In our last bulletin we reported that one of the goals of Student Government’s new Director of Gender Relations is “PARIETALS ‘reform’ (REMOVAL).” Within a few days, some 30 students conducted a sit-in in a men’s dormitory between 2 and 5 a.m. in support of that demand until they finally left under threat of expulsion.
For an account of this episode, see The Observer. The protesters said they “plan to continue the sit-ins within a few days.” Indeed, in a letter in today’s Observer, they announce they will target an unnamed residence hall tomorrow and they invite other students to join them. The letter discloses that Anne Jarrett, the Student Government Director of Gender Relations featured in our last bulletin, is a member of the group.
The Stanford Hall residents have been warned about “discriminatory harassment” of the protesters and are being investigated by the ND Police for “biased slurs.”
The protesters demands extend beyond ending parietals. They include “Decolonize Academia” and “Decolonize This Land,” so that, for example, “the violence of colonialism and Catholic evangelization that led to Notre Dame’s existence” would be recognized.
In our current bulletin, we reproduce, with permission of The Observer, a “Viewpoint” article from its pages by a leader of the sit-in protesters.
Prepare yourselves for introduction to the world of the “woke” and its unique vocabulary in which, for example, “womxn” is not a misspelling but serves to “sever ties to the patriarchy” by getting rid of “men” and, by substituting “x” for “e,” “allows space for individuals who identify as genderfluid, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or non-binary.” (For straight anti-patriarchal females, it is “womyn.”)
(Stick with Sycamore Trust for continuing education in modern languages.)
The essayist acknowledges that, as a “cisgender queer student,” he is “unjustly empowered” by parietals because he can “walk into my dorm with my significant other at any hour of the day.” But he joins others to protest “Notre Dame’s choice to institutionalize sexism, trans-exclusion, queerphobia, and classism through parietals.”
“We are approaching a watershed moment in Notre Dame’s history,” he declares. To see why parietals threaten to sink Notre Dame, read on.
Parietals criminalize gender itself, but we already knew that
Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 18, 2019
On Sunday morning, a number of students gathered in Stanford Hall to protest hatred on campus. As one of those students, I hoped to stand in solidarity with the victims of racist and queerphobic targeted violent speech. I was proud of the protest organizers, who acknowledged the role that parietals play in perpetuating sexism and queerphobia at Notre Dame. And as I sat on the floor of Stanford Hall, I couldn’t help but notice a disheartening power dynamic: While the protestors –– predominantly womxn of color and queer students –– sat silently, many Stanford Hall residents slammed their doors and walked through the hallway wearing nothing but boxers. The intentions of these men seemed clear enough to me: Through aggressive expositions of masculinity, Stanford residents hoped to intimidate their peers.
As time passed, NDPD took increasingly adverse action to break up the protest. While the officers seemed to be sympathetic during my brief stay at the protest, they were required to punish students for violating parietals. As The Observer reported, “At 4:15 a.m., [officers warned that] the University administration was prepared to invoke emergency procedures and protestors would be summarily expelled if they did not leave, citing security risks.”
If you think such a citation is ridiculous, then you are in good company. We find ourselves in a situation in which students risk expulsion — an absurd and disproportionate punishment — simply for protesting an already absurd policy.
See, the implication of NDPD’s involvement and their citation is that a silent, peaceful protest composed primarily of marginalized people is dangerous. We must ask: What danger did the peaceful protesters pose? The only thing that was threatened by the protest was a white, cis-heternormative hegemony. Parietals are the University’s primary means of protecting this hegemony.
As a cisgender queer student, I am essentially unburdened by parietals. I am free to walk into my dorm with my significant other at any hour of the day. I am free to enter and stay in his dorm as well. My status as a white cis-male means that parietals unjustly empower me even further; officers and University staff are more likely to let me move throughout “male” spaces unquestioned.
I am not the first student to speak out against parietals. Notre Dame students (primarily womxn) have been doing so for decades. One need only search “parietals” on The Observer’s website to see powerful testimony about the dangers of the practice. Experts explain that these “kind of environments are more likely to lead to increased rates of sexual assault.”
Neither am I the first student to use the language of criminality to describe our University’s approach to gender relations. We already know what parietals are: an institutional attack against womxn, gender non-conforming students and the poor. For gender non-conforming students, parietals mean exclusion from safer spaces after certain hours. Furthermore, wealthy students may avoid parietals altogether. I have heard men brag about “taking girls to their off-campus apartment” — a luxury that only the very rich have. For those of us who do not have multiple places of residence in South Bend, parietals are unavoidable.
Notre Dame’s choice to institutionalize sexism, trans-exclusion, queerphobia and classism through parietals is nothing short of reprehensible. The longer this issue is drawn out, the longer Notre Dame positions itself as a proponent of a white, cis-heteronormative hegemony. We are approaching a watershed moment in Notre Dame’s history: We may choose to abolish parietals and take a tangible step towards disarming sexual assaulters, misogynists, queerphobes and trans-exclusionists, or we may remain complacent in our exclusion. The choice seems clear to me.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.