Graduate student Erik Blair has found the perfect outlet for stress in the middle of his busy schedule. Blair turns to gongfu, a unique martial arts form, along with other members of the Gongfu Club he founded earlier this semester. “I get so much out of teaching martial arts,” Blair said. “Teaching techniques strengthens my grasp of those techniques and deepens my skill. I think the relationships I build out of it are the best part. It’s really a lot of fun when you have students who are motivated to learn and to teach others also.” Blair first learned gongfu and earned his black belt in the discipline during his time as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy. “Upon coming back to Notre Dame for a Ph.D., I didn’t want the knowledge to evaporate, and I still wanted to advance in the art,” Blair said. “That led me to desire to teach others and that led to the club.” Sophomore Thomas Voutsos joined the club when it first began this semester. He said he especially enjoys the welcoming atmosphere of the club and gongfu’s relevance in his own life. “Erik and the club members have been great teachers and very welcoming” Voutsos said. “The best part about participating in the club is learning a completely new skill that can have real life applications in the future. It is great exercise, and the body movements, combined with mental focus, create a very unique inner feeling during and after gongfu practices.” While Voutsos entered the club with no prior martial arts experience, he said his skills have quickly progressed, thanks to Blair’s guidance. “In this semester, I have been able to earn a yellow belt and I am currently working on earning an orange belt,” Voutsos said. “Erik is a great teacher, which has allowed me to learn a lot in just one semester.” Unlike Voutsos, sophomore Max Geraci did have previous martial arts experience before joining Gongfu Club. “I did practice martial arts before joining the club and had obtained a black belt in Tae Kwon Do,” Geraci said. “I was fairly well-experienced with martial arts prior to training in Gongfu, but I would say that it has significantly improved my form to experience Gongfu.” During their Gongfu workouts, both Geraci and Rob McKenna said they enjoy the kiba-dachi stance, which mimics a wall-sit exercise without the support of a wall. “I think my favorite memory so far is the time I had to hold a squat for several minutes as part of a black belt test in February,” McKenna said. Saint Mary’s junior Elizabeth Schroff said she appreciates the communal aspect of the club and the ability to assume a teaching role at practices. “Everyone in the club here is really dedicated to the art, and they are all awesome to work with,” Schroff said. “Being a green belt, I really enjoy getting the opportunity to help teach the younger belts and give them tips on how to improve and progress in the art.” Blair said he hopes Gongfu Club can continue as an exciting way for students, staff and faculty from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s to learn or progress in martial arts techniques. “In the long term, I would like to get students, faculty and staff members to black belt so that the club can be self-sustaining, for I know that I won’t be here at Notre Dame forever,” Blair said.
Fr. James King, C.S.C., religious superior of Holy Cross priests and brothers at Notre Dame, will begin his term as director of the Office of Campus Ministry on April 2. Appointed by Fr. Tom Doyle, C.S.C., vice president of student affairs, King will replace Interim Director Fr. Joseph Carey, C.S.C., who has served in the position since July 2010. King said he is a three-time Notre Dame graduate, having earned an undergraduate degree, a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Nonprofit Administration from the University. After graduation, he said he chose to stay and serve the Notre Dame community. “I’ve spent 21 years living in residence halls after graduating since entering [the Congregation of] Holy Cross,” King said. “I was the rector at Sorin College from 2003 to 2010 and vocation director for Holy Cross from 1997 to 2005. I’ve taught business ethics, first year seminars, and pastoral practice and ethics for the [Masters of Divinity] program.” Doyle said King’s “strong vision and broad worldview” will serve him well as director of Campus Ministry. “The University community is lucky to have the pastoral leadership of Fr. Jim King,” he said. “As an administrator, Fr. Jim has served and earned the respect of his fellow priests and brothers on campus.” Carey said the director’s duties include organizing campus-wide events and supervising Campus