Notre Dame Trustee and newly appointed New York Schools Chancellor Cathie Black has drawn fire from parents and school officials by suggesting that “birth control” is the solution to school overcrowding. 

During a meeting of parents and officials in New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office, one father raised concerns about a shortage of classroom spaces in lower Manhattan schools.  Black quipped, “Could we just have some birth control for a while?  It could really help us all out a lot.”

Black’s responses to other concerns troubled parents and administrators alike, the New York Post reported.  Black commented on over-crowding issues, “So it is — and I don’t mean this in any flip way — it is, it is many Sophie’s Choices. With a, you know, with a board on the wall and saying duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.”

Black’s words referred to William Styron’s 1979 novel in which his protagonist, Sophie, is forced to choose which of her two children will survive a Nazi concentration camp.

New York Magazine reported that Black was booed at subsequent school meetings, which featured parents waving condoms in the air in reference to her previous remarks.

A Department of Education spokeswoman, Natalie Ravitz, later asserted that Black takes overcrowding “very seriously.”  “She regrets if she left a different impression by making an off-handed joke in the course of that conversation,” said Ravitz. 

Richard C. Notebaert, chairman of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees, said that Black’s comments do not reflect the “values and beliefs of Notre Dame.”  He stated, “She has always demonstrated an appreciation for and commitment to the mission of Notre Dame, and she has apologized for what was a poorly conceived attempt at humor.” 

Prior to assuming her role as schools chancellor, Black served as chairman of Hearst Magazines, which publishes Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, O, The Oprah Magazine, and many others.  She has served in various positions within the media and publishing industry, including an 8-year stint as president and publisher of USA Today. 

Claire Gillen is a junior history major.  Contact her at