I hope you had a wonderful Fall Break, and found at least some opportunity to catch your breath after a busy first half of the semester! With cooler weather upon us and the end of the semester now in sight, I write to both commend you for your perseverance over the last year and remind you about the importance of caring for yourselves and one other in these last weeks of fall.
First, I want to express my personal gratitude for how much care you have put into keeping one another and our wider campus and local communities safe this academic year. Our modest number of positive COVID-19 cases on campus this year has been incredibly encouraging, and thanks to our uniformly, highly-vaccinated student, faculty, and staff population, the Notre Dame community is considered to be an area of very low risk. Thank you for adhering to our vaccination requirements and for all you have done and will continue to do to keep us healthy and safe.
I’d also like to share how grateful I am for the opportunity to witness your success in your studies and your involvement in campus life this semester. You have overcome so many obstacles throughout the pandemic as you have sought to grow in both mind and heart here at Notre Dame. I am proud of your many accomplishments, and I look forward to continuing to listen to your ideas and supporting your development alongside my colleagues in Student Affairs, your professors, and all those at Notre Dame who remain invested in your formation and your growth.
Caring for Ourselves
Your individual formation, encounter with community, and personal health and well-being are vitally important to all of us at Notre Dame. As you go about your many academic, social, and personal responsibilities, we also want to remind you to attend to your physical, mental, and spiritual wellness with as much fervor as you do your club, organizational, social, athletic, and academic endeavors. If you are looking for support in this regard, a few helpful resources are listed below:
- Campus Ministry
- The Center for Student Support and Care
- The University Counseling Center (UCC)
- The McDonald Center for Student Well-Being (McWell)
- University Health Services (UHS)
The UCC offers in-person drop-in hours and recently launched several new workshops and support groups. In addition, TimelyCare provides expanded 24/7 access to mental and medical telehealth care, and Campus Ministry’s Need to Talk program is open to students seeking pastoral support and guidance. These resources are available to all students - undergraduate, graduate, and professional - so please, utilize them whenever necessary.
Caring for One Another
In addition to caring for yourself, our commitment to community also calls us to care for one another and especially in instances involving sexual violence, discrimination, or harassment, which are antithetical to the kind of community we seek to cultivate and are not tolerated at Notre Dame. All members of our community are encouraged to report incidents of bias, discrimination, or harassment so that the University can take appropriate action to assist the students, faculty, and staff involved and promote a campus community which supports the dignity and inviolability of each member.
Students, faculty, and staff have long worked together to prevent the occurrence of interpersonal violence, and we encourage all students to become involved in these efforts. A full list of Notre Dame’s prevention and education efforts are available here.
The University and our local community also offer many options to support survivors of interpersonal violence. A variety of confidential medical resources are available either on campus through UHS or locally. Students can also seek confidential counseling support either on campus at the UCC or through local or national agencies. Confidential, pastoral resources are also available from priests, deacons, and religious sisters and brothers working within Campus Ministry.
In addition to seeking confidential support, the University strongly encourages students to report instances of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and other instances of sexual harassment to the University and/or local law enforcement agencies. We know from our climate assessment surveys and student feedback that students are sometimes hesitant to report instances of interpersonal violence because they are concerned about implications for other policy violations, such as parietals or alcohol use. It is important to reiterate that the University’s interest in addressing these harmful incidents outweighs concerns about those other violations - survivors and witnesses will not be referred to the University’s Conduct Process for these lesser violations. Students who feel unsafe in a residence hall after parietals should leave the hall, regardless of the time, without concern for a parietals violation.
Find Time to Reflect and to Pray
As I mentioned in my Welcome Letter (and this has only been confirmed in my conversations with many of you), I am constantly inspired not only by your accomplishments, but by the many ways our students continue to search for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in your lives, and I urge you to take time even amidst the many demands of day-to-day life to pause, to reflect, and to pray―a practice which can lead to a better understanding of your own self, of others, and of God. Move “onward toward reflection,” as your Student Government peers have asked you to do, and find ways to grow, pray, recover, and heal. We have many sacred spaces on campus to help you do this, including the Grotto, the Basilica, and chapels throughout campus. They can be wonderful and quiet places to catch your breath before, during, or after a busy day and to listen to God’s voice in your life.
Thank you again for your resilience and your commitment to your health and well-being and that of your peers. I look forward to witnessing your success and to working with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Know of my prayers as we enter the final weeks of the semester!
In Notre Dame,
Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C.
Vice President for Student Affairs