side of global health.” Bock met Thigpen for the first time shortly before he began to study at Notre Dame this year. The Colorado native was working on a CD of Christian rock music with Bock’s son. “He was a very talented musician,” Bock said. “He played in different cities. He stopped by to visit [Notre Dame] on his way to somewhere out east where he was going to be doing a concert even before the program started.” Bock spent time with Thigpen and other members of the program at his family’s home along the St. Joseph River in South Bend, where he once offered the students a chance to go out on the water in kayaks. He remembered Thigpen as happy to be on the water outdoors. “He went out on the river in a double kayak and he loved it,” Bock said. Thigpen had been deeply moved by the summer shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and was planning to turn his master’s research project into an assessment of youth violence in the South Bend area with Bock. “He was full of life,” Bock said. “His eyes sparkled. It’s just tragic.” Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Erin Hoffman Harding informed the Notre Dame community of Thigpen’s loss Tuesday afternoon in an email. University President Fr. John Jenkins also released a statement expressing his sympathy and asking students, faculty and staff to remember Thigpen in their thoughts. “Our deepest condolences are with Michael’s family, friends and colleagues,” Jenkins said. “My prayers are with them during this difficult time.” The University Counseling Center and Campus Ministry are available to offer their support to the Notre Dame community during this time.last_img read more

Jenkins explains Diversity Committee’s role

first_imgThe new President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion aims to ensure campus leaders are striving to create a welcoming atmosphere for students, faculty and staff, University President Fr. John Jenkins told The Observer last month. “It’s important to realize that there are many good things that have happened [in the realm of diversity and inclusion],” Jenkins said. “We can talk ourselves into being discouraged, and I think we have to avoid that, on one hand. “On the other hand, I think there are things we need to work on at various parts of the University. I think in a lot of ways, I want to hold those things in balance. We made progress, but we have more to do.” On Sept. 10, Jenkins sent the Notre Dame community a letter announcing the committee’s formation. The letter, sent via email, stated Jenkins will chair the group. The committee also includes eight other members of the University’s administration. Members of the committee work in teams, each of which addresses the concerns of students, of faculty or of staff, Jenkins told The Observer. He said the committee considers diversity of race, ethnicity, nation of origin, socioeconomic class, gender and sexual orientation. “I think that we have made progress. The creation of the GLBTQ group [Prism-ND] is a big step forward, and I hope that’s successful,” Jenkins said. “But there are other areas of the University where maybe we need to think about, for instance, how to incorporate international students. … They bring great gifts, but perhaps we need to make sure that they’re fully included. … Sometimes individuals from underrepresented minorities … feel that Notre Dame could be more welcoming.” Jenkins said diversity accords with a sense of fairness – that everyone should have access to a Notre Dame education, regardless of his or her background. He said the University’s Catholic mission and its intention to create a positive atmosphere on campus also inform its commitment to promoting diversity. “A more diverse and inclusive campus is a better educational environment,” Jenkins said. “I think we learn, students and faculty and everyone on campus learns, not only in formal classes from teachers, but from one another. And insofar as we can have a broader array of perspectives on matters, I think it’s a better education.” Jenkins said he charged committee members with identifying areas in which the University could be more diverse or inclusive. “I’ve asked them to just look at the landscape, analyze where we are, what’s going on, what can we improve on and then to formulate various plans,” he said. “How can we get better? What can we do to continue to make progress, to address the issues that need to be addressed?” During the group’s first meeting in October, members shared the initiatives each team is working on and the challenges they face, Jenkins said. “Then on a second meeting, we sort of got into a level of somewhat greater detail,” he said. The committee is meant to hold administrators accountable for working on issues of diversity and inclusion, Jenkins said. “One of the challenges of this is that everyone has so much on their plate. … But diversity and inclusion goes across all areas,” Jenkins said. “People can fail to keep focus on that. … If you have to go to a meeting, and the president’s there, you’ve got to be able to say something [about your progress in these areas]. “I think my role, our role in this committee, one of its roles, is to just make sure that we’re not losing focus, that we’re keeping our eye on the ball.” The teams will work together to address issues that bridge students, faculty and staff, Jenkins said. He said at one of the committee’s previous meetings, Matt Storin, senior project specialist for Student Affairs, mentioned students told him some classmates make comments that are unintentionally hurtful or marginalizing. “That was very helpful, for Matt to say that, because the people who work with the faculty can begin to think about, How can we make the classroom environment less marginalizing, more inclusive for people?” Jenkins said. The committee will meet at least quarterly, Ann Firth, the group’s vice chair and chief of staff in the Office of the President, said. She said the next meeting is scheduled for January. Jenkins said the group does not meet more frequently because the committee “sees that things are done, rather than does them.” “That’s the point of oversight,” he said. “What we have to do is meet and say, ‘Okay, here’s our plan, here’s our challenges.’ And then everybody goes and works on them and then comes back and says, ‘Here’s the progress we’ve made.’” The oversight group plans to communicate its progress in various ways, including town hall meetings with staff, similar meetings with students and the president’s annual address to the faculty, Jenkins said. Jenkins said the committee seeks to implement concrete changes on campus, but noticeable progress will not occur overnight. “If we don’t change anything, we wasted our time. But … it’s probably hard, steady work,” Jenkins said. “I think there’s sometimes a feeling that if you can do one thing, one dramatic thing, you can fix the problem. I don’t expect that to happen. I think it’s a hundred, maybe a thousand, small things that we just have to keep doing. And if one thing doesn’t work, we try another thing, and that’s how we’ll make progress. “We will not solve all the problems in the next few weeks, but it needs to be a campuswide effort to make the whole campus community more diverse and inclusive.” Associate News Editor Tori Roeck contributed to this report. Contact Marisa Iati at [email protected]last_img read more