Ministry and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “It’s the director’s responsibility to respond to the needs of the Notre Dame community, sacramental preparation, retreats, faith sharing, and overseeing all that goes on in the Basilica,” Carey said. “Also, he takes care of things like the memorial Masses we’ve had for students who have died and the September 11 anniversary Mass this fall. Things just happen, and then he responds to them.” Carey said his experience as interim director was “a joy of his life.” “I’ve been at Notre Dame for a long time, and working in Campus Ministry confirmed what I believe – that the students, faculty, and staff at Notre Dame are among the finest people any of us will ever meet,” Carey said. Carey said he is confident King will positively affect Campus Ministry. “I hope that through his leadership, he will continue to inspire the wonderful staff of Campus Ministry and continue to make God known, loved and served,” Carey said. Doyle expressed similar confidence in King. “His gifted mind and generous heart will bless students, faculty and staff at the University of Notre Dame,” he said. King expressed his excitement to begin working as director. “Campus Ministry fulfills a vital role in the spiritual and liturgical life of Notre Dame that helps to define it as a place where the Holy Cross charisma of living and working among students is at the core of its mission,” King said. “I am excited and blessed to have the chance to work with such great people dedicated to furthering that mission and growing together in faith.”
Distance, steep ticket prices and a potentially hostile environment were not enough to keep some devoted fans from planning a trip to Norman this Saturday to witness a top-10 football clash between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Junior Peter Roemholdt said he is willing to endure the 30-hour roundtrip drive from South Bend in order to experience the renowned atmosphere at Oklahoma’s Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium. “The atmosphere is going to be electric,” Roehmholdt said. “I bet it’s going to be extremely loud, and especially if it’s a close game, it should be quite the experience.” Junior John Garry, who is traveling as part of the Notre Dame Marching Band, said he also is excited to support the team and be there for one of the most important games since the 2005 Notre Dame-USC showdown. Despite having to leave on Thursday and drive through the night, Garry said being a part of this game is still more than worth it. “It’s going to be rowdy, it’s going to be crazy,” Garry said. “[ESPN’s] ‘College Gameday’ will be there, so take what happened on our campus and multiply it. It should be a good day to be a college football fan.” Roehmholdt said he is also looking forward to getting a taste of the Oklahoma tailgating culture before the game. “The tailgating will be great,” Roehmholdt said. “A lot of these big schools pride themselves on their tailgates and pregame parties almost more than being at the game itself.” Garry said band members won’t have much time for activities before the game, occupied by a pep rally and with preparation for their halftime performance. “Basically we’re just there to be at the game,” Garry said. “Performing will be fun. Oklahoma fans are some of the rowdiest in the nation, so it will be great to get out there and be on the field for that.” Despite being behind enemy lines as a Notre Dame supporter, Roehmholdt said he is not concerned about having to deal with potentially abusive or belligerent Oklahoma fans. “It’s an 8:00 [p.m.] game, people will have been tailgating for a while so I’m sure there will be some rowdy individuals, but it will be fine,” Roehmholdt said. “I can handle a few ‘Notre Dame sucks.’” Garry said he expects the crowd environment to be intense due to the implications of the game, yet not as hostile as the atmosphere of Michigan. “The Notre Dame-Oklahoma rivalry isn’t quite as heated as other rivalries, and Sooner fans are known for being incredibly courteous outside the stadium,” Garry said. “Once you get inside the stadium, it will be a different story. Overall, Roehmholdt said he anticipates the trip will be one of the highlights of his time at Notre Dame. “At the end of the day you’re not going to remember the homework and the tests, you’re going to remember the experiences you had at Oklahoma for the biggest game in Notre Dame history for a long time,” Roehmholdt said. Contact Dan Brombach at firstname.lastname@example.org
