On January 6th, violent rioters stormed the Capitol while in session, endangering leaders of both parties and resulting in the deaths of five people. In the crowd outside, hundreds of flags flew through the air, dominated by various Trump and Back the Blue flags. However, at least one university’s flag joined them, bearing the phrase “God, Country, Notre Dame”. And while the University put out a nominal statement condemning the insurrection, neither of the two sentences mentioned the flag, which was likely flown by a graduate or member of our community.
Regardless of whether the person holding the Notre Dame flag is affiliated with our community, failure of the University administration to condemn its presence at the capitol is concerning and disappointing.
The failure to address our University’s flag at the steps of the Capitol is a symptom of a greater problem: our school enables racist, white supremacist, and nationalist beliefs. Instagram and Twitter accounts (Stop the Steal ND, America First ND, and others) have promoted conspiracy theories and fringe views, as well as supporting recent political violence. Dozens of current students both followed these pages and liked their posts. This isn’t restricted to the virtual world – minority students have seen this year after year. Our community members have seen homophobic graffiti, dozens of racist actions and words, and restrictive institutions that the university defends.
In response to this environment, the administration has not taken significant action to change the institution, like seriously acknowledging structures that negatively impact their minority communities, acknowledging its status as a predominantly white institution, or working to educate all students on how to be anti-racist.
Acknowledging the flag of Our Lady’s University flown at the capitol is the least that Fr. Jenkins could have done. When confronting hate both at-large and within our community, there are two options for our University: critically examine and address systemic problems within Notre Dame, or write 34 words. And if Jenkins decides on barely writing three dozen words the next time we see hate in our community, the students should take it upon themselves to decide the course of our university.