Club to sponsor blood drive in Hurley Hall

first_imgImagine your community is desperately lacking a resource that your own body produces every day. The solution, senior Shannon Kraemer said, is obvious: give blood.Notre Dame Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society (ACS) student club are sponsoring a blood drive Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hurley Hall. For each unit of blood donated to the South Bend Medical Foundation, a $5 donation will be given to Relay for Life.Kraemer, co-chair for Relay for Life and co-president of the American Cancer Society club, said that even one donation can make a significant difference.“One donation of blood can save more than three lives or seven babies’ lives,” Kraemer said.The number of blood donors is decreasing every year, she said, and many young adults do not donate blood.“I think it is something with our generation that primarily we are pretty busy or we travel and we just forget to give,” she said.She said one of her professors suggested the decrease in blood donations could be because of a generational difference.“My professor said that when he was younger everyone gave and it was kind of a moral requirement that you give blood,” Kraemer said. “There is a bizarre mentality that ‘Hey it’s my blood, I can choose what to do with it,’ and I want to be sympathetic to that perspective, but I think we are all kind of in this together, and if it’s your grandma, or your mom, you wouldn’t think twice.”Kraemer said there is a red banner on the South Bend Medical Foundation’s website,, which states that there is less than a two-day supply of A-negative and O-positive blood.“I got really kind of anxious about it,” Kraemer said. “This I feel like is organic, you make your own blood and you’ll always have more of it, so why can’t we be a little generous to our surrounding community when that’s what means most?”Participating in the blood drive is especially convenient for students since it takes place at central location on campus, Kraemer said. Last year only about half the appointment slots were filled, and she said she hopes a bigger turnout will occur this year.“I think as a University that has social justice standards and human rights conversations … I really think we should be able to fill up more than two people an hour for this event,” Kraemer said.Kraemer said many students travel internationally and as a result cannot give blood. She said for the past couple of years she was one of those students and that she looks forward to giving blood again tomorrow. She said students who are able to give blood should be donating to compensate for those who cannot, especially since there is such a dire need for donations in the South Bend community.“I just wanted to communicate that this is urgent and students need to wake up to this,” Kraemer said.Tags: American Cancer Society, blood drive, Relay for Lifelast_img read more

