Student Government Commitment to Anti-Racism

Author: Aaron Benavides

Sg Formal Navy

Over the past few weeks, the deep racial injustices in our nation have been brought to the forefront. As a society, we are feeling tectonic shifts as citizens mobilize and unite against systemic racism. As individuals, many of us have begun to uncover our own implicit biases and take proactive steps on our journey of self-education. 

This journey requires both unlearning and learning anew. As Student Government officials, we especially must engage in rigorous self-education. This past week, Aaron confronted his own lack of knowledge in regards to a derogatory term. As he states in his response, ignorance is never an excuse. Being a good ally means partaking in difficult conversations, listening to and amplifying the voices of those who have historically been silenced, and actively working towards a world of justice and peace.

It is our sincere intention to serve each and every member of the Notre Dame family to the best of our abilities. As we stated in a Statement on Racial Justice and the Murder of George Floyd, “Over the course of our Notre Dame education, these core tenets of Catholic Social Teaching have been inculcated within us, and we must now transform our learning into service to justice. In order to live up to our calling to be a force for good in our world, we must reflect on what we as a university and as individuals can do to advocate for human dignity.” We are embracing this opportunity for growth and learning, and we are eager to dialogue about how we can challenge ourselves and our current systems to elevate inclusion. Our doors and our hearts are always open. 

In Notre Dame,

Rachel Ingal
Sarah Galbenski
Aaron Benavides 

As a Student Government, we are committed to channeling the momentum of this moment into a long lasting movement. We want to capitalize on the current conversations by enacting new policy and programming that center around anti-racist action. This is an endeavor that we must pursue relentlessly, and it will take time to unlearn and uproot centuries of oppression. However, we commit to be a resource to students and to advocate for progress at Notre Dame and beyond. As our Catholic education has so heavily emphasized, it is our duty to fight for the dignity of every person. Our Black students and alumni have issued calls to action in past weeks, in which they have published robust and clear steps for change. Their leadership is admirable, and it is incumbent upon us to do our part to complement their efforts. We hope to use our platform to amplify their voices and provide support, because the pursuit of equity falls on all of our shoulders. Here is how Student Government's Department of Diversity and Inclusion, led by Kaya Lawrence, is aspiring toward a more just campus and acting to create one: 

  • Cultural sensitivity and celebration of diversity begins at home. Within our residence halls, we are committed to making cultural competency an integral part of Welcome Weekend programming, finding ways to incentivize more students of color to become RAs, and improving existing diversity training for RAs.  
  • While the Moreau First Year Experience does address privilege and cultural competency in its curriculum, the Moreau leadership team should be committed to constantly improving the content that is presented within each of these modules. Our Department of Diversity and Inclusion maintains a working relationship with the Moreau leadership team in order to suggest reforms and enhancements so that each year the modules become more rigorous and comprehensive. 
  • Members of our Department of Diversity and Inclusion have begun a dialogue with the Office of Community Standards to discuss ways in which the university can practice accountability and take concrete action against racist events. 
  • Throughout our term, we intend to utilize the office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) as a key resource for the further education of Student Government leaders. We have always been committed to holding MSPS diversity and microaggressions training for our Executive Cabinet Department Directors, as we believe the critical lessons learned in these trainings help equip these student leaders to view their department’s policy and programming through a lens of inclusion. These trainings will be held as soon as possible once we return to campus in the fall, and they will also be made available for members of the Student Senate and Student Government departments.
  • Each year, the Women’s, Men’s, and Overall Halls of the Year are determined using the Hall Presidents Council’s (HPC) Rockne point system. We have engaged in dialogue with the HPC Co-Chairs regarding the incorporation of diversity and microaggressions trainings for dorm leaders into the Rockne point system. We believe that dorm leadership structures that celebrate diversity and strive towards inclusion make for stronger communities. 
  • Diversity and inclusion should be incorporated into all facets of student life and campus programming. We are currently working in collaboration with the Student Union Board (SUB) to put on a fall showing of the film “The Hate U Give” to foster reflection and dialogue surrounding the racial inequities that pervade our neighborhoods and schools.
  • We are looking forward to safely returning to campus in the fall, and we want to make the Student Government office a welcoming space for all. To this end, we are commissioning student artwork for the office, particularly pieces by students of color. Every student should feel represented in this space, and we invite you to share your story on our walls. 
  • As we stated in our platform, we are committed to creating Student Government grant opportunities for clubs and organizations in order to support them in their initiatives. Back in April, we allocated a minimum of $10,000 to grant to student groups that are interested in promoting cultural competency on campus through presidential initiatives and cosponsorships with the Department of Diversity and Inclusion. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with and monetarily support the programming of these student groups.

This is just the beginning for the work that we will undertake to commit to anti-racism. We encourage you to reach out to us via email or our online form on our home page if you have any additional feedback for us.