Trustees report draws questions
By ERICA THESING
Associate News Editor
Ten students will present the Student Union's Fall Semester Report to the Board of Trustees Thursday, following debate on aspects of the report pertaining to Catholic character and the gay and lesbian community.
The 13-page report, "Anticipating Jubilee: A Reflection on Notre Dame's Catholic Character," is the result of hundreds of student responses through surveys and dozens of interviews with faculty and administrators. Recommendations in the report include such topics as reduction in class size and improvement in academic counseling.
Student senators received copies of the report at last week's Student Senate meeting, and some expressed concern over findings in the report, such as a section questioning the Catholic character of the science department. The report singles out the science and theology departments as two extremes of the Catholic character debate. Some senators said this was an unfair attack on the science department, which is inherently different than the theology department.
Dan Peate, executive coordinator for the report, said he was beginning to get feedback from the senators when the group voted to move into a closed meeting, expelling Peate from the room. He said overall support for the report's topic is strong.
Although Peate's presentation to the senate was a courtesy appearance to keep student representatives informed of the reports' content, he said he welcomes input from anyone as he prepares Thursday's presentation.
"I've gotten some feedback from individual senators and I appreciate that," he said. "I don't even know how many people I've talked with at this point but I've always had this real open door policy ... I encourage anyone in the student body to be involved in this."
Fisher senator Phil Dittmar was among those senators with concerns about specifics in the report.
"Some of the conclusions [the report] came to I wouldn't have come to on my own, but I didn't do the research," he said. "But they put a lot of work into it and I'm sure from the research they did, it's an accurate depiction."
Dittmar said senators asked Peate to highlight aspects of the report that they did agree with, including a section on tenure for professors.
Dittmar said senators were pleased with the report's recommendations that tenure decisions reflect factors such as a professor's involvement in the community and contribution to the Catholic character of Notre Dame.
Dittmar also said he appreciated Peate's presence at the senate meeting.
"I was happy we were even involved in the process," he said.
Another controversial issue in the report is a recommendation that Campus Ministry bring a group called "Courage" to campus. Courage is a network of support groups for gay and lesbians seeking chaste lives in accordance with Catholic teachings.
Anne Geggie, co-chair of OUTreach ND, said she is concerned about the methods Courage uses, including its disregard for labels of gay and lesbian.
"Trying to take away that name seems like you're trying to say we don't exist or take away any community we might have. That really worries me," she said.
Geggie quoted a line from Courage's Web site that reads, "By all means pray and ask God to help you come out of homosexuality."
"That to me is not what being gay and Catholic is all about," Geggie said. "That seems to me to wish that we would go away. I really hope that's not what people on campus or elsewhere really think. I would really encourage people to look further into what their [Courage's] agenda is."
Geggie suggested that other groups, such as Dignity or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), might work better for Notre Dame.
She also suggested that Notre Dame contact other Catholic universities to research the groups those schools invite. She explained that community is essential to Notre Dame's gay and lesbian students.
"I think that the administration feels the same way and that's why they provide groups," she said.
Peate said he recognized that many people on campus were unhappy with the tension surrounding the gay and lesbian community and that his committee selected Courage as way to continue dialogue. After listening to concerns from the gay and lesbian community, Peate said he understands that Courage may not be the answer.
He will bring those concerns to the Trustees Thursday, explaining that some middle ground between the administration and the gay and lesbian community must be found.
He said his goal is to find a forum where people on both sides of the issue can feel comfortable enough to dialogue with and support one another. Peate said Courage is only one of many possibilities.
Peate said he is confident that the Trustees will be receptive to the overall report. Peate served on last semester's report committee, which requested an overhaul of the career center. He said he was very pleased with the Trustees' response.
"I'm just overwhelmingly surprised with how responsive they are being to the requests we made," he said. "The Trustees are really here for the students and seem to really care about the students."
The Student Union reports to the trustees each semester. Membership on the report committee is open to any interested students.
All News Stories for Wednesday, October 13, 1999