The holidays are a time of tradition, and Saint Mary’s College has celebrated the Christmas season with its Madrigal Christmas Dinners for the past 38 years. Nancy Menk, a Saint Mary’s music professor and musical director for the Madrigal singers in the show, said the dinner show is a “festive” occasion. “People come back year after year for the show,” Menk said. “It becomes part of their Christmas tradition for some.” The shows will be held in Regina North Lounge in Regina Hall Dec. 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 5 at 2 p.m. According to Menk, Regina North has been “transformed” for the dinners. “It’s completely redecorated. There are wreaths and garlands and it is bathed in candlelight,” Menk said. “It looks like a Renaissance banquet hall.” The Renaissance theme of the event is carried throughout the show and the menu. “Welcome, welcome, every guest, welcome to our music feast. Music is our only cheer; fill both soul and ravished ear,” the event’s invitation reads. “The performers strive to make it as authentic as possible, Gwen O’Brien, Saint Mary’s director of media relations, said. “This holiday favorite ‘transports’ guests to a medieval castle where a grand meal is served as the master of the house greets his guests, jugglers perform and groups of singers burst into song,” O’Brien said. “The Saint Mary’s College Madrigal Singers — joined by the Early Music Ensemble from Andrews University — perform music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance in a 21st century reenactment of the Renaissance feasts hosted in the great baronial halls throughout England during the 12 days of Christmas,” O’Brien said. The event includes dinner and a show, put on mostly by students, she said. It will feature the Saint Mary’s women’s choir, theater students and Andrews University students will play period instruments. The singers and actors have been preparing since October, O’Brien said. “It’s a good chance for students to learn earlier pieces … sing a cappella and perform undirected,” Menk said.
Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) notified students of a sexual assault that allegedly occurred outside a campus residence hall early Saturday. In an email to the student body Tuesday night, police stated that a student was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance outside a dorm in the early morning hours. A third party reported the assault to a campus administrator, the report stated. Police warned students to be vigilant regarding sexual assault. “Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time,” the email stated. “College students are more likely to be assaulted by an acquaintance, which means the assault could be part of the campus community. Being aware of your own safety and watching out for your friends are important steps you can take to reduce the risk of sexual assault.” Information about sexual assault prevention and resources for survivors of sexual assault are available on the NDSP website, ndsp.nd.edu, and through the University’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention.
As communication rapidly evolves in today’s global society, one Notre Dame alumnus is helping the Vatican incorporate new media into its mission. Thaddeus “TJ” Jones, a 1989 graduate of Notre Dame, was present when Pope Benedict XVI officially launched the Vatican’s website, news.va.com, and wrote the first papal tweet on the eve of the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. News.va is an aggregator website that pulls together content from all of the different Vatican news sources into a single web page. Jones is the news.va project coordinator and an official at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. “If you want to get your word out, you have to look at how best to do it,” Jones said. “We wanted to engage with more social media in the way other organizations do already and be present in the dialogue of new forms of communication.” Jones said 35,000 people became followers of the news.va site within the first hour after Pope Benedict XVI’s tweet, which read, “Dear Friends, I just launched news.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI.” The way the world communicates has evolved and changed over the years, Jones said, and the Vatican strives to keep up with new forms of communication. “The Vatican has an important message, and we have a duty to improve the way we get this message out,” he said. He said the Catholic Church is a community of believers that spans the globe. “News.va is meant to get the news out about the Pope to this universal church. Our idea was to bring news about the Pope to one portal to get information to the people,” he said. News.va brings together content from a variety of Vatican news sources, including the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore The site is available in English, Italian and Spanish and French. The main page also includes links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr pages. “The look of the website is inviting and not too formal,” Jones said. “We are trying to present the site in an attractive way for our audience.” Although the site has been successful so far, Jones said improvements are in the works. He said there are plans to make the site completely media platform compatible by augmenting the video selection and improving the live streaming of papal events. “Our goal is to make the site accessible to everyone,” he said. Jones has worked at the Pontifical Council since 2003. He is also involved in assisting television networks in broadcasting major papal events like Christmas, Easter, the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to his current position, Jones had worked for 10 years at the Vatican Radio. He said his experience as a reporter gave him excellent background for coordinating the news.va site. He also said his Notre Dame education helped to prepare him for his work at the Vatican. “The Catholic atmosphere at Notre Dame is enough to give you a sense of what it means to belong to the Catholic Church. My Notre Dame education gave me an ethical foundation,” Jones said. “There’s an emphasis at Notre Dame of making a morally and ethically informed person, an excellence in preparing a person spiritually and intellectually.”
