We see it everyday, shining no matter the weather—the golden dome, the pride and joy of our great university.  In recent years, I feel that the dome has become more and more a sign of the wealth of this university.  We hear facts about the gold and how often it is replaced, but who is always standing up there, constantly watching the beloved of her university?  Is she smiling…or is she crying?

I really started thinking about all that Our Lady sees perched on her golden throne one night at a formal in LaFortune.  The way people dance has always bothered me, mostly the way in which the “men” dance with the girls in, what seems to me, overtly sexual ways.  No man should treat a woman in such a way, especially because these women could one day play a very special role in society as mothers.  As I observed the dance floor and was thinking about these things, I happened to glance out of the window closest to the dome and see Our Lady looking into the room.  I asked myself, what is she seeing?  What does she think about what is happening? 

It is, after all, her university, and she wants every woman to be treated justly and well.  Years spent at her university should be a time to cultivate deep respect for women in proper relationships and a life of virtue.  This is, of course, completely anti-“college,” but since when do we go to just any college?  Our very own Mission Statement says: “The University prides itself on being an environment of teaching and learning that fosters the development in its students of those disciplined habits of mind, body, and spirit that characterize educated, skilled, and free human beings.”  Here at the University of Notre Dame, we are called to form our body and spirit—something that does not necessarily happen in the classroom.  It is through our social activities and reaching out to friends that these aspects of our humanity are nurtured.  Do the students of this university work towards this goal?

In my experience from overhearing dinner conversations and talk in the dorms, weekends are not always enjoyed with this goal in mind.  Conversations center on hook-ups, puking and parties.  While parties in themselves are not bad, they are often occasions for great temptations.  An abundance of alcohol unsurprisingly leads to blackouts and poor uses of judgment.  Unfortunately, these choices often result in disrespectful behavior to women (whether consensual or otherwise) and a fall into the gluttony of over-consumption.  These habits do not produce a student body healthy in body and spirit.  They do not allow us to embrace the full extent of an education at the University of Notre Dame.

In an effort not to generalize, many students also spend the weekends strengthening their friendships in healthy ways.  Groups of friends come together to play cards, watch movies, play soccer or maybe just have a simple cup of coffee.  It is in times such as these—times unimpaired by alcohol or hook-ups—that people come together in a setting removed from the strain of schoolwork to enjoy one another’s company. It is a chance to find out more about ourselves, about our friends and how we interact with others.

There is clearly a very right way and a very wrong way to spend our non-studying time while at this university.  At no moment should we completely “let go” and engage in hazardous “fun”; rather, the time not spent studying or in the classroom is an excellent opportunity to form our character, an activity we would find extremely hard to do while drunk or in our rooms after parietals.

Despite recurring problems on the weekends, it is important to remember that Our Lady—our Mother—loves us very much. Despite our many faults, she wants us to come to her, especially at the Grotto and especially in our four years here.  She pays special attention to all those that walk beneath her dome because she wants all of us to be truly happy in life.  So go to her, and remember: She always listens.

John VanBerkum is a sophomore in O’Neill Hall studying political science and philosophy.  He can be reached at jvanberk@nd.edu.