Friday Week: June 12

 

by Paul J. Browne

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A childhood witness to his father’s brutal beating by racists, and his own emasculation as an adult by police, G. Marcus Cole, Joseph A. Matson Dean of Notre Dame Law School, offers an answer.

G. Marcus Cole: "I am George Floyd.  Except, I can breathe.  And I can do something."

“On a hot summer Friday evening, my little sister asked my parents for strawberries. We lived in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and so all of the stores were closed. But my sister wanted strawberries, and my father wanted to get them for her. So, he loaded me, my sister, and my baby brother into the back seat of our car, and drove to another neighborhood to get strawberries. As we returned home, my father noticed that we were being followed by another car. Suddenly, that other car swerved in front of us and stopped, forcing our car to halt at the curb. In an instant, three white men, all in their twenties, jumped out of their car and rushed to ours. They dragged my father out of the car and began to beat him with tire irons, a crowbar, and a baseball bat. They did this in full view of his three little children…”  Read here.

 

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Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women's Basketball Coach Niele Ivey and Associate Head Coach Carol Owens participate in a community prayer rally at the Jon R. Hunt Memorial Plaza in downtown South Bend, at which Father Jenkins, other clergy, elected officials, and community leaders spoke and prayed in support of racial justice. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

 

Father Jenkins: “We have work to do.”

America’s near-exclusive focus on the coronavirus was rightly interrupted again this week for the ongoing national discussion on racism in society.

In his letter to the Notre Dame community on Monday, Father Jenkins said, “We know we have work to do in living fully the ideals we proclaim.  Our black students and colleagues often feel less included in the Notre Dame community many of us cherish, and sometimes feel the sting of remarks and actions that make them feel demeaned or excluded.  We must be honest about our failings, and commit to do better.  I make that commitment, and wish to work with you to combat the blight of racism wherever it exists—on our campus, in our nation, and in our world.” Read full statement here.

Reopening the University…

While most of their letter to faculty and staff addressed in detail the return to in-person classes, Charles and Jill Fischer Provost Tom Burish, Provost-elect Marie Lynn Miranda, and Executive Vice President Shannon Cullinan also addressed racism: “We live in challenging times.  Even as we continue to deal with the coronavirus threat and focus on making our campus community safe for faculty, staff, and students to return in the fall, our nation’s long history of racial and social injustice once again confronts us in dramatic ways.  The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police, like so many others before him, illuminates the long journey yet before us in realizing a nation and world that comports with our commitment to social and economic justice, consonant with Catholic teaching.  COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color makes clear that our work for justice must be wide and deep.  Notre Dame has an important role to play: providing an education that develops young minds, bodies, and spirits and undertaking research that will support a more just, peaceful, and equitable world.  This is among the reasons it is more important than ever to continue our work together.”  Read full letter here.

VP Erin Hoffmann Harding: Sharing Our Students' Voices…

Erin Hoffmann Harding, vice president for Student Affairs, shared her thoughts with students in a letter on Tuesday.  It read in part:  “Several of our students, recent alumni, and their allies have written this past week with pleas, anger, hope, and ideas. Our students have told us they are angry and in pain.  They have reminded us Notre Dame is neither immune to nor distant from the sin of racism. They are right.  As Father John said, we must be honest about our failings and commit ourselves to do better.”   Read full letter here.

Disheartening and Disappointing

Michael Pippenger, vice president and associate provost for internationalization, and Hong Zhu, senior director for global education, wrote to students scheduled to study abroad with the “disheartening and disappointing” news that fall 2020 programs have been cancelled.  Vice President Pippenger and others had been closely monitoring conditions overseas to see if restrictions there would be lifted in time to allow Notre Dame students to study safely abroad.  They found that “at the present time, these global travel restrictions are still in place, most of the countries are not processing visas, and the pandemic is getting worse in parts of the world.”   Read full letter here.

Read and Feed

Dozens of Notre Dame student-athletes, as well as peers from other Atlantic Coast Conference universities, have used their time during the pandemic to promote literacy and combat hunger.  The “Fighting to Read, Fighting to Feed” project is an online initiative in partnership with local educators and Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, including the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.  The student-athletes record themselves reading children’s books for kids in grades K-4, then post the videos to Instagram with a donation sticker for Feeding America.  They then tag other student-athletes and challenge them to do the same.  Organized by Irish soccer player Camryn Dyke and athletics staffer Collin Stoecker, the project serves a dual purpose during the coronavirus.  It promotes literacy among students whose school years have been cut short by the virus, and it contributes to food security at a time of rising unemployment and worrisome disruptions in the food supply.  Full story here.

 

Paul J. Browne is the vice president for public affairs and communications