Throughout my time working for the Rover, I have learned that over the years, each core group of staff members has brought its own personality and style to the paper. Last year, I was told that on production nights in years past, editors used to take a break by going from LaFun to 10 p.m. Mass at Lyons, then back again to finish around 4 a.m. (Fortunately for me, the current editorial board shares my preference for both earlier Mass times and finishing times.) In the last two years, I have also experienced the various musical tastes that have shaped the dynamic of different editing groups. (This year, I have now heard more types of jazz than I ever thought existed.)
Throughout these shifts in leadership and changes in personality there runs a common thread: the continual and consistent dedication to the Rover’s mission. At any point in this newspaper’s history, editors and writers have never ceased to hold the promotion and defense of Notre Dame’s Catholic mission as their fundamental goal.
I will admit, holding that mission in focus can sometimes be difficult, especially during the late nights of writing, reading, and editing articles. Nevertheless, I have the fortune of receiving constant encouragement, and certain experiences have also reminded me of the Rover’s essence and importance.
This semester, for instance, I have been taking a developmental psychology class that has brought several controversial topics to classroom discussions. These topics have included the nature of animals compared to that of humans, in vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies, and transgenderism. We have read contemporary articles and essays and watched documentaries and lectures on these subjects. Although these sources have offered a variety of perspectives, the impression I have received from them overall is an emphasis on the latest, progressive opinions.
In this class, my peers and I freely and respectfully share opinions and reactions to the sources. Nevertheless, when it comes to the more ethically controversial topics, the sources have not provided much substantial exposure to perspectives that, while perhaps against the grain, fully align with the teachings of the Church. For instance, during our conversation about IVF, I found myself clarifying that the Church does in fact oppose the practice, since this fact had not been mentioned beforehand. Similarly, our session on transgenderism raised very little question about the logic or morality of the concept itself.
In no way do I intend to discredit the class; it has been highly informative experience, guided by a very intelligent and kind professor. While preparing this article, I asked my professor how our class reflected the mission of the university and what factors went into choosing the readings. My professor answered that the readings were selected to present various viewpoints and build informed opinions based on data and different perspectives. Furthermore, some readings could disturb students’ ideas and push them to think deeply. Finally, my professor continued, the teachings of the Church provided helpful points and counterpoints within discussion and could further inform the conversation.
I very much appreciate these thoughts and have seen how they truthfully apply in my class. At the same time, I cannot help but think that the Catholic perspective sometimes falls into the background of our conversations, as if it were just another viewpoint that, especially for controversial topics like transgenderism, is less feasible. One need not blame the professor or even the students—our current social climate simply makes the open discussion of these topics uncomfortable and undesirable. Still, scientists and authors who conform to the Church’s principles do exist, even if they are unpopular in our society. With this in mind, my unique experience in this course has led me to ponder what a psychology class—or any class, for that matter—should look like at a Catholic university.
I believe that academic freedom is a genuine good that any university must protect, and a professor should never be forced to follow a curriculum that significantly contradicts his or her beliefs. At Notre Dame, a professor rightfully holds authority in each classroom—but in each classroom there also hangs a crucifix.
When students come to Notre Dame, they enter an openly Catholic culture—the Grotto, basilica, and ever-accessible dorm chapels testify to the Catholic emblems that surround them. In order to pursue its mission comprehensively, however, our university should ensure that students graduate knowing not only the external signs and motions of the Catholic faith but also the fundamental teachings—including the controversial ones.
This commitment does not mean trying to force conversion on students but rather increasing awareness about the institution they have joined. It means giving them the fullness of the Catholic education they came for. It means presenting Church teaching, identifying ideas as either in line with or against it, and saying, “This is what Catholicism is; take it or leave it.”
Fostering this kind of approach in all types of classrooms—not just theology but also biology, sociology, psychology, and more—will undoubtedly challenge many students’ preconceived ideas or perceptions of the world. But isn’t that what all universities are meant for? I venture to argue that this purpose must especially animate a Catholic university, where faith and reason unite to present known truths and deepen understanding, while giving individuals the freedom to determine their beliefs. In fact, students can make this decision freely only when they have been informed about all the existing ideas—including the fundamental values of their university.
Such a vision lies at the heart of the Rover. Working on this publication has encouraged me to think deeply about this place that I love, the richness of its mission, and how that mission must penetrate every corner of the university, from the top administrative office to the smallest classroom.
The project that the Rover undertakes is truly grand in every sense of the word. It can sometimes appear daunting, but over time, I have understood more clearly that small, daily efforts move the project forward. Discussions in class, conversations over lunch, petitions and events, and of course articles in the Rover all contribute to the cause of helping Notre Dame fulfill its beautiful mission.
It has been a distinct honor and joy to serve as staff writer, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of this wonderful publication over the past three years. I look forward to continuing to support through writing, and I wish the incoming editorial board the very best. I know that alongside whatever new traditions they build or group dynamic they create, they will hold true to the mission of the Irish Rover, which never fails to love the mission of Notre Dame.
Sophia Buono is a junior PLS major and ESS minor. She is very excited that she will be interning at USA TODAY this summer in McLean, Virginia. Contact Sophia at firstname.lastname@example.org.