The eighth-annual Saint Mary’s Dance Marathon, a student-led fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, raised an all-time high amount of funds at this year’s event. Committee members said Saturday’s event in the Angela Athletic Facility raised $104,374.83 for the Hospital. “Seeing the total reveal at the end was so exciting and unexpected,” Dance Marathon president Amy Tiberi said. Tiberi said she first became involved with the event in her high school and developed a passion that she wanted to carry over to her college experience. “I am from the Indianapolis area and was involved with Dance Marathon all throughout high school,” Tiberi said. “It was a very natural transition for me to be a part of the committee here at Saint Mary’s. I have had close friends treated at Riley Hospital, so there is that personal connection, but really just seeing how much this hospital positively affects lives is enough for me to want to be involved.” She said the committee hosts several fundraisers throughout the academic year, but the marathon is its most well-known campus fundraiser. “Each year we pick a theme for Dance Marathon and throughout the year we raise money through sponsors and local business support,” Tiberi said. “This year the theme was ‘Rock of Ages’ and we went in with the goal of raising $88,000.” Tiberi said the event gives students who are not on the committee the chance to fundraise for the cause. “I knew I couldn’t be a board member, but at the same time I wanted very much to be a part of this marathon because it is for such a great cause,” senior Gabriell Sabatini said. “I was able to sign up as a dancer and raise about $200 for the Riley Hospital”. This year the marathon featured music, dancing, games, crafts and other entertainment. Tiberi said she encouraged students from other area colleges to come, as well as members of the community. An estimated 300 people attended the event. Salon Rouge, a local salon, sponsored a table at the event giving away gift bags and offering services for a low price. “We are a small business in town and we want the community to know we are here to help,” manager Ann Malencia said. “We are not just here to make money. You never know the background of the person walking through the door of the salon and we want to show the community we are here to listen and we are here to help.” Tiberi said most participants’ favorite part of the marathon is when local Riley families come in and share their stories to the crowd. Gary Newcomb, whose child receives treatment at Riley, publicly shared the story of his daughter, Emily, for the first time. “About eight months ago, after a misdiagnosis from a local hospital, Emily had to be rushed to Riley Hospital where they found out her liver was very enlarged and tumors were on it,” Newcomb said. “A couple of months later we received a phone call saying Emily had fluid in her brain.” Newcomb said he and his wife “literally thought we were watching her [Emily] pass in front of us”. But after two brain surgeries, Newcomb said Emily is in the recovering process thanks to the compassion and care of the staff at Riley Hospital. “Her brain surgeries were right around Christmas time and we mentioned to the staff we were unable to get a family picture with Santa,” Newcomb said. “After Emily was out of her second surgery a nurse came and got us. One of the doctors, not even Emily’s, drove to his house to pick up a Santa costume and came back to the hospital so we could get our family picture. This is just one example of the compassion of the Riley staff.” Newcomb thanked the crowd and said Riley families hugely appreciate fundraising events like Dance Marathon. “Emily is easily over a million-dollar baby,” Newcomb said. “Without this type of monetary support we really don’t know what we would have done.” Mother Brooke Young also spoke about her son, Seth, and his experience with the hospital. “One minute we were packing for a family vacation to Texas and the next minute our world was turned upside down,” Young said. “We received a phone call from Seth’s doctor saying there were abnormalities in Seth’s bloodwork. He was admitted to Riley hospital and we were told our 12-year-old son has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.” Young said her family was “forced to endure a journey they never thought they would be taking”, but the hospital staff at Riley was there to throughout its duration. “We have developed loving relationships with the nursing staff at Riley hospital,” Young said. “They have become what we consider parts of our extended family.” Young ended her story by thanking the crowd and the Saint Mary’s organizers of Dance Marathon. “Know what you are doing is absolutely amazing,” Young said. “You are truly helping families. Never doubt the Riley staff. They are an army of amazing people and have a true compassion for the children they care for.” Tiberi said these are the stories and the people her committee works for. “It truly is a good cause,” Tiberi said. “I can’t wait to see the passion for Dance Marathon continue to pour out next year.”