GRC promotes inclusion with StaND Against Hate Week

first_imgLucy Du Members of the Notre Dame community are coming together for StaND Against Hate Week, which aims to raise awareness of the prevalence of hatred both on and off campus. Maureen McKenney, assistant director for LGBTQ initiatives for the Gender Relations Center (GRC), said StaND Against Hate Week was originally oriented around the LGBTQ community but has evolved in recent years to become more inclusive and holistic.“It was originally and intentionally around support for LGBTQ students within our community,” she said. “When it came here, we broadened it to really being about promoting the message of human dignity for all.”StaND Against Hate Week is sponsored by the Gender Relations Center (GRC), as well as Campus Ministry, Multicultural Student Programs and PrismND. Events are scheduled for every day from Monday through Friday. Free T-shirts will be distributed at North Dining Hall, South Dining Hall and LaFortune Student Center on Monday from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. McKenney said the T-shirts should be worn Friday.Tim Brown, former Notre Dame football and NFL player, is this year’s keynote speaker. Tuesday at 7 p.m. in DeBartolo Hall 141, Brown will talk about faith, masculinity and racism in his keynote speech and sign books afterward. “Tim [Brown] is coming back to Notre Dame to talk about many of the same topics in his book “The Making of a Man,” such as faith, how he defines himself as a man, the intersection of masculinity and faith, but also some of his experience with racism within the NFL and how that shaped him as an individual,” McKenney said. Wednesday night, there will be an ethics and leadership workshop called “Making Choices for Social Justice.” The workshop will be from 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Lounge. McKenney said a large part of the workshop will be devoted to talking through hypothetical situations and examining how ethics determine actions. “It’s being run by Art Munin, who is a diversity consultant and administrator at Illinois State,” she said. “He brings different diversity workshops around the country, specifically for college students. The purpose of the workshop is to challenge those who attend to consider ways in which values and ethics drive the decisions they make and why they make them.”There will be a documentary screening Thursday at 7 p.m. in DeBartolo Hall 140. “Forget Us Not” explores the persecution of the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., there will be hot apple cider and donuts at Fieldhouse Mall to close out the week. Participants are encouraged to wear the free T-shirts from Monday to this event. McKenney said the week serves as a reminder that hate and discrimination affect those in our community in many different ways. “It’s really a way for students to dialogue about ways in which hate and discrimination have a negative impact on people within our community but also the community at large,” she said. “We use hate and discrimination as a very broad category: class, race, religion, socioeconomic situation, sexual orientation, gender identity – really any aspect of one’s personhood is how we define it.”Tags: Gender Relations Center, GRC, PrismND, StaND Against Hate Weeklast_img read more

