In Rebuttal, M. Poulin: In defense of Notre Dame

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In his Jan. 20 column, Kalle Oakes distinguished between those who “worship Notre Dame football” and “… those of us who find the trappings of South Bend obnoxious, pretentious, even blasphemous. Our knees hurt from slapping them repeatedly in the aftermath of this episode.” He was referring to the cruel and elaborate hoax perpetrated on Manti Te’o.

We should let Mr. Te’o speak for himself, but Oakes is hardly alone in his views about Notre Dame, and those views demand a response.

What has Notre Dame done to deserve such animus?

Notre Dame students have an overall graduation rate of 96 percent (compared to the national average of 61 percent for four year colleges). But scholarship athletes at Notre Dame graduate 99 percent of the time (compared to 65 percent nationally) which is the highest rate for all universities. Football players at Notre Dame graduate 97 percent of the time (compared to 70 percent at the 120 FBS colleges).

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Notre Dame tries very hard to do things the right way, the way we would want it to, and succeeds. Should it not try? Is it wrong to succeed? Or should it keep its efforts and its successes a secret?

Notre Dame, unlike most colleges, assigns all freshmen, including scholarship athletes, to residence halls and roommates randomly. A freshman non-athlete from Maine may share a room with a scholarship football player whose father was an All-American and Heisman trophy finalist.

Their dorm was an 80-year-old, four-story building with no elevator and no air conditioning, and the smallest rooms on campus. There were four freshmen football players assigned to that dorm, and none of them had athletes for roommates.

Student athletes take the same courses and are held to the same rigorous academic standards as other students. Unexcused absences from class result in discipline.

Last year a starting player (second team All-American) was suspended for one game for having one unexcused absence from class (he overslept). Those are the rules for everyone, athletes and non-athletes.

This is a record that should not invite ridicule.

Notre Dame strives to be true to itself, and to the values that formed it, and largely (but not always) succeeds.

Notre Dame has been described as “wearing its Catholicity on its sleeve.” That is nothing to apologize for: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all. … In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works …” Matthew 5, 14-16.

Michael Poulin, Lewiston

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