15. An amazing example of life imitating art, or how the spirit of fraternity was sparked by a student

April 12, 2014

diderot-la-religieuse 2011-notre-dame-mascot
On Thursday night, I was reading and taking notes on Diderot’s novel, La Religieuse. I was following the epistolary dialogue between Suzanne and the marquis de Croismare in the “Preface,” which provides a play-by-play of her requests for his help and his letters of support, staged alongside a third party who relates the decline and pitiful death of Suzanne, when suddenly I received an email from a student entitled, “I need your help.” I print his letter, my response, and the letter to the President of Notre Dame here. More to come as this drama unfolds in the days ahead.

From: Curran Cross [mailto:ccross1@nd.edu]
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:13 PM
To: Julia Douthwaite
Subject: I need your help.
Madame,
As you may be aware, Ann Coulter was invited to speak at the University and, as you may also be aware, Ann Coulter is the author of incredibly hateful statements that absolutely transcend any standards of decent and acceptable conduct. Among her remarks are “”We just want Jews to be perfected [regarding wanting everyone to be Christian,” “If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president,” “If I’m going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot,” and “We should invade their [muslim’s] countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” In light of this, her invitation to speak at the University of Notre Dame, which prides itself on an atmosphere of tolerance and love, is astounding. In response to her blatantly hateful speech and to express openly simmering frustrations about her invitation, College Democrats, the NAACP and the PSA (Progressive Student Alliance) organized a -silent- protest of the event to take place outside of South Dining Hall. It involved the distribution of her quotes with the hashtag #NOHATE, the wearing of all-black and nothing more. After hearing news of the incipient The President of College Republicans sent the following e-mail. This is an -exact- copy and paste of a forward from the College Republican ListServ:

Here’s where my old email style returns: racial rabble rousers in the NAACP and BSA are planning a “silent demonstration” ($100 to every club member if this thing is actually silent) on Wednesday at the South Dining Hall. Honestly, this type of hypocrisy is what gets me up in the morning. They plan on wearing all black and handing out Ann Coulter quotes that will likely be doctored by some “reputable” blog started by a welfare recipient in his step-mother’s basement who hasn’t seen the light of day since his trip to the 2008 polling station. Since we’re always right, we’re not in the business of protesting (hence why no one streaked the NDream illegal alien love fest), but these people actually plan on pinning these quotes to their shirts for Thursday’s classes. I’ll have a life-size poster of Ann taped to my shirt and and “Born in the USA” blaring from my fannie pack all day, but here’s what we ask of you: wear your college republican gear to class on Thursday to show your support for our club and for the Constitution that represents free speech. You all have a bro tank, many of you have the Frat Collection sweatshirt or hat. If you don’t have anything with the club logo, just wear a red shirt or something that screams AMERICA in an in-your-face sort of way. If I see you around campus wearing red or the club gear, I’ll come up to a few of you and give you one of the club’s old bro tanks or some club swag as a prize (Sorry for Grand ‘Ol Partying ones).
You can’t spell America without ‘Merica,
Mark- president

Madame, this is where you come in. For Mark to implicate the (uninvolved) Black Student Association and to further imply that the NAACP with its -silent- protests are “rabble rousers” is simply ridiculous. For him to make jokes about welfare recipients living in their mothers’ basements is crude and his comment about the “Ndream illegal alien love fest” is so flip and degrading as to be outrageous. He has compounded the abominable hate speech of Ann Coulter by using hatred to defend her presence. Thus far, however, there has only been one faculty reaction to this e-mail, courtesy of Dr. Maria McKenna. While many of my peers and I are incredibly grateful for her open letter to Fr. Jenkins regarding the -complete- unacceptability of such hateful, embittered, divisive and inaccurate rhetoric, it is wholly inadequate. I would appreciate it more than I could express if you would be willing to add your voice in a similar fashion to show both the students who are struggling with this hatefulness AND your peers that such actions will not be tolerated. I am so tired. After I, Too, Am Notre Dame, I had hoped to see some positive change and yet this arrives right on its heels. I completely understand if you are a) professionally unable, b) disinclined or c) uncertain how to help, but you were the first person that I thought of as a valuable and impassioned ally against hate – who also happens to be an eloquent writer. This is not your fight and if you wish to abstain, I absolutely respect that. But speaking as a person, and not simply your student, your support via open letter would be invaluable.