Since taking office April 1, student body president and vice president Alex Coccia and Nancy Joyce have checked off items left and right. Recent initiatives included supporting University admissions policies to welcome undocumented students to campus, a week of awareness for mental health issues facing students and a coffee cart installed in DeBartolo Hall, all of which were goals included in their campaign platform. Though they have made progress through the concrete to-do list, Joyce said they are most proud of their success in engaging students who were not typically involved in student government. “I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve gotten a lot of involvement from people, even outside of any sort of formalized committees,” Joyce said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of trying to involve people who have opinions but who aren’t necessarily interested in being involved with student government, and that’s really what we wanted to do from Day One.” Coccia said personal, one-on-one interaction with members of the Notre Dame community has been key to his administration’s policy-making. “Even at the very beginning, we focused on how we approach one-on-one meetings and making sure we’re doing a lot of those with students and administrators, to not only get initiatives going, but also to build important relationships,” he said. “We do that every week with both administrators and students, and that has just come in immensely handy and has just been a powerful, powerful method for really working with students to get change going and build trust.” Setting a standard Engaging in social media and working to reach students where they are has been a crucial aspect of the administration’s leadership, Coccia said. Joyce said during their term, they have been trying to “raise the expectations of what student government should be on campus.” “I think we’ve made a very concerted effort to engage freshmen, which is really important because now, for the next four years, the expectation of that and of every successive class is for a student government that reaches out to them and gives personal invitations to various invitations, a group that is known to them,” she said. “On a more macro level of what student government is, we’ve really tried to make it something that people can expect a lot from, and that we deliver on it. “Hopefully going forward, that bar has been raised a little bit.” Juan Rangel, chief of staff for this year’s administration, said he has been “pleasantly surprised” by the level of student involvement and cooperation on campus. “Students are really engaged on campus, not necessarily in a formalized way, but even just in the ways that we can reach them, whether through social networks like Facebook and Twitter or in events that we host,” Rangel said. “Students are more aware that student government is active and that we’re actively trying to meet their needs in any way. I think that’s definitely something to be proud of.” ‘Using the momentum’ Coccia said he attributes much of the group’s success in tackling the initiatives on the platform to the constant connection and interaction between members of the executive cabinet and with students outside the organization. “If someone sends us an idea, we’re typically going to follow up on that and try to get a better sense of what their thoughts are and how they see student government fitting into that,” he said. “I think the sexual assault [initiatives] are a great example of that. We definitely had that on our platform, but as something that we wanted to work on in whatever capacity we could.” Joyce said when examining ideas and reviewing priorities, at the end of the day, they “always go back to the platform.” “But at the same time, I think there’s been a lot that’s come up since we’ve been in office that had been generated by people coming up to us and saying ‘Look, I have this idea’ or ‘I see this happening this way,’ and I think we need that,” she said. “We make that a priority.” The relationships built between administrators and student government have proven “really encouraging,” Coccia said. “Ultimately, I think administrators are impressed by student ideas, and so when we bring something to them like the coffee cart idea, more often than not, they want to get it done,” he said. “Where student government comes in is just to be the best partner we can.” Rangel said their work often opens their eyes to the inner workings of the University, providing a unique view on the behind-the-scenes action. Coccia said he finds the activity across the strata exciting. “It’s certainly been encouraging for me to see on all levels of the University the number of moving parts on various initiatives,” he said. “It really does become kind of a team effort across the University, because as students, we’re all here to have a great learning experience and learning environment, and the administrators know that students are the reason they’re here as well.” Reviewing the semester Although the group