Howdy Notre Dame,
Over Fall Break, we presented to the Undergraduate Education and Student Life Committee of the Board of Trustees. The committee invited us to present our perspective around welcoming and supporting the current first year class — the most diverse class in Notre Dame's history. In our report, we focused on the ways in which the university could improve the experience of underrepresented students. We delivered the following recommendations:
Evaluate Speak Up ND
The prevalence of students citing adverse treatment due to their identities combined with the low reporting rate of these incidents brings into question the effectiveness of Speak Up ND. We recommended the university, through student feedback, review current reporting systems.
Establish Student Accountability Board for Discriminatory and Harassment Policy
To ensure equitable outcomes within and to build trust, students should be integrated into the conduct process. We recommended that a student board be established to review complaints alongside the Office of Community Standards.
Ensure students are included in the formulation of a new university-wide strategic plan.
As a strategic plan is devised, students should be a part of conversations and discussions on what the university should prioritize. We recommended that the university facilitate a direct connection between students and decision-making bodies.
Encourage the Office of Residential Life to engage students in residential policymaking.
Genuine student engagement must be prioritized in all matters affecting residential policy. We recommended that the Office of Residential Life utilize the Campus Life Council for student feedback.
Strengthen protections for accommodation based on disability.
To fairly accommodate students with disabilities, professors should have a more comprehensive toolkit. We recommended that the university collaborate on standardizing policy across professors on accommodating student needs.
Prioritize greater funding and staffing for the diversity offices in the Division of Student Affairs.
The Office of Student Enrichment, Multicultural Student Programs & Services and Gender Relations Center represent a coalition of offices that meet the needs of marginalized students. We recommended that these offices be prioritized for funding and staffing.
We were happy with the opportunity to present to the committee but realize that our report was not exhaustive. Our report was informed by student testimony and personal experience and attempted to deliver as many perspectives on the “Notre Dame experience” as we could find. While there is no one Notre Dame experience, our hope is that the committee will see the much needed work for the university to truly realize a “spirit of inclusion.” As always, we welcome feedback on ways in which we can work to enrich all of your experiences in the coming months.
In Notre Dame,
Allan Njomo, President
Matthew Bisner, Vice-President
Alix Basden, Chief of Staff