Students criticize ND's character
By ANNE MARIE MATTINGLY
Associate News Editor
Notre Dame administrators are too controlling and judgmental, said students at an open forum Wednesday sponsored by the ad hoc committee on Academic and Student Life.
Law school professor Carol Mooney asked the students if Notre Dame sends inconsistent messages, citing the probation of the Women's Resource Center despite the importance the University places on academic freedom. Students criticized the way that situation was handled.
"The Women's Resource Center is there to help women and to serve them," said junior Vincent Slatt. "They took the information away from the women who need it."
Slatt faulted the University for pushing a Catholic agenda.
"It's like they're saying, `Look, we understand your problems, but this is the right solution, and you're going to hate yourself [if you make a different choice]," he said. "Let the women who are smart enough to get into this University decide for themselves, and if it's a sin, then that's for God to judge."
Senior Candy Marcum expanded the discussion to include the general way in which administrators treat students.
"Part of being Christian, part of being Catholic … is learning to grow up," she said, stressing that the University considers more than test scores and grades during the admissions process. Since the school selects "good people," those people should be given more discretion.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm being led by the hand and that people are helping me a little too much, … In some ways you have to break free, and part of that is making your own mistakes," Marcum said.
Slatt claimed that Notre Dame refuses to allow students to make such mistakes because it is more concerned about its image than it is about its students.
"Public relations is not the most important thing in this world," he said. "This place is a multimillion-dollar business … and a Catholic institution, but sometimes it's run more like a multimillion-dollar business."
Students also cited the parietal rules as an instance of the University refusing to let students direct their own lives.
"That's a huge growing-up experience, being able to stand up for yourself," said Marcum about deciding to ask guests to leave.
Noting Notre Dame's lax alcohol policy, Slatt claimed that the University's priorities are misguided.
"That's a law. That's not even speaking about moral issues," he said. "I know there's a separation between church and state, but it's not supposed to be that big."
Students also discussed the development of relationships with professors.
The development of a personal relationship with professors requires primarily student initiative, said students present for the meeting.
"A lot of it is up to me," said Marcum. "Professors are very busy people."
Slatt expected a more personal relationship with his instructors.
"[The relationship is] not what I expected, but it's good in a different way," he said.
Marcum, a biology major, attributes the difficulty in forming personal relationships with professors to the nature of the science curriculum.
"In the beginning sciences, it's learning facts," said Marcum, who explained that professors and students do not have another context in which to relate to one another. Both groups also spend such large amounts of time together in lecture and lab that often both have had enough of one another, she said. "Science classes are more structured … That makes a big difference."
The students also expressed a great deal of interest in intellectual discussion in a non-class setting.
They also said that there is often little participation in such events because most students do not know about them, said students present at the forum.
"We enjoy it. We get a pretty good turnout for most of our lectures," said Dillon Hall sophomore Alex Pagnani of dorm-sponsored events.
But student participation in a number of events is low, Slatt said, because students do not find out about events until it is too late to attend. Marcum suggested posting campus events in the dining halls because most students would see such a list.
In addition, students at the forum noted that it is difficult to take classes for credit in a non-traditional manner.
Marcum, who spent a semester abroad, claimed she encountered resistance to her efforts to take classes for her biological sciences major out of the traditional sequence.
"It's all planned out for you," she said. "[People] get upset when you ruffle feathers, [even though] it's your own life you're dealing with."
Slatt, who spent a year studying in Spain through Marquette University, had trouble getting the credits he earned that year to count at Notre Dame and claimed not to understand why the University would hesitate to accept classes taken at a fellow well respected, Catholic institution.
"It makes you wonder, `What's the issue here?' I understand that we have to uphold our academic standards … but I didn't receive any help trying to translate those classes," he said. "There's no academic body helping me research what [Notre Dame does] have and how credits can transfer."
Furthermore, Pagnani suggested that more 24-hour space is needed on campus. Marcum noted that Reckers is a good start for interaction among students but that it is inconvenient for students who live on the other side of campus.
Slatt also expressed concern that his classes on similar topics do not overlap and believes that he is missing the larger picture in his Spanish/history major.
"I'm going to walk out of here with a degree in Spanish from the University of Notre Dame prepared to speak Spanish with native speakers, but not to communicate with them, and I feel there's a big difference," he said, noting that Notre Dame's Spanish program does not provide sufficient awareness of Hispanic history and culture.
All News Stories for Thursday, February 10, 2000