In this bulletin, we reprint with permission an Irish Rover editorial by its editor-in-chief, Joe DeReuil, in which he discusses two developments:
- The opening of graduate student co-ed housing to undergraduates, and
- The casting of Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac in campus productions as lesbians and the university-approved poster of two Shakespearean male characters kissing.
Irish Rover reporter Madeline Murphy describes the co-ed housing initiative and reporters Elizabeth Hale and Daniel Martin the rewriting of Shakespeare and the homosexual-themed poster in their articles Hamlet: Princess of Denmark? and FTT Adaptation Takes Center-Stage.
We offer some brief introductory comments drawn from these articles as background for Mr. DeReuil’s editorial.
The Rover reported that, beginning in the fall 2023 semester, approximately 80 undergraduate men and women will reside in two-bedroom apartments located in the Fischer Graduate Residences alongside approximately 320 graduate students.
Until now, the likelihood of co-ed dorms at Notre Dame has seemed far-fetched to most alumni. It was very clearly not the way forward for Father Hesburgh. As Rev. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., notes in his masterful biography of Hesburgh, this architect of a co-ed Notre Dame “strongly resisted, both then [when Notre Dame admitted women] and thereafter, any suggestion that co-ed residence halls be established.” (American Priest, p. 150.)
This reflected Father Hesburgh’s intense concern for the moral and spiritual welfare of students entrusted to Notre Dame’s care.
[Hesburgh] believed deeply not only that Notre Dame held a responsibility for the moral and spiritual formation of its students, but also that the good character and religious convictions of its graduates spoke eloquently to the success of the university’s approach. (Ibid. p. 93)
The university has “declined to comment about the reasoning” for this departure from Notre Dame’s long-standing policy, but there is speculation that it is intended as a “provision for transgender students.”
As to that, we have discovered an ND Reddit comment by an undergraduate student who identifies as transgender and is presently living in Fisher in which he advises an incoming student who also identifies as transgender, “If you contact ResLife, you’ll be allowed to live off campus or in the Fisher Graduate Apartments.”
The Homosexualization of Shakespeare
Just a few weeks ago a student-led acting company at Notre Dame, The Not So Royal Shakespeare Co., staged Hamlet portraying “Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia as a lesbian romance, changing Hamlet to be a woman.”
And last spring Notre Dame’s Film, Television and Theatre Department produced a musical “Cyrano” in which Cyrano was recast as a woman “in romantic pursuit of the female character Roxanne.”
Finally, the student troupe “is again changing the gender of a romantic lead in its upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing,” and a promotional poster approved by the Student Activities Office and “hung in academic buildings around campus” shows two men kissing.
The Student Activities Office first agreed to a Rover interview but then begged off, saying it was “gathering data.”
Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) Department – “Diversity and Inclusion”
It is instructive to consider how these episodes may reflect the values and goals of the FTT Department expressed in its remarkable Diversity and Inclusion statement, which we urge you to examine.
The department declares its “responsibility toward awareness … of histories of colonization and imperialization, of cultural domination and subjugation.” It views the performing arts as “conduits for social change,” and It pledges, inter alia, “to expose and dismantle white supremacy,” “identify implicit and explicit biases, “address institutional and systemic racism” at Notre Dame and elsewhere, and “escalate efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion.”
To that end, every student majoring in FTT must take at least one course “primarily concerned with the exploration of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, class, age, and/or nationality.”
We turn now to Joe DeReuil’s editorial:
Much Ado About Nothing?
This issue of the Rover raises concerns about an advertisement for a Shakespeare audition and the opening of a new undergraduate residence hall. The seemingly banal circumstances of these events invites the question: Why create tension where there apparently is none? Why make Much Ado About Nothing?
The advertisements welcome students to audition for the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company (NSR)’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. One rendition of the poster features two men—apparently playing the parts of Benedick and Beatrice—kissing. Two of the other three posters also portray same-sex couples as the lead, with only one keeping Benedick and Beatrice in their proper gender.
The head of NSR’s marketing Christina Randazzo told the Rover, “My inspiration behind the poster designs stemmed from a conversation I had with the director of the show. She said, ‘The show is about love.’ So, I made four different posters with pictures with people in love.”
This marks the third time in the past year that performing arts groups at Notre Dame have changed the casting of classic plays—the other two being Cyrano and most recently Hamlet—to make traditional male-female romantic leads homosexual. The frequency of this shift over the past year raises the question whether the directors are really taking “creative liberties” or simply submitting to cultural conformity.
Breaking apart gender dichotomies has not, however, been confined to Shakespeare at Notre Dame.
