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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
The Observer

Academia lost

 We are writing this letter to The Observer on behalf of two of the most impressive, caring, and genuine professors that we have ever had the privilege to work with during our time at Notre Dame.

Bo Smith and Tom Roche have only taught at this university for two years, yet in this short period of time have had a noticeable impact on the student body in a way few professors are able to boast. Their courses span the FYS Honors Program, the Program of Liberal Studies, the Department of English, and the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, in which they have been especially recognized. Their course "Acting for the Non-Acting Major" in which we are all currently enrolled has become one of the first classes to fill up, and continually attracts a diverse group of students from all of the University's colleges and departments.

It is our opinion that they are two of the best professors to ever work in the departments they are involved in at Notre Dame, and borh deserve the opportunity to continue their instrumental role in undergraduate education. Unfortunately, despite Notre Dame having one of the largest endowments of private institutions in the United States, recent budget cuts have prevented Bo and Tom's contract from being renewed. Currently it appears that, at the most, Tom will have the opportunity to teach one course in the fall, and Bo one in the spring: a significant decline from the six courses they have taught each term during the 2009-2010 academic term. We are writing this defense for their teaching merit in the hopes that the administration will listen to the student body and give more undergraduates the opportunity to study with these professors.

First, each professor is incredibly qualified to be teaching undergraduates. Bo is an established actor of stage, television and film who began working in the industry as a teenager and has gone on to act in numerous films and Broadway productions. He is incredibly intelligent, and during our time in class, he astonishes students with his extensive historical, cultural and theatrical knowledge. Tom spent time studying under C.S. Lewis at Oxford, wrote the most widely-used translation of "The Faerie Queene," and is one of three members left in charge of the estate of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He taught at Princeton University for 44 years. Bo accompanied Tom at Princeton in the final year of his teaching, and together they taught a course on Shakespeare in the largest auditorium offered for a class because the demand for the class after just one semester exceeded 300 students.

Second, these professors are teaching a course that directly correlates to the University's mission to provide students with a well-rounded and fulfilling education. Because of the way Notre Dame structures its undergraduate requirements and departments, it is very difficult for students to get into classes outside their major. Bo and Tom teach a class that remains one of the most unique opportunities currently available to students who are not a part of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre. It is the only opportunity non-majors have to be enrolled in an acting class, which promotes both creativity and proficiency in public speaking. It provides a controlled, friendly environment in which students are encouraged to speak out and challenge their comfort zones. Students who have never acted before have this year performed pieces by Wilde, Shakespeare, Kushner and more. Pieces that are challenging for even the most talented professional actors are taken on by students in "Acting for the Non-Acting Major," and because of the dedication and care of Bo and Tom, the students are able to succeed.

But most importantly, Bo and Tom deserve to stay and teach more classes at Notre Dame for the incredible individuals they are. Both teachers are kind, generous and caring in a way unlike any professors we have encountered at Notre Dame. They don't care about their students merely as pupils, but as individuals whose lives they are genuinely interested in. They take time to meet with students about virtually anything and everything outside of class. They have even taken students out to dinner to discuss future careers, the work they are doing in class, and life in general. Their class is a fun, supportive environment, where students actively encourage each other to rise to their potential.

Speaking from experience, we have absolutely loved coming to class every single day this semester, and there isn't a class that goes by without the entire group — including Bo and Tom — bursting into laughter over something that happens. We approach all of our assignments genuinely excited to learn, and we sincerely believe that you would be hard-pressed to find any course Bo and Tom teach where students feel otherwise.

For those of us who will be graduating this spring, we are honored to say that we have taken what could be the final "Acting for the Non-Acting Major" course that Bo and Tom teach, and many of us wish that we had been fortunate enough to take more courses with them earlier in our academic careers. For those of us who are undergraduates, we sincerely plead the University to recognize what a valuable asset they are to students at Notre Dame, and we ask that you give us the opportunity to continue to learn from these extraordinary men.


Meghan Manning, Katherine Manic,
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Sam Vadas
April 27

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.