Students protest ND decision
A group of law students held a protest Friday to denounce Notre Dame's decision not to allow third-year student Jenning Wong to spend her last semester at the New York University School of Law to be with her fiancÚ, former Notre Dame law student Rich Kohlberger.
"A Catholic University that espouses traditional family values would not have a policy that would keep people apart," said third-year law student Aaron Bernard, who organized the protest.
He and other students in the Law School are planning to challenge a section in the school's Hoynes Code that allows the dean to waive the six-semester requirement for law students who were not transfer students.
"The bottom line is that the law school basically requires that courses be taken at the school for the purposes of earning a law degree," Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin said.
Section 18.104.22.168 of the Code gives the dean power to waive the requirement in "extraordinarily compelling reasons," which Wong and Kohlberger thought included the reuniting of spouses.
Julissa Robles, a second-year law student who attended the protest, said she and a group of friends have written letters and plan to press the issue until the law school reevaluates the clause.
"A lot of students are so busy and the administration knows we're only in transition," Robles said. "They expect us to be really complacent and to not make any waves."
Following Wong's July engagement to Kohlberger, the couple asked law school Dean Patricia O'Hara if she could spend two semesters at NYU and still get a Notre Dame law degree. Initially, Wong wanted O'Hara's approval so the couple they could spend more time together and have an August wedding, but they changed the date to December because of the delay it took at the beginning of the year to talk to deans in the law school.
"We didn't want to get married and be separated," Wong said.
In their letter to O'Hara, Wong and Kohlberger explained how they had grown accustomed to studying with one another before Kohlberger's transfer to NYU for his second year of law school. Even after the two were separated, they traveled every other week to visit one another, which they said put a financial and emotional strain on them.
Kohlberger said he began talking with people at NYU about Wong's chances of acceptance while Wong began consulting with deans Vincent Rougeau and John Robinson about leaving Notre Dame.
The couple claimed they were given a verbal confirmation by an NYU administrator that Wong could enroll at NYU as long as Notre Dame approved.
In cases where students visit for a semester, Yvette Bravo-Weber, assistant dean for student affairs of NYU's law school, said NYU has to get the permission of the school where the visiting student will receive his or her degree.
"It's more Notre Dame's decision," Bravo-Weber said.
Wong and Kohlberger both argued the reuniting of spouses would merit an exception, but after attempts to meet with Robinson, the two were finally rejected in separate meetings with Robinson and O'Hara. Wong also claimed that both Robinson and O'Hara said they were "comfortable with keeping a husband and wife separate."
Robinson would not comment on the situation and O'Hara did not return phone calls left by the Observer.
"This is a Catholic school. Of all the places [where] marriage should be supported and embraced I thought that Notre Dame would support me in my wedding," Wong said.
At this point, Wong said there is no guarantee that she would be able to register for the two classes she needs to graduate even if she did get Notre Dame's permission to go to NYU. However, she and Kohlberger have not changed their December wedding.
All News Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002