The unemployment rate in the United States is 7.8 percent. The country is more than $16 trillion in debt. The banks received a bailout from the federal government. So did the auto industry. At the end of the year, Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire. Last year’s temporary payroll tax cuts are also scheduled to expire, resulting in at least a two percent tax increase for workers, when the Budget Control Act of 2011 takes effect. When the nation reaches this so-called “fiscal cliff,” the United States would also see the end of certain tax cuts for businesses, the beginning of health care taxes related to the Affordable Care Act and spending cuts to a number of government programs, including Medicare and the Department of Defense. No wonder polls by Rasmussen Reports, Gallup, Bloomberg National Poll and numerous news organizations rank the economy as the top issue for many voters on Nov. 6. Notre Dame economics professor Timothy Fuerst said all agree the country’s budgetary policy cannot last as it is, but the presidential candidates differ on their strategies to bring about change. “I think the broader issue is how to deal with the enormous federal budget deficits, on the order of $1 trillion a year,” Fuerst said. “This is simply not sustainable. Even after the economy recovers, there will be substantial deficits because of the rapid growth in spending, primarily entitlement spending such as Medicare and Social Security.” Democrat President Barack Obama and Republican former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney have both failed to explain what cuts they would make or how they would change entitlement spending, Fuerst said. “President Obama claims that his health care law will lower spending on health care and thus reduce Medicare costs,” Fuerst said. “Gov. Romney disagrees, but instead suggests other reforms such as higher retirement ages and insurance vouchers that would allow retirees to shop the private marketplace for insurance.” The candidates are opposed on tax policy as well, he said. Obama has proposed gaining revenue by taxing those with incomes about $1 million, while Romney wants to expand the tax base by eliminating deductions and loopholes that he has not identified in full. Notre Dame economics professor Robert Flood said the candidates, no matter their different philosophies, would both have to take the same basic steps toward a stronger economy. “Both need to move the budget toward balance,” he said. “Both will have to raise more revenue and spend less.” Economist Austan Goolsbee is a professor at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under Obama. Obama has focused on cutting taxes for the middle class and letting high income rates rise, Goolsbee said, whereas Romney has called for “across-the-board” tax cuts that tend to benefit those with higher incomes, abolishing the estate tax and cutting capital income taxes. “I think it’s a pretty fundamental issue of the election,” Goolsbee said. “Do you think economic growth comes from a small group of people at the top or from broad-based relief with investments in training, infrastructure and innovation?” Goolsbee called Romney “factually incorrect” in his statement that the unemployment rate has been dropping because people have stopped looking for work and left the job force. “Suggesting that nothing has improved since January 2009 is absurd,” he said. “”We were in the middle of an epic downturn that almost careered into a depression. … The route problem is that growth has been modest – around 2 percent – and that’s not enough to really juice the hiring side.” Fuerst agreed with Romney’s claim, saying the economic rebound after the recession has been tough on job hunters. “The labor market recovery has been very, very, very weak,” Fuerst said. “In my view, the best measure of [the job situation] is the percent of the population employed. This was just about 63 percent before the recession. During the recession, it fell to about 58.5 percent and has remained remarkably flat since then.” Shortly after Election Day, the nation could hit the approaching fiscal cliff, which Fuerst said will take consideration from more than just the president. “My guess is that no matter who wins the election, that the Congress will push most of these issues down the road about six months so that the administration will have time to come up with a complete policy proposal,” he said. A mid-October poll from Rasmussen Reports found 50 percent of voters trusted Romney over Obama on the economy, while 43 percent favored the incumbent president. The race has only tightened as Election Day approaches, but one fact remains clear for the winner – after Nov. 6, one of these two men will have to put the money where his mouth is.