Lecturer explores technology and inequality

first_imgLawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, spoke in Geddes Hall on Wednesday night. Mishel’s lecture, entitled “Beyond Technology and Globalization: The Reset of the Rules of the Labor Market,” addressed income inequality in the United States and was part of the Chuck Craypo memorial series, “Combining Research and Activism for Social Justice.”According to current director of the Higgins Labor Program at the Center for Social Concerns Daniel Graff, the late Chuck Craypo was an economics professor at Notre Dame, as well as the founder and first director of the Higgins program in 1993.“Chuck Craypo devoted his career of research, teaching and activism to improving the lives of working people,” Graff said. “And to honor his legacy, in 2013-14 the Higgins program initiated a biannual series to bring researchers and activists to Notre Dame’s campus to deliver lectures, lead workshops and foster conversations around compelling themes related to questions of work and social justice.”Mishel began his lecture by defining economics as “about who gets what and why,”and noting that income inequality has ballooned since the 1970s.He said that until this past year, Democrats have focused too intently on technology and globalization, considering both uncontrollable and subsequently viewing income inequality as “God-given,” rather than an addressable issue.Mishel also took issue that Republicans have chosen to focus on economic opportunity rather than income inequality. Mishel acknowledged that the United States does have an opportunity problem, however he stated that prioritizing it over income inequality is illogical, as economic opportunity can’t be improved until income inequality is improved thereby allowing for standards of living and educational opportunity to improve and lead to better economic opportunity.“So what else caused the wage problems if it wasn’t technology and it’s not just globalization?” Mishel said. “It’s the rules of the labor market have been reset over the last 40 years.”Mishel outlined several factors that have contributed to these rules changing.The first factor is unemployment, which, according to Mishel, has been rising over the past 30 years.“Unemployment weakens the bargain power of all workers,” he said. “If [employers] can get whoever they want for whatever they feel like paying, wages are gonna go nowhere.”The second factor is unions, Mishel said.“We have eroded collective bargaining a tremendous amount since the early 1970s,” Mishel said. “It used to be that if you had … an industry and 30-50 percent of the workers in that industry were union, they negotiated collective bargain agreements that the non-union employers accepted … because they didn’t want their workers unionizing or they didn’t want their workers to leave and go to the union sector. So unions were always able to take wages out of competition.”The third factor Mishel listed was minimum wage, which he said is more than 25 percent below what is was in 1968 [factoring in inflation] even though productivity has more than doubled and low-wage workers are, on average, more educated than 50 years ago.“If you increase the minimum wage to $12 … by 2020, that may sound relatively modest,” Mishel said. “But it’s actually a reasonably bold policy. $12 minimum wage would affect 25 percent of the work force. So we’re not just talking about a few people lying at the bottom.”The fourth factor is undocumented workers. According to Mishel, the United States is currently home to eight million undocumented workers, who make up “around 5 percent of the workforce.”“If you have 5 percent of your workforce who are exploitable and exploited, they undercut the labor standards,” Mishel said. “So it would be to our general benefit to make them not exploitable.”“What are you supposed to draw from this?” Mishel asked the audience. “The first thing you should know is that what this means is that if workers have not been getting ahead in terms of their pay, it’s not because we haven’t produced a lot of income and wealth. We have produced a lot of income and wealth. It just hasn’t gone to the vast majority.”Tags: Center for Social Concerns, Chuck Craypo memorial lecture, Higgins Labor Studies Program, income inequalitylast_img read more

Speaker encourages students to ‘Beat the Blame Game’

first_imgCourtney Abbott, a speaker for Catharsis Productions, presented a powerful refutation of the victim shaming culture that often surrounds sexual violence accusations on Tuesday evening at Geddes Hall.In her presentation, which was sponsored by the Gender Relations Center (GRC) and titled “Beat the Blame Game,” Abbott said victim blaming is harmful because it moves the fault away from those who deserve it.“It removes responsibility from the perpetrator and the system,” she said.The worst part of this culture, Abbott said, is that it enables the offenders.“If the victims of any crime are not reporting that crime, the perpetrators are getting away with it,” she said. “We know for a fact this happens with sexual violence. When people are not called out for their actions, they will repeat and repeat and repeat their actions.”Abbott said this victim blaming leads people to frequently doubt those who have suffered from sexual violence.“Even with all of the awareness and the campaigns, we still live in a world that often looks at people who come forward saying they’ve been victimized with a lot of doubt,” she said.Abbott said victims, instead of being treated with sympathy, are treated as cautionary tales many times.“We want to see where they went wrong so we can make a moral fable out of it,” she said.This criticizing of the victim takes two major forms, Abbott said, and she strongly disagrees with these tactics, especially when they attempt to discredit the victim for their lack of sobriety.“We either attack someone’s character, or we attack someone’s choices,” she said.The way in which sexual violence prevention is taught fails to prepare people for the reality of the situation, she said. Most common sexual assault avoidance strategies, like walking in groups and carrying pepper spray, are aimed at fending off assaults by strangers.“Stranger attacks make up the minority of sexual assaults,” she said.Abbott said people let their guard down when they’re around those they know.“When we trust people and let them into our spaces, we think that these rules don’t apply,” Abbott said. “Unfortunately, the majority of sexual assaults are between people who do know each other.”Abbott said sexual assaults could be prevented if everyone was mindful of consent and their partner’s limits.“Looking for active, verbal, sober, ongoing consent throughout the experience is a great way to encourage yourself and your partner to have a better time,” she said. “It lets that person know that you respect his or her boundaries.”Those close to victims must be willing to listen to and believe the victim, Abbott said. This is the only way more victims will start coming forward.“If they trust you, you have to respect and live up to that trust,” Abbott said. “Help make a safe space for them.”Abbott said everyone must make an effort to stop sexual violence through his or her actions and choices.“If you make a choice to do nothing, you still picked a side,” Abbot said. “In this case, you’re enabling the predators.”Tags: sexual assault, sexual violencelast_img read more