members are pleased with their work to date, Joyce said they will revisit and review their remaining agenda items to pick up after winter break. “When we started, we had this huge platform of things we wanted to get done, and we have gotten a lot done, but we certainly think that there are more things for us to accomplish,” she said. “Part of being efficient in the next three months will be picking some of those things and prioritizing some of them. “I think that we may not get every single thing checked off of our platform, so we want to make sure that we’re getting as much done as we can and doing the most things that students feel are important.” Coccia said he hopes the recommendations made in the Oct. 17 report to the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees will help sustain some of the long-term projects beyond the one-year time frame in which they will hold office. “Hopefully, this and the next board report in May will lay a blueprint of recommendations for future administrations,” he said. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is address the issues and bring the conversation up in a way that is going to prolong it and make sure it is sustained.” To increase the scope of projects, collaboration with groups outside student government has been a “huge success,” Joyce said. “We’ve really tried to reach out to lots of different people, in the dorms, all the clubs and the administration,” she said. “I think it’s important to realize that student government can work with other people.” ‘Above and beyond’ In addition to representing the student body, Coccia was a 2013 Truman scholar and a finalist for both the Rhodes and the Marshall scholarships. Joyce said his leadership so far has exemplified “setting the tone at the top.” “Alex would never say this because he’s too humble, but the leadership comes from the top, and his get-it-done attitude and his ability to really go out and figure out what it is that we can be doing is where the inspiration comes from for everybody else,” she said. “I doubt that there are very many people on campus who don’t recognize Alex, and I think that really says a lot. “He’s done such an incredible job of getting out and talking to people one-on-one and making people feel like their concerns are our concerns, because they are. I know as a team, there’s a lot that we’ve done, but it certainly would not be the same without him, so I hope people know that.” Coccia said the group is “enjoying every day” and is excited to return to campus in January to finish the term strong. “We’re loving it. We’re having a lot of fun,” he said. “There are certainly frustrating days, and I think we recognize that things sometimes take more time than what we want, but it’s been really fun.” Grade: A The Coccia-Joyce administration has exceeded their goal of “raising the expectation of what student government should be on campus,” as Joyce said. Having enacted tangible changes, they have already left a unique legacy on Notre Dame and have set a new standard of excellence in the student government office. The accessible and energetic leadership style exemplified by Coccia, Joyce and their cabinet makes them effective leaders and connects them to their constituents’ needs. Contact Ann Marie Jakubowski at [email protected]
Notre Dame Security Police is investigating a report of indecent exposure occurring Tuesday at about 7:45 p.m. between DeBartolo Hall and the Snite Museum of Art, according to an email sent Tuesday night.Two people reported that a man in a red Ford pickup truck with an Indiana license plate exposed himself, the email stated. After being noticed by witnesses, he reportedly drove south on Eddy Street and off campus.The suspect was described to police as a white male in his late 20s or early 30s, the email stated. He reportedly was unshaven with short brown hair, wearing blue jeans and a red t-shirt.The email advised students to call Notre Dame SafeWalk for an escort when walking on campus after dark by calling 574-631-5555. Tags: indecent exposure, NDSP
The College of Science and the College of Arts and Letters launched a collaborative major in neuroscience and behavior this fall, said Sunny Boyd, professor of biological sciences.Sam Coughlin “For us this is an unprecedented step,” Boyd said “This is the first major that’s been between the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science, ever.”Support among faculty and students contributed to the creation of the major, she said.“The major was created because of a real swelling of excitement among the students and the faculty about embracing a new academic program in this area of neuroscience and behavior,” Boyd said. “It’s an area of science that really didn’t exist 30 years ago. It’s an interdisciplinary field, and so it’s just growing in strength all the time.“We had students clamoring for the new major, and we have more than 50 faculty that work in some area of neuroscience and behavior, so it was just the perfect time to do it.”Either a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree can be pursued through the neuroscience and behavior major, Boyd said.