Sincerely,
Curran.

2014-04-10 22:36 GMT-04:00 Julia Douthwaite :
Hello again Curran,
The letter below is what I just sent around.
More to come, hang in there,
Jd
p.s. I’ll be happy to talk to you in person as well, just let me know.

From: Julia Douthwaite
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2014 10:25 PM
To: ‘watch@listserv.nd.edu’
Subject: I need your help.

Dear colleagues,
See below for a heartfelt and heartbreaking letter from one of my favorite students. I plan to write an open letter to President John Jenkins and I’ll print it and put in a large envelope outside my office door by 4pm tomorrow, Friday afternoon. My office is 120 Decio. I am asking everybody to come by and sign it, to show your support for students like Curran.
I’ll leave it there until Tuesday at 5:00pm for people to sign, then I’ll send it to Fr. Jenkins.
I think a real letter is better than email for something like this.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Julia

From: Curran Cross [mailto:ccross1@nd.edu]
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:37 PM
To: Julia Douthwaite
Subject: Re: This is the letter I’ve written to 3 groups FW: I need your help.

Professor,

Your reply to me is so welcome that I find myself almost in tears. Thank you so, so, so much. You have absolutely no idea how grateful I am. Would you be comfortable if I copied and pasted your original e-mail to Facebook? I feel as though my friends would appreciate your words of support almost as much as I have, if not more so. If you wish it to remain private, then I will absolutely respect that.

Gratefully,
Curran.

From: Curran Cross
Date:04/11/2014 7:15 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: Julia Douthwaite
Subject: Thank you.

Seeing these e-mails from the faculty is so encouraging. My faith in this University is being slowly but surely restored. And the response to your e-mail on Facebook has been incredible. Your message has served as such a morale booster, you have no idea.

Curran.

April 11, 2014
Letter to President John Jenkins, C.S.C.
We the undersigned are writing to express our dismay with the hateful language that has been publicly supported on our campus with the visit of Ann Coulter. We understand the university’s open door policy of free speech on campus, but we find it unconscionable that no official university statement was issued to distance the University of Notre Dame from the views of Ms. Coulter and to admonish the president of the College Republicans for fomenting racist attitudes among the student body.
As you will see on the attached letter from a 2nd-year student, Curran Cross, the silence from the university community and especially its leaders has profoundly saddened an important segment of our student body. It saddens us too. It makes it hard for us to do our job, that is, to inspire and guide students toward realizing their ambitions, when those same students are being slandered on the grounds and in the buildings of Our Lady’s university.
Thank you for your consideration and your reply.

Update on Notre Dame politics
Last weekend I wrote the letter above and, via the website of the President’s Office here,requested a meeting. I requested a meeting for today, 4/16, and said that I would be hand-delivering a letter on behalf of a faculty group in response to the recent events of hate speech on campus.
The following things have happened:
1. The President posted a statement in the student newspaper, The Observer dated 4/15/14 that you can read here.
2. I have received no reply to my request to the President’s Office.
3. Many faculty and students are debating the President’s letter. I print a view that I admire here, with the permission of Professor Stuart Greene:
—–Original Message—–
From: NDPFSA organization [mailto:NDPFSA@LISTSERV.ND.EDU] On Behalf Of Stuart Greene
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 7:51 AM
To: NDPFSA@LISTSERV.ND.EDU
Subject: Re: John Jenkins letter

I am not sure that this was very good at all. President Jenkins focused on rhetoric, not the students who were hurt. Yes, we need to be civil, but I wonder how a restorative justice perspective would have changed the letter’s content and tone. For Howard Zehr, who was at the CSC last week, Restorative Justice “begins with a concern for victims and how to meet their needs for repairing the harm as much as possible, both concretely and symbolically.” Zehr continues to say that restorative justice involves a conscious reordering of our thoughts on justice, all with the end goal of healing.

More to come on the faculty letter and the President’s reply.

 

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