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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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ND Day: money, power, Notre Dame

Money for what, exactly?

On the east door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the inscription reads, “Money, Power, Notre Dame.” This is the creed that the Notre Dame administration lives by and for. It is this Holy Trinity of “Money, Power, Notre Dame,” in which we students profess our faith at Sunday Basilica masses. Every spring, we come together as a global community and celebrate Notre Dame Day: a massive global crowdfunding campaign to worship money, power and most importantly, ourselves. 

The apparent purpose or goal of ND Day is large-scale money accumulation. The metrics by which ND Day operates are fundamentally flawed and intentionally deceptive. The meaningful purposes of causes and clubs are subordinated and reduced into two metrics: amount of money raised and number of unique donors. Clubs and causes must balance their money-making schemes between raking in a large sum of money and shaking down a high number of unique donors. The reward will be you get to keep the money you raise and you get a percentage from the Challenge Fund, an enticing pool of $250,000, that is doled out in proportion to the number of a club’s unique donors. 

It must be noted that a majority of club funds for the school year are not generated from ND Day. The Club Coordination Council, a bureaucratic branch of the Student Union, determines the allocation a club will receive from the University, which makes up a majority of a club’s budget. All of this is to say that the fates of clubs are not exactly contingent on their performance at ND Day, although the University would like to make it seem so. A poor performance on ND Day will not shut down a club because they ran out of money. But a high-performing club on ND Day can ultimately be punished to some degree. The percentage of revenue from the Challenge Fund is reported to the CCC. It is possible, perhaps even likely that the CCC reduces a club’s allocation for the next year because they have an excess of cash for the current year. Therefore, it may even be in the club’s best interest to ignore fundraising efforts on ND Day and receive a sizable allocation from the CCC. 

I argue that although money is the apparent purpose, there is another, more sinister purpose. A club that performs well in the pursuit of money will be rewarded and potentially punished via money. But even then, Notre Dame does not really care about the total amount of money they raise, for that amount pales in comparison to their endowment. ND Day is primarily an ostentatious demonstration of Notre Dame’s lustful urge to increase their reach on the global community. This is why the number of unique donors is such a powerful, important metric. A larger reach leads to more donors. More donors leads to more money. More money leads to more power, that is to say, more capital and people to engage in whatever initiatives it deems fit. I cannot comment on the merit of such global initiatives, on whether they will be a force for good, or for evil. Regardless, power via money is at the end of the road for ND Day. 

The principle of money and power is corroborated by the actual practice and execution of ND Day. In addition to The Challenge Fund and the We Are All ND Challenge, pools of $250,000 and $25,000, respectively, there are 46 other smaller prizes with varying criteria. There is a live leaderboard to track the amount of money raised, the number of current donors, the percentage of bonus and share of the challenge fund. Moreover, there is a broadcast from Tuesday April 23 from 6:42 p.m. to Wednesday April 24 11 p.m. to showcase all the exemplary individuals and organizations that truly represent the spirit and mission of Notre Dame. Those like Orla — Notre Dame’s First Therapy and Outreach Dog. Last but not least, there is a social media toolkit to provide social media graphics and tips on how to beguile your senile grandparents into including Notre Dame in the will. I definitely needed a ChatGPT generated social media caption template to put on my Instagram because I lack the cognitive function. All in all, the supporting mechanisms of ND Day all point toward the same principle of money and power. The Dome places all of us in a 24 hour rat race to outcompete each other in generating money and awareness for itself.

ND Day gives space for donors to “strengthen the areas of Notre Dame that matters most to them.” Ideally, donors and everyone would place their money toward the causes that have the most meaningful impact or mission for the community. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Financial aid, which in my estimation should be the highest source of donations, is not. There are other influences at play, especially for older residence halls like St. Edward’s Hall, who yearly receive the highest volume of donations primarily based on their longevity, not quality. Moreover, there are some unexplainable phenomena, like the NDPD Therapy Dog receiving significantly more donations than the Right to Life club. It is the consensus that a dog is a more worthwhile cause to donate money to than one that champions the sanctity of life and defends against a culture of death. Perhaps, this much less a criticism of the mechanisms of ND Day and more so a criticism of humans and how they allocate their money — poorly. 

I write this article as both a criticism and a warning. I criticize the University’s lust for money and power, which is much more pervasive and sinister than just its crowdfunding initiatives. It is inconceivable to me that Our Lady’s University thinks it can serve both God and mammon. I warn all of the dangers of the vices, namely, pride and covetousness, that arise out of a disordered relationship with wealth. Until we can change our ways, we will continue to mindlessly amble throughout the pathways of His hallowed earth and intoxicatingly worship our true gods.


Jonah Tran

Jonah Tran is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying finance, classics and constitutional studies. He prides himself on sarcasm and his home — the free state of Florida. You can contact Jonah at jtran5@nd.edu.

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