NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame has done away with a traditional freshman welcome event because it presents “heteronormative messages,” according to a report by one of the school’s student papers, The Irish Observer. Below is a excerpt from the report on the decision to do away with the traditional freshman dorm serenades, explained by the Program Director of New Student Engagement, Lauren Donahue.
In past years, first-years within each residence hall often learned song and dance numbers to perform for other dorms upon meeting. Donahue believes these serenades have a history of exclusion and an unwelcoming message.
“The word serenade and the culture around serenades is archaic,” Donahue said. “The word serenade itself implies a message that most students are not intending.”
Donahue explained that serenades of the past often included sexual innuendos and heteronormative messages that created an unwelcoming or awkward environment for many students.
“There are lots of pieces of our identity that are not known on the surface,” Donahue explained. “We are not encouraging students to sing serenades. We are not encouraging people to repeat and promote that kind of culture.”
These changes have raised concerns among many students who believe the school is also ditching its Catholic identity, according to a report by the conservative leaning student paper. The Irish Rover highlighted many students who believe their faith is under attack. The July 17th article by the Rover discussed concerns regarding the training of Welcome Week volunteers. Below are excerpts from interviews in that article.
One such student informed the Rover via email, “The strongest concern I have is with the usage of words like “allyship” and “inclusion” as being our pillars. [These] words have originated out of a modern secular culture that has given them a lot of baggage to the point where I feel a Catholic institution should not use them as a foundation for a major programming event.”
This student continued, “The committee’s purpose has been presented to us as more of a “woke” collection of students who are meant to spread the message of our secular culture that embraces relativistic acceptance with no holds barred. Our training included an exhaustive list of rules, such as wearing BLM or ally pins and not assuming gender.”
Another member of the committee, Dorrian Cohen, told the Rover, “I believe the committee as a whole seeks to severely minimize the Catholic identity of the University in a well-intentioned yet destructive effort to preemptively pursue the comfort of non-Catholic new students.”
Rising sophomore Nicholas Schmitz concurred: “We were told to only plan events that were open to all religious traditions, and our breakout session focused on things we can do to make non-Catholic students feel welcome. These are good conversations to have and are not bad themselves; however, there was never any conversation on how the Faith and the Catholic mission of the school could be solutions to these problems, or any conversations on how to promote and uphold the Catholic mission of the school. At Notre Dame, especially when trying to display our values (which is the goal of the committee), we ought to celebrate the Catholic tradition and mission of the University, not ‘deal’ with it.”
Furthermore, one student added, “One of the best ways in which I found community and brotherhood in my dorm was through attending Mass and participating in faith formation groups. After hearing the language and goals of the St. Andre committee at the meeting a few weeks ago, I feel discouraged from trying to provide a similar experience for the freshman. It would not be ‘inclusive’ as a member of the St. Andre committee to encourage new students to go to Mass or to schedule events or groups grounded in the Faith.”
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This makes me so sad. I attended Notre Dame, and though I was not Catholic at the time, I enjoyed a shared sense of community by attending Mass and participating in music ministry at Mass. How can a Catholic university assume it is not inclusive to encourage students to attend Mass?