Robinson, Blais reflect on term, look ahead

first_imgAs the semester draws to a close, student body president and vice president Corey Robinson and Becca Blais are proud of the work they have done thus far.“We’ve been able to do a lot that we set out to do,” Robinson said. “Obviously, there’s a lot more work to be done. I’m extremely proud of our team — they’re extraordinary. They’re an extraordinary team and they’re the ones all the credit goes to for what we’ve accomplished. At the end of the day, we’re always forward-looking. Can’t wait to get to our next challenge.”Blais also said the fall semester has gone “amazingly.”“To echo Corey’s sentiment, none of it would have been possible without our team, and they’ve just gone above and beyond any expectation we could have had for them,” Blais said. “They’re a great group of people. Somehow, these highly talented, passionate people who are super motivated to make a change and a difference — and overall improve student life at Notre Dame — all got together. And they all work well together, and are so excited for every project — it’s made everything to do with student government very enjoyable and very fun for all of us to be involved in.”Blais said her experience serving as vice president has been a unique and positive experience. “It’s very life-giving and energy-giving and fulfilling and inspiring,” Blais said. “I would say it’s been amazing so far.”Since taking office in April, Robinson said they have accomplished three major things — creating a sexual assault survivor support group, reforming student senate and implementing Notre Dame for Syria Week. “I think [student government] did a great job of bringing awareness to a really important issue that’s thousands of miles away,” Robinson said of ND for Syria Week. “It shows what we can do here, now. We raised a couple hundred dollars and got students to know what they can do — in the political sphere, in the business sphere, in the nonprofit sphere, in global health — to make a difference today, so that’s really exciting.”Blais said the sexual assault support group was an important addition to the University. “The sexual assault survivors support group has been incredible,” Blais said. “It’s one of those things that people will look at years later and ask why we didn’t have it before. It just makes so much sense to have it and it’s such a needed service on this campus. It’s been very helpful and healing and influential for the people involved and for people to know that at least that’s an option.”Additionally, Robinson said the reforms to student senate have been vital. “I just love what Becca’s done with it,” Robinson said. “We’re going to senate and people can’t wait to hang out with each other and pick each other’s brains and tackle these big issues — like we’ve talked about in the past few weeks with the Title IX reform — to figure out that structure and what senate can do to better that process for students. It’s been a great opportunity for senators to really take hold of it and own something.”Blais said she worked with senators to improve the efficiency of senate by changing certain procedures. In the end, Blais thought the improvements constitute one of the major achievements of the semester.“We had talked a bit before and named all of these things we thought had gone well this year and thought had been successful, and we realized a lot of them came down to what we talked about in senate and the involvement of the senators and the departments and this great relationship we’ve been forming there,” Blais said.Despite their successes, Robinson and Blais have run into several roadblocks in fulfilling one of the major parts of their platform: providing rape kits at St. Liam’s in an effort to help survivors of sexual assault. “We thought we could get it up and running by August,” Robinson said. “We spent all of May and June benchmarking and then went to [director] Sharon McMullen of University Health Services and sat down with her. She was really receptive, but she wanted to make sure we were doing it right. With rape kits, you don’t have a second chance — you have to get the first one done the right way. So that was a really big challenge.”Blais said it was harder than they anticipated to get nurses properly trained in St. Liam’s.“What we found was we originally, in the platform, said it only costs this much to train nurses and we’ll train our St. Liam’s nurses. But what we ran into there was that they told us we aren’t able to hire their current nurses, they’d have to hire new nurses to work on this specifically,” Blais said. “That’s adding a whole other salary, so until they’re able to get resources together with that, they can’t.”Blais said even if St. Liam’s did have the resources to hire new nurses, they worry about the room for error in testing. “We don’t want to risk students’ health and safety with that, especially with such a sensitive procedure and topic,” Blais said. Going forward, Robinson and Blais said they are looking to hear more student perspectives. “The thing is, a lot of students have come to us and said ‘you’re having these general, vague discussions and we want to see action,’” Robinson said. “And I think that’s the next piece for us — coming together and seeing if we can hear students on what we should take action on and how we can continue the conversation, but shift more from just having people sit in a room and talk about it, to having some sort of product.“The number one thing is going to the student body and asking what they think is important. What can we work on together? And that’s going to be a big initiative we’re looking to roll out in January, to just sit down and hear students in a town hall setting, but not a speaker series or a panel — literally just us sitting down and hearing students’ concerns and figure out what we should put our effort and focus on.” Tags: 2016 Student Government Insider, Becca Blais, Corey Robinson, sexual assault, St. Liams, student senatelast_img read more