As Notre Dame’s largest student-run organization, the Student International Business Council (SIBC) will institute a program to give students a new kind of on-campus job as early as this semester, senior Brett Hummel said. Hummel, who is the vice president of domestic internships for SIBC, said the Council will pair students with Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and small businesses for internships during the academic year. Depending on the companies’ employment needs, engineering, science and Arts and Letters students could team with business students to do real work for major corporations for the duration of at least a semester, he said. “While you’re on campus, during your academic year, instead of working at the Huddle or dining hall, you’d get the opportunity to work for companies like [General Electric] for 10 to 20 hours per week,” Hummel said. “And you’d be paid for that, and they’d be the highest-paid jobs on campus.” The internships will be open from students of classes ranging from second-semester sophomores to graduate students. Hummel said SIBC will broaden its reach and help students in all fields find valuable work experience with a new program for facilitating domestic internship opportunities. “[SIBC] members are always drawn more from the Mendoza students, and so the whole goal now is to try to broaden that,” Hummel said. “Students who are not necessarily business majors who want experience have the opportunity now to actually get that on their resumes.” Hummel said the domestic internship idea came from the “disconnect” he saw between the demands of employers for veteran workers and the struggle for undergraduates to gain meaningful work experience in the South Bend area. He worked with faculty advisors and associate vice president for career and professional development Lee Svete. “There is a degree of responsibility because it is actual, real work,” Hummel said. “The company’s going to take your work and give it to clients.” After completing an application and interview process modeled on that of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Hummel said students will then be assigned individual and team projects for a specific company. Team meetings and Skype calls with the company will ensure each student is making progress, he said. The new program will complement the SIBC’s existing international program, which currently consists of five positions in locations as far-reaching as Thailand and Ecuador. Sophomore Pedro Suarez, SIBC vice president of international internships, said the domestic program could eventually begin to incorporate international elements. “Hopefully, one day for the people who are looking for a global career, … it could suddenly become something where a company in Brazil could outsource their work to us,” Suarez said. Suarez said past internship experience does not necessarily make an applicant competitive. “I think more than experience, it’s someone who’s passionate about something, someone who can really learn and grow,” Suarez said. The new internship program will build invaluable skills for the future careers of students involved, Hummel said. “[The companies] can teach you all the stuff you need to learn, but they want to make sure that you are able to be taught and that you have those kinds of qualities to be a leader going forward,” Hummel said. An information session discussing both domestic and international internships will be held today at 7 p.m. in 155 DeBartolo Hall. Contact Lesley Stevenson at email@example.com
Notre Dame football brings the Saint Mary’s College and Notre Dame student bodies together each year, and Saturday it brought together the student government executives of both institutions. Prior to Saturday’s football game, Saint Mary’s student body president and vice president Kat Sullivan and Maddy Martin were honored alongside Notre Dame student body president and vice president Alex Coccia and Nancy Joyce. The ceremony consisted of both teams walking the American flag across the field and presenting it to members of the Irish Guard, who hoisted it onto the flagpole during the national anthem. The names and hometowns of the four leaders were also announced, she said. The four also watched the game from the press box, Sullivan said. “I was just in shock when we were walking out. I was like, ‘This is a really surreal experience,’” Sullivan said. “I was just so excited, and I felt really blessed to have that experience, and the fact that Notre Dame really considered us a part of the community. That they allowed Saint Mary’s to be involved was really cool. It was just exciting that my whole family was there to see me for that.” Martin said she agreed that it was a great experience, emphasizing how nerve-wracking the experience was for her and how close they were to the players. “Although it sounds simple, I was so nervous,” Martin said. “We were all really excited. We got there around 2:45 p.m. We just got a chance to walk around the field by the fifty-yard line. I was close enough that I probably could’ve touched one of the football players, probably like Tommy Rees when he was walking by.” Martin said this is the ninth year in which both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame