While the admission teams at Notre Dame and Holy Cross once again begin to sift through and select hopeful applicants, St. Mary’s College has a completely different challenge.

Priscilla Fleek is the director of the newly formed office at St. Mary’s College which aims to incorporate people of different backgrounds into the community. Modeled after the successful program in Ohio, “Culturally Responsive Awareness Program!” launched this past August in Ohio. Soon after her appointment, she gave a lengthy press conference that I was lucky enough to cover for the Rover.

Fleek began by stating the purpose of this organization: “We, except men, are a universal community that strives to incorporate different cultures and people into our institution…”

From what I gathered, her statement was an attempt to explain the purposes and direction of this program. Others interpreted it differently. Her statement was muddled by a reporter from Chicago who was at the press conference when his recording device malfunctioned. The only part of the statement he recorded was “We, except men.” Unfortunately, by the time he wrote the story that night, he not only missed the majority of the statement, he incorrectly transposed the only line as “We accept men.” He wrote an article about St. Mary’s College abandoning 180 years of single-sex tradition.

It got worse. The article was picked up on the AP Newswires and hit the major papers for the morning editions around the United States.

Ms. Fleek woke up to over 200 texts and emails from alumni and administrators the next morning. “I screamed, ‘Oh crap!’ By noon I had over 1,000 emails from irate alumni and dozens of calls from newspapers and talk shows. By 1:30 the students had begun to protest outside my office. One of them threw a cabbage at my minivan. It left a dent, but surprisingly, the stain came off with warm water and soap.”

She continued. “I immediately called the reporter, but I was told that he was on the road, covering canine speed trials at the AKC in Skokie, IL. His editors apologized and agreed to release a statement. But the damage was done.”

Since the press conference in early December, Saint Mary’s College has received over 76,000 applications from male students.

“300 alone of them are from Mount Carmel in Chicago, an all-boys school,” commented Liz Lurkingham, the new interim director of admissions. She continued. “We’re getting male applicants from all over the country, and we can’t keep up. The problem is that our portal didn’t have a separator for gender because we’ve only received female applicants in the past. And some of these names are hard to decipher gender. What do you do with a Quinn or a Pat? This morning, for instance, I took an application from a student from Northridge Prep in Niles, IL. That was a head scratcher. Who names their kid Cranberry? Wait, don’t write that.”

The admissions team, however, has spotted rays of optimism between the clouds of disorder. “We’re not going to start accepting men into our school anytime soon,” said one of the admissions counselors who spoke in anonymity. “Rejecting all of these applications has caused our acceptance rate to drop drastically. We only accept 500 students. Compared to the 76,000 applications we have received so far, that puts our acceptance rate at less than one percent; it’s literally the lowest in the United States. Now, our school looks like an elite institution to outsiders, when in reality, it’s not.”

I tracked down the author of the article that brought the spotlight on St. Mary’s: Mariano Borracho. “I apologize if my actions caused any inconvenience,” he said. Understatement. He continued, “I would’ve loved to have gone there in my youth. I guess I got too optimistic.” Perhaps it’s people like Mr. Borracho who caused St. Mary’s College to reject men in the first place. 

Mr. Borracho was fired immediately from the Tribune. However, he was picked up by our team and will be joining our staff soon to cover nefarious squirrel activity on the Notre Dame campus. 

To issue a complaint, please contact Joe Rudolph at jrudolp3@nd.edu.

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