English professor publishes biography on Thoreau

first_imgOn the cusp of Henry David Thoreau’s 200th birthday in July, Laura Dassow Walls released her latest book — “Henry David Thoreau: A Life” — with the intention to rediscover the American icon and bring him to a broader audience.Walls, an English professor at Notre Dame, said she was working on a list for her graduate students in 2010 for “what kinds of work needed to be done in the field.” When it came to the idea for a new biography of Thoreau, however, she said she couldn’t bring herself to add it to the list.“It was like paralysis,” Walls said. “I knew that I was going to write it.”Both Wall’s Ph.D. dissertation and first book were on Thoreau and she said it was this “deep education background” that made writing such an expansive book in seven years possible. “I knew from my previous work that I was not satisfied with the biographies that were out there,” she said. “They didn’t match what I knew was there in the primary writings.”Despite the work she and many of her colleagues have been doing for a number of years, Walls said Thoreau is still incorrectly cast as a “hermit and a misanthrope.” “If you unpack his life [at Walden] and the rest of his life, you realize he was deeply engaged with the people around him,” Walls said. “Even as he steps out of the community to create this separate space for creative work, he still had a lot of responsibilities. That’s just not the story he wanted to tell.” The “character” Thoreau creates for himself in “Walden” does not make him inauthentic, though, Walls said. “When he speaks to people about his ideals, he speaks to them from the depths of his heart and with his most passionately held beliefs,” she said. “That is the voice that rings true. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t find it interesting or compelling. The icon never would have come into existence.” Thoreau’s moment in history contributed to his status as an icon, Walls said. “This is a very difficult time in the United States,” she said. “There was slavery; Thoreau was an abolitionist. Women’s rights were being argued. War with Mexico was being discussed and he was opposed to the war. Native American genocide was ongoing, which infuriated him. “There was a sense that people were justifying and rationalizing that it was OK to do these things and he said ‘it cannot be OK — how can I find a way to understand why it’s not OK? What is the basis, the foundation for my beliefs and moral behavior?” Walls said that, once again, the country is in a difficult time and that engaging with Thoreau can provide a sense of direction.“ … To see how he plays a role in his time is to be reminded that we have agency in this time. We’re not helpless,” she said. “We don’t have to be the victim of forces that are so much bigger than we are. “We can take responsibility for our actions in the world and take seriously what’s become kind of a cliche around here: ‘I want to change the world.’ Thoreau is absolutely serious about that and it’s not a cliche for him.”It’s been only two months since “Henry David Thoreau: A Life” was released, but Walls said she has already received some confirmation that she found the diverse audience she was writing for. “I’m getting emails constantly from all sorts of people, of all walks of life … this is wonderful,” Walls said. “They write me out of the blue to say they read my book and that it touched them. That’s incredibly moving for me — I’ve never experienced that with anything else that I’ve written.”Tags: biography, Henry Thoreau, Laura Walls, Thoreaulast_img read more