Is this a 'Christian' university
Think, Question, Resist
If Notre Dame is to serve the message of the Gospels it will need to undergo a radical transformation. Trying to follow Jesus is radical. So here is a radical agenda that will provoke you to think and many of you to disagree.
Open admissions. Notre Dame should accept every student who applies. The City University of New York has perhaps the most Christian admissions policy of any university as it accepts everyone who applies. A high school diploma is not necessary. Did not Jesus invite the poor, the children, Samaritans, prostitutes and women to follow him to the Kingdom? Why do we refuse students because they do not come from a well-educated upper-middle class background? We need to open our doors to those who are victims of the economic inequality inherent in our capitalist economy.
Sliding-scale tuition. Freezing tuition at more than $20,000 is neither radical nor acceptable for a school that wants non-rich students. Ultimately, tuition should be free, and by using five percent of our endowment each year ($100 million) and stopping to erect these senseless $20 million buildings we could almost afford to do so. But if that proves impossible, tuition should be made proportional to family income. It could be set between five and 10 percent of a family's income. Princeton recently made tuition free for students with a family income below $30,000. We need to open our doors to the poor.
Racial diversity. In 1988, the University committed to be six percent Latino, six percent African American and one percent Native American by 1992. Currently we are below four percent African American and around 0.7 percent Native American. And since 40 percent of Catholics are Latino and Notre Dame is 85 percent Catholic, we should be 34 percent Latino, not seven percent as it is now. We need to open our doors to people of color.
Shared governance. The University should be governed by a body consisting of an equal number of students, staff (including faculty, staff and administrators) and community members (including the Church, alumni and possibly Indiana residents). Board members should be elected on a one-person one-vote basis. Currently less than one percent of the Notre Dame community (The administration, including vice-presidents, the president and the trustees) controls all significant decisions. Too often they have dictatorially over-ruled the decision of the overwhelming majority of both the well-informed students and faculty. For instance, last year the majority of students and faculty supported including sexual orientation in our school's non-discrimination clause. However, the Fellows voted it down 12-0. Students are responsible, when empowered to make decisions. We need to open our governance to everyone.
Teach peace, justice and service. Why does Notre Dame rank the business school by how much it boosts the average salary of incoming students? Why are we training hundreds of students to join the military and fight unquestioningly in unjust wars? Why do we focus on teaching skills to make our graduates top-notch candidates for high-paying corporate jobs when there is so much injustice (poverty, racism, sexism and environmental destruction) in this world?
Spurn elites. Notre Dame has prostituted itself to a rich elite. Just look at the many CEOs who give our school millions of dollars, such as Debartolo who gave $39 million in 1989 and the Mendozas who just gave $35 million. In return, they are appointed trustees, have buildings named in their honor and can rest assured that Notre Dame will continue to promote their conservative values. A school that supports a prophetic "privileged option for the poor" cannot expect funding from the rich, corporations and the military. Nor should it risk the compromising of our values that corporate sponsorship entails. We should prepare ourselves for a total break.
My undergraduate friends are over-burdened with exams and papers. When I ask them to help fight sweatshops or come with me to an activist conference, they often cannot spare the time. My graduate student friends are caught up in their own specialized fields and worrying about publishing or perishing. We need to burst the Notre Dame bubble. Exams and grades must not come before ensuring a connection between our lives and studies and the "real world." We should use education to broaden, rather than narrow our minds.
If these policies cause more students to apply than Notre Dame can handle, I suggest that the most fair and loving admissions system would randomly select students who meet whatever admission standards might be necessary for reasons of class and racial diversity.
Clearly, I have left many issues unaddressed. A Christian university cannot require single-sex dormitories, use sweatshop labor, discriminate against gays, lesbians and bisexuals, be run by white men, or pay housekeepers, cafeteria workers, groundskeepers and adjunct faculty so much less than full professors and top administrators. But by addressing the roots of structural injustice, by challenging the powerful interests who control this university and replacing them with a diverse democratic majority, Notre Dame could educate students to work for justice, serving the Church and the world.
On April 16, Aaron expects to be arrested in D.C. for trying to shut down a meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. His column appears every other Monday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, April 10, 2000