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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Observer Editorial: Let’s be better neighbors

You’ve seen him in the Noble Family Dining Hall on Saturday morning, bleary eyed and eating scrambled eggs, the only boy sitting in a sea of Saint Mary’s students.

You’ve seen her sitting alone in her first Notre Dame course, struggling to log into a computer cluster because she keeps typing her Saint Mary’s email into the username field.

You’ve seen them surreptitiously checking their snap map to make sure they’re actually at Holy Cross College and not Holy Cross Village.

Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross exist underneath a tri-campus bubble — and yet, we still somehow feel uncomfortable crossing the street and venturing onto each other’s campuses. Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s have existed, quite literally, side by side since the College’s founding in 1844, and Holy Cross followed in 1966.

We’ve had almost 175 years to become better neighbors, and we’ve taken steps toward becoming a true community, but we still have work to do.

It’s important to note each campus holds a unique, storied past and campus culture, and we can’t expect these identities to disappear when students cross the street. Instead of letting these differences divide us, we should celebrate them. Although academic islands such as ours are present throughout the country, none of them compare to the relationship shared by Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross.

Outside of Notre Dame tailgating, football games and the parties that follow, students from the three campuses usually exist independently from one another. We grill together, cheer together, drink together, but go home separately. It’s difficult for us to build truly meaningful friendships outside of party culture, partly because other opportunities are hardly presented.

One of the only major tri-campus events we have is Domerfest. While this Welcome Weekend “tradition” is unfortunate and a whole other topic in and of itself, this cesspool of frightened first years and transfer students is the first place we encounter the tri-campus community.

This is also where we become painfully aware of our differences, based on t-shirts and introductions. Where one may expect a name and a dorm, others supply, “Oh, I don’t go to Notre Dame” — and people make assumptions. Students go into this event armed with tales of boys trying to get as many numbers from “Smicks” as they can, stories of mosh pits and terror. What do they leave with? A bad case of B.O. and a warped sense of the tri-campus community.

We can do better.

Bitter stereotypes have been born out of this lopsided consortium. Let’s get rid of them.

Let’s take some advice from the world’s most famous neighbor, Fred Rogers: “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

Let’s create spaces where we can meet and come together without White Claws clutched between us.

Let’s entrench the kindness into the activities, organizations, systems and treat each other with openness, acceptance and equity.

Let’s learn to feel comfortable crossing the street. Let’s be better neighbors.

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