student executives have been included in performing the ritual, and she said she felt honored to participate. “I know it was started back in 2004. However, it is such an honor that Kat and I are able to share such an exciting experience with the Notre Dame student body president and vice president, especially since we are not technically students of Notre Dame. It was awesome to look like a unified front,” Martin said. Before the game commenced, the student government leaders met Irish basketball head coach Mike Brey, University President John Jenkins, Assistant University Vice President Dennis Brown and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Sullivan said. Sullivan said Rice was very relatable and the group relished the chance to meet her. “We shook hands with her, and she asked if we were seniors, what our plans were for next year. She was very down-to-earth. She’s a Notre Dame alumna. She was awesome. It was a really, very cool experience. It was really cool that all four of us got to share that as well,” Sullivan said. Sullivan credits the fellowship between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s student governments for their immediate association following elections last spring. “Maddy [Martin] and I have a really good relationship with Alex [Coccia] and Nancy [Joyce]. We started hanging out with them … right after all four of us were elected to plan to collaborate this year on different events,” Sullivan said. The two administrations and Holy Cross student government will collaborate on a yearlong calendar of community events, Sullivan said. “There’s an event called Support-A-Belle-Love-A-Belle here [at Saint Mary’s]. It’s for Mental Health Awareness. It was started three years ago, and when we described it to Alex and Nancy, they wanted to introduce something like that at Notre Dame. So now they’re doing Irish State of Mind. We’re doing our own [collaboration] on three different events. We happened to get a hold of the Holy Cross student government as well this year. So it will be all three schools, and that’s in a few weeks,” Sullivan said. Martin said, ultimately, she was honored she was able to represent Saint Mary’s College with Sullivan. “I am so proud of my school and the women that attend it,” she said. “My opportunity to participate in the flag presentation signified the importance of Saint Mary’s as a whole. I was honored to be able to represent an incredible group of women in front of thousands of people.”
In Wednesday night’s student senate meeting, the group discussed student government’s “One is Too Many” anti-sexual assault campaign, potential options for study abroad students, and other upcoming events this week.Coccia said the campaign has received support from students.“We had about 2800 signatures,” student body president Alex Coccia said.“And around 1100 students indicated that they would be interested in becoming more involved in some form or capacity. … We’ve been discussing various video series ideas among other things.”Student body vice president Nancy Joyce said approximately 50 students have applied for the Food Services Student Advisory Board. Applications are due this Friday. The advisory board will be announced at next Tuesday’s town hall meeting run by Food Services. Senate debated a resolution penned by Department of Academic Affairs director Max Brown, which seeks to simplify the process of obtaining credit for courses taken while studying abroad.After studying abroad last summer, Brown decided to attempt to simplify the process. “It was really complicated for me to get credit accepted, and it seemed strange to me that there should be such a complicated process,” he said. Emanuele Barrufaldi, who presented the resolution with Brown, added that the University as a whole is becoming increasingly international with more and more students choosing to study abroad.However, every college has a different method of applying for transfer credit, as well as different policies for accepting it, Barrufaldi said. Additionally, many students—especially engineers—choose to study abroad during the summer because their curriculums allow little to no room for electives.The goal for the Department of Academic Affairs is two-fold. First, they aim to standardize the process of applying for credit across the colleges. Second, the department will try to follow in the footsteps of peer institutions such as Vanderbilt University and Duke University by establishing an online database to supply data on courses that the University has pre-approved for transfer credit. That way students taking a class previously approved by their college would not have to re-submit its syllabus for approval.“The first thing we’re going to do is look at the last 4-10 years where students have studied abroad and received credit. The idea is to encourage students to go to really competitive international institutions, places we can be sure that we can give transfer credit for,” Brown said.Classes that aren’t pre-approved would be subject to a standardized approval process and, if approved, would have their information added.The resolution, which officially requests the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Internationalization work with the Deans of the Undergraduate Colleges and Schools to establish the database and begin the process of standardization, passed unanimously.Tags: Senate
