Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Message from the College Democrats of Indiana

2010 was a rough election cycle for Democrats. Yet, this will not stop our commitment to our beliefs or the change we all sought in 2008. So, this semester we will be planning some fun events to get geared up for the coming year and the next election.

February 25th - 26th: College Democrats of America Winter Conference
The College Democrats of Indiana will travel to the College Democrats of America’s Winter Conference is in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting. It's a great opportunity to meet College Democrats from across the nation as well as party leaders. Students will attend trainings and will be granted access to the DNC General Sessions. Previous years’ speakers have included President Barack Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chairman Tim Kaine. Please check the CDA Facebook page for further updates http://www.facebook.com/collegedems

March 5th: Obama Kennedy Dinner
The College Democrats of Notre Dame will be hosting our annual fundraiser in South Bend. This is a great trip to bond as a chapter, as well as meet some incredible people within the state party. These group meetings are an excellent way for new members and executive boards to meet and make new friends. It seems like just yesterday that many of us met in South Bend during the 2009 national conference.

April 8th & 9th: CDIN Convention
The Indiana University College Democrats will be hosting our state wide convention in Bloomington. The convention is a wonderful opportunity to meet young democrats from across the state, have beneficial training sessions and hear from our statewide leadership. Our state wide elections also take place during this time, where we will elect a new executive board to guide the federation over the coming year.

For more information or questions please email watts.andrea@gmail.com

University deserves 'LGBT-unfriendly campus' trophy

Check out my column in Tuesday's Observer.  We are kicking off the Progressive Student Alliance's 2011 petition this Thursday!! Sign up on Facebook to attend: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=176431979059019.

Let me begin by stating clearly, I am a heterosexual male who loves Notre Dame as much as anyone on campus and believes ardently in the purpose of the school to promote Catholic values and educate at the highest level. It is precisely due to my love of this University that I am so disturbed that while we pride ourselves in topping lists across academia and athletics, we continue to be public champions for homophobia. The Princeton Review consistently ranks Notre Dame among the worst in accepting the homosexual community. In 2010 we were fourth on their list of "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Unfriendly" campuses. Easy and painless reforms can be made this year to move in a more tolerant direction that do not challenge the Catholic DNA of Our Lady's University.

This article is not an attempt to debate the morality of homosexuality, but a request that we treat the homosexual students, faculty and staff on campus with the basic respect Catholic teachings demand every human being deserves. After all, the University's mission statement reads that students shall develop a "disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many." Today, university officials can fire an employee on the charges that he or she is gay. Also, AllianceND — a student organization that would be an authentic voice for both gay and straight students to support the LGBT community on campus — has been denied club status 14 years consecutively after support has been demonstrated each year. It is incomprehensible why the University is willing to portray itself as homophobic for not making two basic changes. No one is asking for Notre Dame to be the most accepting school in the nation, but is it too much to ask to not place last?

A coalition of students and faculty are proposing that sexual orientation be added to the non-discrimination clause that currently reads, "The University of Notre Dame does not discriminate on the basis of race/ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status or age in the administration of any of its employment, educational programs, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletics, recreational and other school-administered programs." It is unclear to me the fear the University has in changing this policy. The Catholic teaching on the subject according to Notre Dame is, "the Church does not say that the homosexual orientation is wrong; rather, it is sexual activity between same sex persons that is ‘objectively disordered' and therefore sinful. Consequently, the Church says that homosexuals are called to life-long celibacy." If the Church does not believe homosexual orientation is wrong, what stands in the way of adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause? Any violation of University code of conduct on sexual behavior can continue to be cause for firing or punishment whether it is hetero- or homosexual. Leaving sexual orientation out of the non-discrimination clause is not consistent with the Church's stance or the mission of the University.