“We have two versions of it. We have a Bachelor of Science version and a Bachelor of Arts version. They’re very similar except for the college requirements,” she said. “What we have … is a molding of biology courses and psychology courses, about equal quantities, with a liberal sprinkling of other science courses and other humanities courses, like anthropology and philosophy.“Neuroscience and behavior is … incredibly broad. Some people might want to do really heavy science, like computational neuroscience, or brain imaging kinds of studies, so they would need a B.S. background. But other people might be interested in things like cognitive science or philosophy of mind. They would need to focus more in the arts and humanities.”The neuroscience and behavior major will prepare students for a variety of professional opportunities after graduation, Boyd said.“We have a lot of students interested in the health profession. Both the B.S. and the B.A. are good fits for combining with health profession requirements. There’s also a … strong track for graduate degrees in neuroscience and behavior, or even related degrees in fields of chemistry and biochemistry: drug development, for example. Also, on the other side of the spectrum, for people who are interested in things like clinical psychology or neuropsychology.”Boyd said 45 students are currently enrolled in the major.“We’re expecting at least 60, and maybe as many as 80,” she said. “The majority have been sophomores, but there are a lot of juniors that are switching in as well.”Sophomore Morgan Widhalm said she was excited to learn of the development of the neuroscience and behavior major.“All the other colleges I applied to had a neuroscience major and fully developed neuroscience research laboratories, so the development of this major was the last step to making Notre Dame the perfect college for me,” she said. “There is so much interest out there in this developing field, and I feel like students will rush to this major.”Widhalm said she became interested in studying neuroscience because it allowed her to combine her interests in psychology and biological sciences. She is currently taking classes in genetics, organic chemistry and learning and memory.“The science classes were a continuation of the biology curriculum that will count towards my B.S. in neuroscience and behavior, and the psychology class is my first step towards the interdisciplinary nature of the major,” Widhalm said. “As such, I would love to go to graduate school after college and hopefully conduct research on music cognition and music therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. This would combine my love of neuroscience and my love of music into one incredible life-long learning journey.”Sophomore Kenneth Colon said he likes the flexibility offered by the neuroscience and behavior major.“Since high school, I’ve been fascinated with the study of the brain, so I knew coming into college that I’d want to study biology or psychology, or both,” Colon said. “What I didn’t know was how much I would enjoy my other classes like theology and philosophy. By combining relevant classes from biology and psychology into one major, the neuroscience and behavior major allows me more freedom to take classes outside the major as well.”There is also great flexibility within the major itself to allow for students to pursue individual interests, Colon said.“For example, if I have an interest in computer science or applied mathematics, neuroscience lets me take classes in both those areas to count towards the major,” he said. “Additionally, you can also take courses in chemistry, philosophy and anthropology that count towards the major. For those with interest in research, like myself, up to six credits for the major can come from undergraduate research.”Colon said he is interested in attending medical school after graduation or doing a combined advanced degree program.“Neuroscience and behavior really helps in fitting in all of my requirements for medical school, even more-so now with medical schools emphasizing the importance of behavioral sciences,” he said.Tags: bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, combined major, neuroscience, neuroscience and behavior, new major, new major offered