Going to Mass involves a community coming together for prayer and worship. Across campus, however, dorm Masses are taking this idea of community a step further by incorporating an element after Mass that does not involve hymns or readings: food. Whether it’s “Sundaes on Sunday” at Cavanaugh Hall or Keough Hall’s “Root Beer Float Mass,” dorm communities have decided to extend their time together outside of the chapel to gather after Mass for food and camaraderie. Senior Tommy Clarke was one of the founders of Morrissey Hall’s “s’Morrissey Mass” that takes place on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and afterwards offers a s’mores dip and graham crackers for Mass-goers.“The best way to bring people together: bring people around a campfire,” Clarke said. “We take a lot of pride with how we do Mass and how we do our spiritual life here in Morrissey.”Clarke said s’Morrissey Mass had some initial challenges, such as the weather posing a problem. Now, they only have s’mores outdoors on special occasions, such as the first s’Morrissey Mass of the year Wednesday. Other times, Clarke said, s’mores dip is enjoyed indoors where students and hall staff can be found dipping graham crackers in a dip comprised of melted chocolate and marshmallows.“We perfected our recipe, we like to say, and we brought quite a few people back — especially with people outside of our dorm, even,” Clarke said.Fr. Paul Doyle is the rector of Dillon Hall, home of “Milkshake Mass.” This Thursday night event is one of the most popular dorm food Masses on campus, and it was started in October of 1997.“This was an effort on our part to try to offer something wholesome and social right there,” Doyle said. “It’s always been social. … It was just a chance to have some fellowship after mass.”The most milkshakes Dillon Hall has made on one night is 308, Doyle said. He said Dillon residents make the 16-ounce milkshakes using a blender that processes a gallon every turn, and on a typical Thursday night, the hall goes through about 38 gallons of ice cream. Any extra milkshakes from Milkshake Mass, Doyle said, go to Dillon’s sister dorm, Welsh Family Hall.“It’s Thursday night when people want something to do other than study, and it’s a nice way to end the day,” he said. “We’re the first food Mass, but … it’s all about fellowship. That’s what people need to find strength in the community.”Alyssa Daly, sophomore and hospitality commissioner for Ryan Hall, is involved in organizing Ryan Hall’s Waffle Mass that takes place Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. Especially for freshmen, she said, the Mass is designed to help them get to meet people around the dorm, such as their in-residence priest, Fr. Joe Carey.“I think because of the community-building that comes out of it, it’s just a chance to talk to people,” Daly said. “Something we’re doing this year is on the first Wednesday of the month we’re doing Belgian waffles instead of Eggos.”Clarke also emphasized the importance of community during these specialty masses.“I think that the Mass can bring people together in prayer and really develop our spiritual lives and our relationship with God, and I think it’s important to do that together,” he said. “But I think our s’mores can bring together people for that other aspect of their lives, that community-building.”A full list of specialty dorm Masses is available on Campus Ministry’s website.Tags: Dillon Hall, food, Mass, Morrissey Hall, Ryan Hall
The Center for Civil and Human Rights sponsored the panel discussion “The Right to Vote: Shaping an American Electorate” on Monday afternoon. Moderated by David Campbell, chair of the department of political science, the discussion centered on the accessibility of the ballot in current American culture, as well as the shaping of the electorate in the past.The panelists included Dianne Pinderhughes, chair of the department of Africana studies and professor of political science, Jennifer Mason McAward, associate professor of law and acting director of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and Luis Fraga, professor of political science and Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership.African Americans did legally receive enfranchisement after the passing of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, Pinderhughes said, yet they remained disenfranchised because numerous devices, such as literacy tests, prevented many eligible African Americans from actually voting.“Post-Civil War, states were trying to make sure blacks could not partake in the electoral [system]. … Southern states have very large populations, these people form the balance of electoral power in the South, and Southern leaders attempted to curtail that,” she said. “The right to vote could not be sustained because of the power of the states, who were specifically determined to stop African Americans from voting. Even today, we see this challenge to the right to vote.”McAward said Congress attempted to change the situation with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.