“We shall always place education side by side with instruction; the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart. While we prepare useful citizens for society, we shall likewise do our utmost to prepare citizens for heaven.”

-Bl. Basil Moreau, CSC

Only a month away from donning cap and gown, we reflect with gratitude on the last 4 years.  We have counted our blessings, and they are many.  We have been privileged to learn from devoted and inspiring teachers devoted to both the intellectual and personal growth of their students and to have formed true friendships.

Notre Dame offers a rich sacramental life for those who seek it.  From the events hosted by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture to Eucharistic adoration, opportunities abound to explore the Catholic intellectual tradition and to deepen one’s faith.  At its best, Notre Dame truly provides what Bl. Basil Moreau, CSC, described as education for the mind and heart alike.

From the basilica to the stadium, Notre Dame offers many opportunities for devotion.  Even the 60’s architecture has a certain charm on a beautiful day, if you squint.  (We recommend the view from the Stepan Center.)

Such a vantage point also renders more bearable the dimmer sides of campus life.  As high school seniors and their parents consider where to invest the next 4 years (and a small fortune), we submit the following areas for polishing.

Core curriculum:

Notre Dame lacks a real core curriculum, requiring instead a disjointed collection of courses.  Want to satisfy your university seminar requirement with a course on pirates or the history of sex and gender?  Notre Dame is happy to oblige.  A rigorous understanding of the western or Catholic tradition is neither valued nor in vogue.

The required courses themselves often leave something to be desired.  Typically shunted off to graduate student teachers who lack a real interest in the university’s Catholic character, the introductory courses in philosophy and theology are particularly weak.

Campus culture:

We’re not talking about Bookstore Basketball, fro-yo machines, or hipster moccasins but rather the compartmentalization of student life.  The compartments are well described by an entry in a recent Stallnotes: “What’s your favorite place on campus?  2A because we throw ragers….and the Grotto. J”  Students see no contradiction in hitting the books, the Bible, and the bottle in rapid succession.

In many ways, these habits are encouraged by dorm structure and winked at by authorities.  Instead of holding young adults to the high standards of which they are capable, campus authorities seek to minimize the physical, social, and legal consequences of alcohol abuse and concomitant sexual objectification.

Institutional witness:

Notre Dame’s internal confusion about its Catholic identity is manifested in the inconsistency of its public witness.  Notre Dame follows its fellow top-20 schools in emphasizing popular (and important) ideas of dialogue, academic freedom, and service but often fails to proclaim the principles most lacking in the modern world.

Notre Dame proudly defines itself as the premier Catholic university in the country.  With this status comes responsibility: the university must be willing to undergo criticism for unpopular stances if it is to be on the real ‘cutting edge.’  Will the university stand behind the pro-life movement with the same force of the Notre Dame students who fought the Ku Klu Klan?  With the force of Fr. Hesburgh marching alongside Martin Luther King, Jr?  Will the university speak out for religious freedom in our country against the meaningless “accommodation” of the HHS mandate?

Students should be able to look to their ALMA MATER for leadership and guidance.  Notre Dame undoubtedly promotes academic achievement.  What kind of character does the university hope to foster in its graduates?

Claire and Katie wanted to write a byline that made you laugh, cry, and call your mother…but the pressure was just too much.  Contact them at cgillen2@nd.edu and kpetrik@nd.edu.