Students, faculty and members of the South Bend community sat together under the Dome as they prayed and sang traditional hymns, including We Shall Overcome and Let There Be Peace on Earth.Martin Luther King, Jr. Day serves as an important reminder of a time not long ago when segregation and discrimination divided the United States, University President Fr. John Jenkins said, addressing the assembly.“It’s so easy, and so common, for us to forget Martin Luther King’s struggle … but it is important to remember, and that is why today is for,” Jenkins said. “It’s important to remember the hardships that African Americans endured in a segregated nation.”Although more than 50 years have passed since the civil rights movement took shape, violence and racial discrimination are still an unfortunate part of our society, Jenkins said.“I can’t help but think of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting of Michael Brown, or in France, the killing of those at the periodical Charlie Hebdo,” he said. “Both are complex situations. … But I can’t help thinking, sadly, that in these and other events, a certain cycle [of violence and oppression] is at work.”Jenkins said King’s legacy – one of nonviolence and peaceful protest – should inform how we react to these injustices.“The language of Martin Luther King was the language of the Gospel, the language of love,” he said.“… His method was that of nonviolent resistance, which seeks to bring change, not with force, but standing nonviolently against injustice in a way that calls attention to it and changes our hearts.”Sophomore Tegan Chesney said she thought it was valuable to take time to honor King, especially since class was still in session.“Since we have classes on Martin Luther King Day, I thought it was important to go to a service to commemorate him,” she said.When thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and civil rights, it is important to look first to working to improve our communities, graduate student John DiTillo said.“The petitions — I really appreciated the one that talked about the Notre Dame community and St. Joseph County, because I think it’s easy, when you’re talking about social justice, to think on a global scale,” DiTillo said. “We’re encouraged to do that a lot at Notre Dame. We’re not always encouraged to look at the spaces we inhabit and think critically about how we engage, and what we’re contributing to them.”King primarily focused on community and national issues like these, but ultimately the civil rights movement became much bigger than the laws it changed, Jenkins said.“The greatness of Martin Luther King exists not only in that he stood unflinchingly for justice, which he did,” he said. “Not only that he so powerfully denounced oppression, which he did. Or that he brought about change, which he did.“The special greatness of Martin Luther King is that while doing all these things, he showed us a way out of the destructive cycle of oppression and divisions, violence, further oppression and divisions, more violence and deeper divisions … He marched, he sat in, he engaged in civil disobedience without violence, without hate. And thereby he changed not only law and customs — he changed hearts.“So let us not forget, let us continue to remember. Let each of us let his message change our hearts.”Tags: Fr. John Jenkins, John Jenkins, Martin Luther King Jr., MLK Day, nonviolence, Prayer service “Let peace begin with me.”Those were the words that echoed throughout the rotunda of the Main Building on Monday as Notre Dame honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through prayer.
Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a five-part series on sexual assault at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s. Today’s story focuses on student group responses to sexual assault.Approaching the issue from a variety of different perspectives, students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s are seeking out avenues to continue the conversation around, and ultimately prevent, sexual assault on college campuses.Central to their efforts is defining what it means for students to stand against sexual assault. Photo courtesy of Loyal Daughters and Sons Seniors Tess Rinaldo, left, and Skyler Hughes hold signs outside of South Dining Hall to raise awareness for sexual assault and rape culture as part of Loyal Daughters and Sons’ “Talk About it Tuesday” campaign.“A lot of people on campus, okay, they’re against sexual assault,” senior Skyler Hughes said. “But it’s not a controversial thing to be against.”Hughes is a producer for Loyal Daughters and Sons (LDS), an annual, student-run performance that collects the personal stories of Notre Dame community members regarding gender relations, sexuality and sexual assault, and adapts them for the stage.Almost a decade after its initial beginnings as a senior thesis project, Hughes said LDS still works to identify how the performance fits into the ongoing discussion about sexual assault, and more broadly, gender relations.“[LDS’s] role has definitely evolved, and I think that’s one of the things we’re trying to negotiate right now: What is our role in this larger conversation?” he said.Hughes said LDS distinguishes itself by bringing a personal element to the conversation.“I think because we tell these stories — these very personal stories — I think we add a dimension to the conversation that other campaigns — with statistics, or trainings, or door-to-door campaigns — they can’t add … ,” he said. “And I think that’s a really important side to have in the conversation about sexual assault. We can’t detach it from those personal stories.”Focusing their efforts on educating and informing students about sexual assault rather than relating students’ personal experiences, the FIRE Starters — a student initiative of the Gender Relations Center (GRC) — are also working to define their stance against sexual assault, Notre Dame senior and FIRE Starter Annie Kuster said.