“The 15th Amendment was basically ignored for over 50 years after it was passed because of literacy tests that were enacted in the South,” she said. “Congress starting in the late 1950s to try to deal with that legacy in the South.”Understanding the act is imperative to understanding its legacy, McAward said. There are five sections of the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory voting practices that many Southern states adopted, including literacy tests, as a prerequisite to vote. While the act’s provisions provide nationwide protection of voting rights, it also contains special provisions that apply specifically to certain jurisdictions in the South.“Under Section 2 of the law, any citizen can become a plaintiff, that is, the person that is challenging a law, has to prove the law that was passed was discriminatory,” she said. “However, under Section 5 [which only applies to certain jurisdictions], districts have to pre-clear their voting law changes with the Department of Justice. Changing that burden of proof is an important thing — it places the burden of proof on the government itself.”According to McAward, this provision stopped about 40 to 50 discriminatory voting laws from being enacted per year. However, McAward said that in the landmark case Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court declared that the “coverage formula” — which decided what jurisdictions had to abide by Section 5 of the law — was outdated and unconstitutional. In order to keep Section 5 in effect, the House of Representatives has to draft a law that would change the coverage formula.“Now all these states are free of a pre-clearance requirement,” McAward said. “The Chair of the House Judiciary Committee refused to see bills that offered new coverage formals. They think Section 2 of the [Voting Rights Act] is enough.”Fraga said the enactment of voter identification laws, and the failure to pass a law that would uphold Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, is a bipartisan attempt to stop that influence of African-American and Latino voters.According to Fraga, many states have strict voter identification states, where a voter must present proof of identification in order to vote. These laws are put in place, according to Fraga, because of the “myth of voter fraud.”“While voter fraud occurs a voter who casts a vote while knowing they are ineligible to vote, this rarely occurs,” he said. “More often, inaccurate tallies, user errors and technological malfunctions occur, and these are not the same thing as voter fraud.”These laws are in effect to simply control voter turnout, Fraga said. He noted 51 percent of Latino citizens are not registered to vote, and just over 50 percent of Asian-American citizens are not registered to vote.“It is an explicit attempt to control which party wins and which party loses,” he said.Fraga said it is important to call voter fraud a “myth” because that allows people to understand the discrimination that is occurring.“If we don’t call the reality what it is, it inhibits our ability to do what is really necessary,” he said. “We must remain particularly vigilant to protect access to the ballot and the equality of access to the ballet. It’s who has access and who can influence our democracy; it’s how we can be an inclusive nation and our governing institutions.”McAward said voter ID laws have “a disproportionate impact on those who Congress is supposed to be protecting.”“It turns out that there is a substantial number of people who do not have voter IDs, and these people are overwhelmingly elderly and minority,” she said.Pinderhughes said it would be extremely difficult for older citizens, who are born in rural areas, to obtain a copy of their birth certificate. Even if their copy is on file at a registry, many simply cannot afford to pay for the copy.Fraga said the U.S. is “one of the few democratic countries that has an ‘opt in’ system.”“In other countries, the government takes the responsibility to register you to vote. Here, that burden is on the citizen. I worry about the extent of the message it’s sending to the country that this kind of exclusion is OK because it is being constitutionally justified,” Fraga said. “But honestly, we have a more fundamental problem than [citizens not] casting informed votes. We have a problem of citizens being prevented from even casting that vote.”Tags: Center for Civil and Human Rights, Voting Rights Act
