Fostering a Safe and Respectful Community at Notre Dame

Author: Erin Hoffmann Harding

Dear undergraduate students,

We would like to warmly welcome you back to another academic year at Notre Dame. We hope that you are looking forward to a year filled with academic challenge, thoughtful inquiry, camaraderie with friends, spiritual enrichment, and reflection about your future.

While you have been away from campus, events have occurred in our nation and across the world that have ranged from inspirational achievement at the Olympics to tragic losses of life in places from Dallas, Nice, and Orlando to St. Anthony, Minnesota. Our nation will vote for a new president later this fall, and voters hold strong opinions about each major candidate. Many of you may be returning to campus this fall having been impacted in ways small or large by these outside events. How can and should a college campus respond to the complex issues facing our world? We can offer no easy answer to this question, but we firmly believe that Notre Dame offers an ideal place to support one another and engage in discussion. 

Acts of violence and harassment have no place on our campus and are antithetical to our desire to serve as our brothers and sisters keepers. If you are worried about a friend who might be struggling in any way, please reach out to your rector, an academic advisor, a student affairs Care Consultant, or Notre Dame Security Police.  With your referrals, we can offer these individuals any support resources that might be needed. We encourage you to get involved in Green Dot, our campus wide program aimed at cultivating a culture where violence is not tolerated and encouraging everyone in the community to do something to help. The first weeks of the academic year are historically those of highest risk related to sexual violence, and most incidents involve abuse of alcohol. Please remember the bystander skills you have been taught, make healthy choices for yourself, and stay with your friends.  Should you or a friend be impacted by sexual violence, consult ourUniversity-wide website for the many resources available to offer assistance. Even one act of violence is too many – together, we can make Notre Dame a campus community free from harm and care for others. 

Discussion about difficult issues, in contrast, is perfectly suited to a university campus. The events we have witnessed over the last few months alone have raised complex and often painful questions about race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and economic class. How will we as a campus engage with these questions? We hope that you will utilize your classes, your faculty, your classmates, and the forums that the University provides to wrestle with these topics. If you have an idea or a topic that you believe merits more discussion in our community, find an academic department, student programming office, or recognized student organization with a similar interest and sponsor an event where differing views are shared and respected. We believe that the members of a university community can hold civil and productive dialogue in ways that an instant news cycle no longer makes easy. Here at Notre Dame, we distinctively offer a perspective of how our faith and our values inform these questions and our responses. We believe that we can and should be a thoughtful and grounded voice that opens dialogue, cultivates understanding, seeks solutions, and builds bridges. We welcome your ideas about how we can do that together.

We are so grateful and excited to begin another academic year. Let us make it one where we serve as a light and example to others as proud members of the Notre Dame community, caring for and learning from one another.



Erin Hoffmann Harding
Vice President for Student Affairs

Rev. Hugh R. Page, Jr.
Vice President and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Affairs

Michael D. Seamon
Vice President for Campus Safety and Event Management