Daniel Smith, Staff Writer
While standing in line at Reckers, customers will often notice the latest pop song being belted out by a 6’4”, slender black sophomore tending to pizzas and piadinas. In many ways Curran (pronounced Qur’an) Cross is not an average Notre Dame student. His bisexual predisposition and mixed race background are only two of many characteristics that set him apart. He is also more likely to be seen working on football Saturdays than at the stadium, and he possesses an indomitable work ethic that keeps him involved in over ten multicultural and art clubs.
Cross was the primary bread-winner for his family in high school and overcame extreme poverty to get into Notre Dame. He was ecstatic about his acceptance, but almost transferred shortly after his arrival. His initial experience of campus life included being the subject of racial slurs and being accused of smoking marijuana without cause. Cross shared his view of community life on campus: “Given that so many events on campus are geared toward the ‘typical’ Notre Dame student (upper-middle class, white, politically conservative and Catholic), it seems that the presence of those that do not fit into these groups can easily be ignored.”
According to Cross, with the multitude of multicultural clubs and the increase of support for LGBTQ students, the university need not take more steps to include minority groups. However, he does plead for racial sensitivity, noting an incident in 2011 in which fried chicken was placed in the mailboxes of the Black Student Association and the African Student Association.
One of the primary places where racial sensitivity can be cultivated is in the dorms. Ed Mack, former rector of O’Neill Family Hall, shared his thoughts on diversity and inclusion as they pertain to resident life. He described a past dilemma of finding a balance between being color-conscious and color-blind: “I don’t want anyone to feel that the only reason I would invite him to an event was that he was Asian or gay or non-Catholic. I always wanted the guys to feel valued as persons, not as representatives of groups.”
When asked if any advantage was given to minority groups when applying for resident assistants, assistant rectors or members of frosh-o staff, Mack explained that he took into consideration the diversity of the group he would be serving and attempted to have his staff fit that group as much as possible. He also said, however, that a servant heart on the inside was far more important to him. Mack’s view is that special steps should be taken to include everyone, not just those who are considered minorities. In fact, the shy and emotionally unstable worried him far more than underrepresented groups.
Mack’s current work as Assistant Director of Pastoral Outreach is not unlike his experiences as a rector. For Mack, “people are people.” He is impressed by the young men and women of this campus on a daily basis, regardless of their religion, skin color or sexual orientation. Like many other rectors, Mack sought to promote a spirit of inclusion for everyone in his residence hall. Despite these efforts, ignorant and divisive behavior persists on campus.
University President Father John Jenkins, CSC, announced this past September the creation of the President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. This team was commissioned to improve diversity on the Notre Dame campus and involve more underrepresented groups in various aspects of campus life. In the past 20 years the minority population at Notre Dame has tripled to 23 percent, but as Fr. Jenkins noted in his September 10 letter to faculty, staff and students, “building a truly diverse and inclusive community is never fully completed.”
This integration of a seamlessly diverse and inclusive community is nowhere near completion, but this new committee may be exactly what Notre Dame needs to bridge the gap. In response to questions from the Rover as to what the Committee has accomplished since its inception, Dennis Brown, University Spokesman and Assistant Vice President of Public Information and Communications, assured that various initiatives are underway.
Daniel Smith is a sophomore studying accounting and theology. He was practically raised by Catholic monks in Mount Angel, Oregon and cares deeply about theological issues on campus. He’s new to the Rover and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.