Michael Yu | The Observer Mike Pence speaks in Purcell Pavilion at a 2015 memorial service for Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who served as the University’s 15th president. Pence will address students at this year’s May 21st commencement.The University’s announcement of Vice President Mike Pence as the 2017 Commencement speaker Thursday incited a variety of reactions from the student body, particularly from members of the class of 2017.The Senior Class Council released a statement to The Observer encouraging students to remain focused on the purpose of the Commencement ceremony.“This weekend is ultimately a celebration of our accomplishments, and we are proud to be a part of this class,” the statement said. “We hope that in spite of the diverse political beliefs among our class, our graduation weekend will be an opportunity to spend quality time with our friends and family as we say goodbye to the place that we have grown to love.”The executive board of Diversity Council, a student group promoting “awareness, understanding and acceptance of all differences that make up the Notre Dame community,” released a statement expressing the group’s dissatisfaction with the University’s decision.“Our working definition of diversity spans, but is not limited to race, gender, ethnicity/culture, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and spirituality,” it said. “In the spirit of our mission, we are disappointed and angered by the University’s announcement of Vice President Mike Pence as the 172nd Commencement speaker.”The Diversity Council’s statement called into question University President Fr. John Jenkins’s statement announcing Pence as the speaker.“In his statement, Fr. John Jenkins commended Vice President Pence for his ‘moral conviction’ and ‘dedication to the common good’ throughout his career as a public official,” the council’s statement said. “In response, we ask: Who is excluded from this vision of the common good? According to the vice president’s actions, many.”The statement denounced the administration’s decision to invite Pence, citing his rhetoric regarding the Muslim community, his stances against Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) refugees and legislation he introduced and supported that allowed discrimination of the LGBT community.“As the Diversity Council Executive Board, we wholeheartedly include these members of society, and of the Notre Dame family, in our vision of the common good,” it said. “In light of this invitation and endorsement of Vice President Pence as a representative of Notre Dame through the conferral of an honorary degree, we question whether the University’s administration can say the same.”Other students, however, take a more positive view of Pence’s history in politics. The Notre Dame College Republicans — who met with Pence as a group last spring — released a statement in support of Pence as the commencement speaker shortly after the University’s announcement.“The Notre Dame College Republicans are very proud to have Notre Dame host Vice President Mike Pence as this year’s commencement speaker,” the statement said. “Vice President Pence has a proven track record of conservative principles and has staunchly defended Christian values during his time in public office. We were honored to host him on campus during his time as governor of Indiana, and now we are excited for him to return as the vice president of the United States to deliver the keynote speech at this year’s commencement ceremony.”Senior Pat Crane, president of the College Republicans, said in an email that although he is disappointed the administration has not upheld the “tradition of bringing the president to speak” at commencement, he looks forward to Pence serving as the commencement speaker instead.“I am personally pleased to welcome Vice President Pence to campus as President Trump’s right hand man,” he said. “ … I am proud to hear his speech in May, which will continue the drive of the Trump administration to further unite this country and make America great again.”The perceived tradition of inviting the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame’s Commencement ceremony during his first year in office is a common misconception among members of the Notre Dame community. While six presidents have spoken at Notre Dame, only four have spoken at the Commencement ceremony during their first year in office: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.The Notre Dame College Democrats also released a statement Thursday in response to the University’s announcement, which cites the intended purpose of the Commencement ceremony as a primary cause of the group’s stance against the decision.“Commencement weekend is a time to honor our graduates and their families after four years of hard work and commitment,” the statement said. “As we send the class of 2017 into the world, we are given one last opportunity to celebrate their time and achievements here at the University of Notre Dame. We are profoundly disappointed that University President Fr. John Jenkins has chosen Vice President Mike Pence as Notre Dame’s 172nd Commencement speaker.”The statement additionally challenged Jenkins’s assertion that Pence served with “quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen” during his time as Indiana governor, pointing to Pence’s discrimination against the LGBT community in Indiana, as well as his stances on the Syrian refugee crisis and women’s rights as contradictions.“The new Administration has shown a basic disregard for the fundamental rights of so many communities,” it said. “We are saddened that Fr. Jenkins would invite Vice President Pence to serve as an ambassador of that Administration, as he receives an honorary degree on a stage shared by members of the very communities he marginalizes.”Tags: 2017 commencement, Diversity Council of Notre Dame, Mike Pence, Notre Dame College Democrats, Notre Dame College Republicans, senior class council