As announced on February 1, a significant portion Fischer Graduate Residence is being transformed into “Undergraduate Community at Fischer ” (UCF ). About 80 students can now opt to move off campus into UCF early, seemingly walking back on the recently instituted three-year on campus residence policy.
The impetus for the decision seems to be a compromise to societal norms. Notre Dame is unique among top-20 universities in its sex-segregated dorm system. This has led to a strong yet, until recently, unforeseen pressure: to which dorms should Notre Dame assign transgender students?
This compromise allows students of any sexuality to live in an gender-unspecified space. It seems like a brilliant tactical play by the administration—they appease orthodox Catholics by maintaining single-sex dorms while creating a space for transgender men and women to live with individuals with whom they do not share biological sex. Why is this an issue?
Most apparently, conceding ground to the secular culture without setting limits to how far the concessions will go leads one down a slippery slope.
Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, for any flaws he had, was able to maintain the University of Notre Dame as a recognizably Catholic institution while all similar Catholic universities caved completely to secularization during his era. He did this by setting limits while at the same time granting some room to secular forces to build prestige.
While choosing to hire an increasing number of non-Catholic faculty, under his jurisdiction, he insisted that the Notre Dame faculty retain a majority number of Catholic professors. Also, when he included lay persons on the board of trustees, he also guaranteed that half the board and the university president still must be a C.S.C priest.
Whether you like his compromises or not, they were true compromises—a quid pro quo rather than a surrender.
The recent assimilation of secular gender norms at Notre Dame has not come with any reinforcement of Catholic values.
Not only was posting images of physical homosexuality permitted on campus, but permission came with no reaffirmation of Church teaching or explanation of when or why such depictions are permissible. In opening the first co-ed undergraduate residential community in university history, no one in the administration reaffirmed that the single-sex residences—and the moral formation they strive to provide—is integral to the university moving forward.
Incremental erosion of the Catholic character of the university will rapidly escalate if, when relaxing policy, the administration will not even justify, explain, or add counterweight to their capitulation.
Eliminating single-sex dorms and treating men and women as interchangeable would not “diversify” Notre Dame. It would rather homogenize it with the other top twenty American universities and “elite” schools everywhere. As the administration sets Ivy League schools as “aspirational peers,” they should recognize that similarity to UPenn or Stanford is both unlikely and undesirable.
Notre Dame is only a choiceworthy institution so long as she is ostensibly Catholic.
Publicly portraying physical homosexual affection through re-written Shakespeare and allowing a university-affiliated space to house men and women in the same building perhaps does not mark the definitive fall from grace. But the administration ought to remember: without Catholicism, Notre Dame is merely another research facility with a large endowment and pretty buildings, fighting over the same set of students as WashU, the Ivies, and all similar institutions.
Joseph DeReuil is a junior from St. Paul, Minnesota who is enjoying the early South Bend thaw. Forgive his naivete in believing in the fake spring, and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Please consider supporting The Irish Rover’s mission to preserve Notre Dame’s Catholic identity by subscribing to receive the publication’s print or pdf edition at https://irishrover.net/subscriptions
The homosexualization of some of the most prominent characters in literature is obviously designed to normalize homosexual sexual relations. That is, to contradict Church teaching.
And the scrapping of the single-sex dormitory tradition, no matter how limited, takes with it the “lead us not into temptation” rationale for the tradition and accordingly puts the single-sex tradition at risk.
More, this development would subvert a religious liberty defense by the University against claims that are certain to come by students demanding access to same-sex dormitories, dressing rooms, showers, rest rooms, and athletic teams. This is a looming threat that we will discuss in a future bulletin
Let Us Pray
Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. (1 Cor 3:18-19)
O God our Father, Eternal Wisdom and Love, You have created us in Your own image and likeness, and called us to live in humble obedience to You and according to the order which You have established to govern the universe. You sent Your Son, Wisdom Incarnate, to save us from sin and to reconcile us to You and to one another. He established the Church to be a saving witness of Wisdom and Love, Goodness and Truth to a rebellious world. We implore You to dispel the darkness that surrounds us. May all who have rejected the truths of creation, seeking to replace Your design for the human race with one of their own, be awakened to the destructive folly which passes for wisdom in this age. Enlighten us all by the Truth which sets us free and grant that we may courageously embrace the scorn and contempt of the wise of the world so that we may joyfully share in the Wisdom of God. Through the intercession of Notre Dame, our Mother, we make our prayer in the Name of Jesus, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.
The above prayer is by Sycamore Trustee Father John Raphael (’89). To join us in regular prayer projects such as our Novena for Catholic Education and our Meditation on the 12-Days of Christmas, please join our Apostolate.
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