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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

An open letter on diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Notre Dame

Dear Notre Dame Community, At a roundtable event that we held in February 2021, an anonymous attendee referred to the University of Notre Dame as a “bastion institution of white power and privilege.” While the university has taken steps to address this legacy through DEI initiatives, as it stands, the university does not live up to its promise of being a home for the entire campus community. Until the voices of our underrepresented community members — who face discrimination, microaggressions and systemic exclusion — are at the forefront of the university’s DEI efforts, the university’s promise will never be fulfilled. We write to you today as representatives of a Student Steering Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to discuss the state of DEI initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. Last year, in response to increased calls from Notre Dame students, faculty, staff and alumni about racial justice and DEI issues at Notre Dame, the Board of Trustees released a Task Force Report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This report engages with diversity statistics, features testimony from Notre Dame community members, and makes concrete recommendations for how the university can strengthen its diversity efforts and foster a sense of inclusion and belonging for students from underrepresented backgrounds. While this report does critical work to facilitate conversations about DEI at Notre Dame, many Notre Dame community members, ourselves included, were left feeling that our voices and experiences were not represented in the Board of Trustees’ report. Thus, the Accomplice Project and the undergraduate Student Government brought together representatives from student organizations across campus, forming a Student Steering Committee on DEI. Among the members at our initial roundtable discussion on DEI were leaders from 1st-G ND, Access-ABLE, Africa Graduate Club, Black Graduate Student Association, Black@ND, Black Student Association, Diversity Council ND, Frontline, Student Government, The Accomplice Project, Graduate Students Against Racial Injustice at Notre Dame, LGBT Law Forum, Native American Students Association of Notre Dame, Prism ND, Wabruda and Shades of Ebony. Faculty members from the Departments of American Studies, Institute for Educational Initiatives, Sociology and International Peace Studies were also included in the conversation. As a committee, we recognized the siloing of DEI conversations at Notre Dame and the importance of highlighting the voices of those most impacted by the university’s DEI initiatives: our underrepresented community members. Thus, after condensing our gathered student and faculty testimony into feedback and recommendations, we drafted our own DEI report, entitled “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Notre Dame: Student Feedback & Recommendations.”We created this report in an effort to center underrepresented voices in DEI conversations at Notre Dame and to push the university to co-create initiatives that foster inclusion and belonging alongside underrepresented students, faculty, and staff. Our report offers feedback on the Board of Trustees’ Task Force Report and includes both general and student-facing recommendations. Some key points of feedback included in our report are: We ask for the university to publicly share quantifiable and time-bound goals for how they will enact DEI initiatives going forward;We request that the university expand their diversity conversations and initiatives to include all historically marginalized identities—extending this conversation to encompass diverse groups not presently included in the Board of Trustees’ report;We ask for the university to create a position for a Vice President of Institutional Equity and Diversity; andWe provide many specific recommendations for how the university can support undergraduate and graduate students with marginalized identities, including first generation/low income students, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities and racially and ethnically diverse students. We began this process because we know first-hand what it feels like to have our experiences as diverse students overlooked. The more we talked with other students, faculty and staff across campus, the more we realized how much work there is to be done and how critical it is that diverse communities are the ones leading conversations on DEI at Notre Dame. We want to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds have a real stake in the university’s DEI initiatives and that Notre Dame can truly live up to its promise of being a home for everyone. If you’re interested in supporting our efforts, we encourage you to add your name to our running list of signatures “Student Feedback and Recommendations Report Signatures,” and share this form with your networks! Yours in Notre Dame,

Amaya Medeiros

Student Government, 2021-2022 Director of Diversity & Inclusion

Lenai Johnson

The Accomplice Project

April 24

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