“There’s a lot of different angles that we can take towards sexual assault and relationship violence,” Kuster said. “[It’s] not just like, ‘this is what sexual assault is.’”Kuster, a member of the FIRE Starters subgroup on sexual assault and relationship violence, said the FIRE Starters aim to foster a dialogue concerning “gender and sexual identity and relationship violence, and things like that, that usually are swept under the rug.”She said her subgroup this semester chose to consider sexual assault through a discussion on the meaning of consent.“One of our biggest focuses was consent, [and] understanding — not necessarily promoting sexual activity — but understanding what consent means, how that functions,” she said. “Any interaction you have with someone else involves consent, to some degree.”“I’m fairly sure that nobody goes into the night and is like, ‘you know what, I’m going to sexually assault somebody, I’m going to hurt somebody tonight,’” Kuster said. “And we [as a subgroup] thought it had to do a lot more with this fuzzy line, and when you cross it and you don’t cross it.”Similar to FIRE Starters in their educational approach, Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) aims to provide students with the knowledge necessary to take a stand against the problem of sexual assault, Saint Mary’s sophomore Abbie Spica said.“I think that we can take a stand against sexual assault largely through education, by informing people of the realities of sexual assault,” Spica, who serves as the head of BAVO’s student advisory committee for events and campaigns, said.Among other initiatives, BAVO offers Green Dot bystander intervention training and helps coordinate Take Back the Night, in which Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students march across Notre Dame’s campus to demonstrate solidarity with survivors, Spica said.“This is happening to our peers, these acts of sexual violence,” she said. “We need to be support systems, we need to be encouraging, and Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame are a family, so we need to act like it and be there as a support system for each other.”Spica said the group setting of BAVO allows students to collaborate with like-minded peers and to increase the overall impact they can have in addressing sexual assault.“Sometimes it’s very discouraging when you’re by yourself working on issues like this, because, individually, it’s hard to see how much of an impact you’re making,” Spica said. “When you have so many people doing it in a group, it’s interesting to see how many people’s minds you can change or how many people you can influence.”BAVO is not the only student initiative to facilitate group collaboration. Notre Dames — a female empowerment club started in 2014 — provides a weekly forum in which students can jointly examine sexual assault and other issues impacting women on both campuses, club president and founder Notre Dame senior Alison Leddy said.“One of the reasons I actually started Notre Dames was because I had a few friends who were victims of sexual assault, and what was consistent in their experiences was that they felt like they didn’t have a voice — either in the situation, or after the situation,” Leddy said. “ … I was personally really moved by the fact that they didn’t feel like they could say anything or they didn’t feel like their voice was worthy of being heard.“Especially in an instance of sexual assault where so much power is taken away from you, their voice was the first thing to go.”Complementing the efforts of LDS, FIRE Starters, BAVO and Notre Dames, other student groups are focusing their attention on those aspects of sexual assault which are often overlooked in the larger discussion of the issue.At Saint Mary’s, the Straight and Gay Alliance is seeking to challenge the largely heteronormative discussion of sexual assault, according to the alliance’s president, Saint Mary’s sophomore Abigail Lynn.“A lot of times, people in the LGBTQ community write [sexual assault in a homosexual relationship] off as it not being sexual assault when, if the same thing happened in a heterosexual relationship, it would be a huge deal,” Lynn said. “That’s why it needs to be talked about. If it’s not talked about, you don’t even realize it.”According to Lynn, expressing opinions openly is one of the first steps students can take in working to raise awareness about the issues surrounding sexual assault.“I realized really quickly that if you go about it the right way, people are really receptive to what you have to say,” Lynn said. “We can acknowledge that we have different viewpoints on things, but we can also respect each other. We’re trying to build a community.”Echoing the mission of the Straight and Gay Alliance, members of the College’s Justice Education Student Advisory Committee are also working to promote more inclusive language when speaking about sexual assault, committee member and Saint Mary’s sophomore Alex Shambery said.