Editor’s note: Letters appearing in the spring 2018 print issue are marked by a double ##.
##As an alumnus who leased a small apartment throughout my sophomore, junior and senior years, I was disheartened to read about the announcement that all students will be required to live on campus for six semesters instead of the current two (“Room, board and beyond”). Seemingly no modern-day reporting, especially about academe, would be complete without addressing “concerns about economic inequality, racism and sexual assault,” but I am most concerned for the students — particularly at a university professing to be Christian — who would prefer off-campus living environs that honor biblical teaching over the alcohol-fueled party scene. My freshman-year morning newspaper route through four men’s dorms, which involved routinely stepping around vomit and discarded bottles, was hardly reflective of Paul’s admonition, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.”
I do so hope the dorm-room photo illustrating the article — containing a banner reading “Highway to Hell” — is only metaphorical.
J. Brendan Regan ’94, ’98J.D.
##The appeal of dorm life is greatly different from 50 years ago. During my time at Notre Dame, I was a four-year member of the University band and majored in chemical engineering. My days were spent attending classes, going to the old band room in Washington Hall and spending countless hours studying in the library. There was always too much noise in the dorms to concentrate. My dorm was a place to sleep, shower and keep my stuff. I had no time for dorm-related activities. My sense of community and spirit came from the Band of the Fighting Irish. I never met an in-residence priest. I never attended a dorm Mass. Why go to a chapel when the beautiful basilica was only steps away?
I have never been in any of the newer residence halls, but I can imagine that a room there is much nicer than my room in Howard Hall. I find it absurd that students in the older halls pay the same room and board rate as those living in the newer dorms.
John C. Krauss ’69
Rockaway, New Jersey
##I am a believer in the stay-hall system for all the reasons cited in the article. But I am a believer who also felt like an outsider in my dorm much of the time. My dorm was easily the most racist, homophobic and xenophobic community in which I have ever lived or studied. And dare I even mention the prevailing attitudes about women? While the experience was unpleasant at times, like many unpleasant experiences it made me a better person.
I was disappointed yet not surprised to hear that a question from a woman about sexual assault startled the panel at a town hall meeting. This at a time when sexual assault on women is dominating our country’s public discourse. It was a shock to Notre Dame’s leaders, and why wouldn’t it be? The president, vice president and provost are white men. Three of the nine deans are women, 16 of the 50 trustees are women, one of the 12 University fellows. The president’s leadership council is made up of 25 people, including six women. I invite others to count how many minorities sit on these august bodies.
The writer correctly points out that communities formed by people from diverse “socioeconomic backgrounds, hometowns, religions, personal interests and majors” push students to “learn to live and communicate with people very different from themselves.” This comically overlooks the fact that dorms are single sex.
Only when Notre Dame increases the diversity of its leadership will we have a university whose policies and procedures incorporate the perspectives of women and minorities.
Jeremy Jaskunas ’97
##I think the new residency requirement is great. Dorm life at Notre Dame is unique and fits with the overall mission and purpose of Notre Dame. One of the special things is a full-time rector who is a priest, with Mass in each dorm’s chapel. The intramural sports make it all the better. I went to Central Michigan University and, while I was basically happy there, the dorms were only a place to live, nothing more. Each dorm takes on a structure that makes everyone feel part of the University that develops lifelong friendships.
Prayer and pathways
##The current issue has several articles of note. “Involuntary Prayer” relates how the author left the seminary years ago and then embraced agnosticism. He detests “fundamental Catholicism” and has a panic attack when he visits the Grotto. His essay is some unintelligible discussion on the difference between voluntary formal prayers and involuntary prayer. Another, “The Power of Paying Attention,” is about a science writer who rejects his Catholicism in favor of transcendentalism and the impersonal pantheistic God of nature.
The editor endorses these anti-religious and anti-Catholic essays in his editor’s column when he writes about life’s meaning and says, “The answers we adopt are theories, really — guesses, unprovable hypotheses, hopeful narratives, speculation.” This magazine is published for alumni and friends of Notre Dame, a university of the Mother of Christ, the Son of God, whose life, death and resurrection along with the rest of revelation tells us who we are, where we are going and how to get there. This attraction to doubt, relativism and subjectivity of truth is rampant in our secular culture. Notre Dame Magazine need not be a vehicle for the editor to display his pseudo-sophistication and his tolerant postmodern bona fides.
Charles S. Smith, M.D. ’60
Pauma Valley, California
##Notre Dame does not often treat its non-believing sons as well as you have in your story on Chet Raymo ’58. Sandwiched among the ecstatic affirmations of vision and belief was the gentle but informative essay on this agnostic Stonehill professor and journalist who has written so often of his search through science for a deity. Normally I skip the pieces on high-achieving alumni, but in this story I found not only a possible personal connection with a guy I may have passed on the way to the dining hall or assisted in the bookstore, but, more defining, someone with whom I share deep skepticism about God’s existence. I find that few of my Class of ’60 brethren publicly confess to sustaining doubt. But Notre Dame’s golden aura can fade in a world of terror, tears and hypocrisy. As a retired academic librarian, I can assure Dr. Raymo that it is not only in the sciences that one finds the strains of catechism avowals, but in the core of the humanities where the poetry of the stars daily meets the real-life metaphors of doubt and destruction at our feet.
Thomas L. Bonn ’60
Ithaca, New York
##“Involuntary Prayer” and “The Power of Paying Attention” provide two thought-provoking yet gut-wrenching personal stories. I understand the point that these two agnostics are somehow still open to prayer and glorious mystery. However, as a lifelong Catholic whose faith was nourished and strengthened at Notre Dame, I was disheartened to read how these fellow alumni lost their Catholic faith. Prayer and self-denial are not done to change God but to change us. Thank goodness for Sister Joan Sauro’s elegant essay (“Prayers on the run”) on the final page. In it she makes clear that at the core of a vibrant and useful Christian faith is a deep, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Ottavio Berardis ’85