Notre Dame requires approval for all student group activities, including protests or demonstrations. If a club holds an event without approval, club status can be revoked. Even with that level of administrative control over student club activity the University continues to deny its students the right to form AllianceND. AllianceND is "a forum in which gay and straight students can meet and form friendships, discuss and present important issues related to tolerance and solidarity within the broader University community, and find common ground in a supportive, respectful, comfortable atmosphere." I am at a loss to understand the controversy behind that mission, particularly after reading the U.S. Catholic Bishops letter Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers that promotes a loving dialogue and attitude of acceptance between heterosexual and homosexual members of the Catholic faith community. The bishops write, "It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity." Often, University officials cite the existence of the Core Council as a reason to exclude the AllianceND club. While Core Council is an important part of the University community, it is directly administrated by Notre Dame staff and members must be accepted through an application process. Notre Dame needs to entrust its LGBT students and straight allies with same rights of forming an organization within Catholic values that thousands of students enjoy in the more than 300 student clubs.

So join us Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Sorin Room of LaFortune for the kick-off informational event for the petition, or simply sign the petition when you get the opportunity to support changes in ND's non-discrimination clause and the inclusion of AllianceND. As a proud member of the Notre Dame family, I ask the administration to be respectful to all its students, faculty and staff by acknowledging the petition and ending two discriminatory policies that do not reflect the strength of the Catholic character of the University.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Second Amendment... What Does It Mean?

Lefty's is back and running after a long break, so I feel it's time to weigh in one of the issues that has sprung up since the incident in Tuscon, Arizona. I thought about writing shortly after the event, but I felt it was disrespectful to jump into the politics immediately afterwards. But enough time has passed, that it's reasonable to have a serious discussion about gun control. It's not "exploiting a crisis" for us as a nation to reconsider what is important when a tragedy happens. So I think it's worth talking about guns and their role in our country.

One thing I've heard many times is that "Guns don't kill, people do." This is not entirely untrue. People have many different ways to kill someone, and we can't prevent that by keeping every potentially dangerous item out of people's hands. So my response to "Guns don't kill, people do" would be "Guns don't kill, but they transform murder into massacre." No other common method of murder is able to kill so many so easily. This is what makes the gun more controversial than a knife, a wrench, or lead pipe. (Clue anybody?)

And this brings us back to the Second Amendment, so often quoted by the NRA and their supporters. I present it here, in its full text.

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

That first phrase seems to be dropped by gun supporters a lot, because frankly they find it inconvenient. The people have the right to guns because of the necessity for a "well regulated militia". Does that mean only the military should be allowed to own guns? Or are they referring to something different when they talk of a militia? If they are speaking of an old style civilian militia, is that really still necessary when there is no longer a threat of Indian attacks in a time when we were merely thirteen states in a relatively new and unknown land? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I have never seen a gun rights supporter try to explain these to me. And frankly the militia is not even the most important part of that phrase.

"Well regulated". The second amendment includes the words "well regulated" in it. I agree with everyone's right to keep and bear arms. I do not think we should outlaw guns entirely. I have absolutely no problem with people who want to buy hunting rifles., and I have no desire to stop them from doing what they enjoy. I do believe, as the founders carefully put it, that the civilian militia, which has become just civilians in the modern day, should be WELL REGULATED. To anyone who believes that right to bear arms should not be regulated at all, I ask, should I be allowed to bear nuclear arms? Bombs and explosives such as C4 are another form of arms or weaponry, so should we allow those to be sold at Wal-Mart? If those regulations are necessary, why should we not also keep assault weapons out of stores. The fact is an AK-47 is a weapon of mass destruction. In the course of human history, the AK-47 has killed far more people than the atomic bomb.

When the founders were writing the constitution, the only weapon that could be easily obtained by the common person was a musket. After firing one shot with a musket, a soldier had to get a cartridge, tear it open with his teeth, put a little bit of powder in the firing mechanism, put the rest of the powder and a gun ball down the barrel, ram the ball and powder home, cock the musket and fire. It took a hell of a lot of work to kill more than one person with that thing. We have to accept that the founders had no comprehension of the kind of weapons that can be legally bought today. And despite that they still had the word "well regulated" included in the infamous Second Amendment. Assault weapons aren't needed for hunting, they aren't needed for defense, and they aren't needed for entertainment. They are needed for murder on a scale we should never be willing to accept. We had a Federal Assault Weapons Ban from 1994-2004 and think about all the lives that have been needlessly lost since. It's time for us to step up and decide whether this "essential right" is worth the lives which they have taken and that can never be given back.