“People come to Saint Mary’s with certain mindsets about things, and then they have discussions with other people who may have a greater sense of knowledge about those subjects, and this brings people to realizations,” Shambery said. “The only way to go is up.”Saint Mary’s senior Bri O’Brien, who also sits on the committee, said people sometimes dismiss the idea of same-sex assault on campus because it is not as commonly discussed as instances of heterosexual assault are.“Sometimes when you just talk about the surface level of something, you’re not really getting at the heart,” O’Brien said. “It’s easy to do the bare minimum. It’s easy not to talk about same-sex assault.“The bare minimum doesn’t include same-sex assault.”In addition to same-sex assault, the issue of male advocacy figures only marginally into the larger discourse on sexual violence, president of Men Against Sexual Violence (MASV) and Notre Dame junior Daniel Esparza said.“There’s not many male groups at all that talk about sexual violence as a serious matter, and that’s actually a subject that I do take seriously,” he said.According to Esparza, MASV’s mission in part is “to be able to dissolve any misconceptions behind sexual assault, first and foremost.”But dissolving misconceptions can sometimes require people to go outside their comfort zone, Esparza said, and student advocates must often embrace awkward and uncomfortable situations.“There’s really a need to make conversations uncomfortable,” Esparza said. “It’s kind of a social polarization deal. If [men] are not constantly bombarded with the problematic atmospheres that they might create, they really get comfortable validating those problematic behaviors and attitudes.“Continuing the conversation is really a matter of trying to make things awkward, in a way.”News writers Selena Ponio and Andrea Vale contributed to this report.Tags: BAVO, Fire Starters, GRC, MASV, sexual assault, sexual assault series, sexual assault series 2015, straight and gay alliance
Photo courtesy of Brittany Margritz Sophomore Brittany Margritz works on a construction project in Milwaukee over the summer. Margritz volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, part of her SSLP sponsored by the University.Sophomore Brittany Margritz spent her summer working for Habitat for Humanity in Milwaukee.“Before I went to Milwaukee, I spent a week in Haiti doing service there,” Margritz said. “I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity sporadically throughout high school and went on service trips for the past six summers.”Margritz’s responsibilities while working for Habitat for Humanity varied from hands-on construction projects to office work for the organization.“Three days a week, we were out on construction, so we were out on site doing different things like framing houses and finishing work,” Margritz said. “Two days a week I worked in the office with the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, so we have partners in the neighborhood we built in that help us.”Margritz said that the building aspect of her work with Habitat for Humanity fit in well with her civil engineering major and future career goals. But she said the most rewarding part of the service was getting engaged with the local community.“It was really nice to work side-by-side with [homeowners] in their neighborhood because we worked in the one neighborhood,” she said. “And we really got to know the neighborhood well, and the whole community was very behind the effort.”Sophomore Su Jean Park also spent her summer doing an SSLP in Wisconsin, working with the COA Youth and Family Centers. She said she was drawn to the SSLP because it allowed her to learn outside the classroom.“I really liked the philosophy of intertwining outreach experience and theology,” Park said. Park, who spent most of her time working with underprivileged children from Milwaukee, said all in all, the experience was a positive one.“Children are just so malleable, and you can see changes throughout the weeks you know them,” Park said. “It was rewarding just being with the kids and feeding off their energy.”Tags: habitat for humanity, service, SSLP, summer service learning program A central tenet of the Holy Cross education each Notre Dame student receives is service to the community. This past summer, many students engaged in a Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP), fulfilling this aspect of the Holy Cross mission by engaging in service across the country and internationally through the Center for Social Concerns.An SSLP is a three-credit theology course where students engage in active service for eight consecutive weeks, according to the Center for Social Concerns website. These immersions are often sponsored by Notre Dame clubs in the area.