Week-long celebration features panel on intersectionality, themed acousticafé

Notre Dame Student Government hosted PrideFest 2024, a week-long series of events beginning  March 19, intended “to celebrate LGBTQ+ students and their place on campus.” The week contained a “variety of programming to promote the right of each student to feel safe, welcomed and loved,” according to the Student Government website. The week included three official events, a panel discussion on “intersectionality,” an LGBTQ+ Acousticafé, and a “Pridefest Library Lawn Celebration.”

This year’s events marked the third annual celebration of PrideFest, with current Student Body President Daniel Jung and Vice-President Aidan Rezner following in the footsteps of both the Lee-Stitt and Njomo-Bisner administrations in hosting and promoting the event. In previous years, programming included talks on LGBTQ+ history, a “Queer Joy” student panel, art showcases, and an “LGBTQ+ Remembrance Vigil.”

After the week’s conclusion, Jung told the Rover, “We thought that the PrideFest programming went well and successfully reached many students.” 

Jung told the Rover, “From the Student Government perspective, the goal of PrideFest was to support all Notre Dame students, but particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+. Through programming like PrideFest, we hope students recognize that they are created in the Imago Dei and thus have immeasurable human dignity as children of God. We believe we were successful in this endeavor.” 

The incoming Kiser-Miller administration also included plans to “improve PrideFest efforts” in their campaign platform.

Dawson Kiser, president-elect of the student body, confirmed that his administration will host PrideFest again next year. He told the Rover, “We see the event as a way to ensure all Notre Dame students feel welcome on campus and an opportunity to foster the Spirit of Inclusion at Notre Dame.”

PrideFest 2024 opened with a panel discussion titled: “Connecting Through Conversation: A Discussion on Intersectionality at Notre Dame,” which featured three Notre Dame professors: Dianne Pinderhughes of Africana Studies and political science, Francisco Robles of English and gender studies, and Vanessa Miseres of Spanish. 

Jung defined intersectionality for the Rover as “the way in which one’s own multiple identities come together and interact in unique ways.” 

Greg Gehring, the Student Government Director of Gender Relations for LGBTQ+ Advocacy, stated that the panel’s purpose was “for students to develop a deeper understanding of how intersectionality acts at Notre Dame, and how different identities can react with each other at Notre Dame.” Among other topics, the panel reflected on the relationship between “LGBTQ+ issues” and Catholicism at Notre Dame. 

Pinderhughes described the conflicts that surround “issues of gender and sexuality” at a Catholic school, noting, “We’re always fighting about them.” She also noted her concern about “the fact that the university presidency can only be held by a member of the Holy Cross order, a priest who’s been a member of the faculty here.”

Despite her general concerns with Notre Dame, Pinderhughes praised Fr. Bob Dowd as “a very good selection” for the next university president. She referenced his work and interest “in foreign third-world countries” and that this makes him “a very different kind of president than we have had in the past.”

In response to a question regarding the university’s approach to “academic freedom,” Pinderhughes noted that the university should look at “a whole variety of ways of understanding ideas, philosophy, politics, the role of women, and the role of women in the church. … They really need to be more open to women playing a variety of roles, whatever those roles are.”

Robles also spoke on the intersection of these issues with Notre Dame’s Catholicism: “Sometimes it feels like this institution, or some people at this institution, don’t want to find ways to reconcile with you or to understand what difference is. … This question of difference is what makes us humans.” 

Robles continued, “You can’t have a society where everyone is identical, where everyone is the same. We can’t have a church where everyone believes the same exact thing, or does the same exact thing. That’s not a church, that’s a single thing.”

In response to a question about “the LGBTQ+ issues at Notre Dame,” Robles stated, “The biggest issue is the enormous amount of separation between the freedom that students have, administrative staff has, and faculty has, in terms of being out of the closet. … As a gay man, there are no impediments to my life here in South Bend, there just aren’t. I don’t know how else to put it. But I do know that that’s not the case for students. I do know that’s absolutely not the case for administrative staff.”

Jung reflected on the event to the Rover: “The panel was highly educational and enabled listeners to understand how the different and unique identities of our selected panelists shaped and molded their lived experiences.”

15 students attended the panel, including Student Government staff. 

In collaboration with the Student Union Board (SUB), the Acousticafé was held in Hagerty Family Commons. One attendee reflected positively on the experience, telling the Rover, “the performers were great.” 

This event was a special iteration of the weekly Acousticafé hosted by SUB at 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays. The usual event is open to all student performers and musicians, but the PrideFest event specifically “highlight[ed] LGBTQ+ artists,” according to the Student Government announcement.

As the final event of the week, the PrideFest Library Lawn Celebration lasted for four hours. Food and entertainment were provided, including “free food trucks, photo booths, and LGBTQ+ related resources on how to be an ally.”

Those who attended the celebration praised the “good community of the week.” Ben Martin, Student Government Director of National Affairs and Political Engagement, told the Rover, “It was really good, it was a lot of people out enjoying the good energy … good people, good vibes.” 

Another attendee stated, “I think the week went well and really spread good unity for everyone.”

In hosting PrideFest, Notre Dame followed a nationwide trend of other elite universities that also host similar Pride celebrations, including Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, and Georgetown

Michael Canady is a sophomore studying classics and constitutional studies. His current interests include the JFK Assassination and whether his last name’s etymology has evolved from Kennedy. He can be reached at mcanady2@nd.edu.

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