Notre Dame students recently launched the Hub, a new online academic networking site created to facilitate intellectual discussion across various disciplines. The Hub is completely user-generated, depending on contributions from Notre Dame students, faculty and staff. The site consists of three main areas: “Commons,” which is a place for users to share personal experiences and get involved, “Think Tank,” which acts a platform for discussion on local, national and global issues and “Showcase,” which allows users to post some of their best research or artwork. Notre Dame is one of the first universities in the country to support such a site, Co-Editor-in-Chiefs Kirsten Adam and Paul Baranay, both juniors, said. Adam and Baranay said with the Hub, they hope to redirect some of the energy that students exhibit on the Internet to a more professional, intellectual arena. “Students are already used to talking about their lives online with social networking. Moving that into a Notre Dame-focused place like the Hub is a … natural direction,” Baranay said. Adam said that unlike Facebook and Twitter profiles, which are generally hidden from employers, profiles on the Hub are something students should put forward. “It’s a very professional environment. It’s something you tell [future employers] about, not that you try to hide,” Adam said. “You can update your profile to be a mini resume online — it becomes a living document.” Adam said the Hub is also about getting advice from others in the Notre Dame community and addressing communication issues between students in different colleges. “It’s been a really interdisciplinary project,” she said. “We’re sponsored by CUSE, and pulling in money from [various] academic departments.” Baranay said other universities have networking sites similar to the Hub, but theirs are based on more of a social model. The Hub’s focus is much more academic. “CUNY [The City University of New York] has a site called the CUNY Commons, which is not as specific as the Hub,” he said. “In terms of prestigious universities, Notre Dame is the first one pushing towards this [kind of thing].” Adam and Baranay began actively working on the Hub last May. They met with senior Cristin O’Connor over the summer, who was developing the site’s layout and design. “In terms of the architecture — that was mostly done by OIT-affiliated students,” Baranay said. Baranay said former professor of Anthropology Daniel Lende originally came up with the idea for blogs spotlighting research and academic engagements at Notre Dame. Lende then contacted Cecilia Lucero, assistant director of Undergraduate Research in the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). Lucero got in touch with Adam and Baranay, who have been working on the project ever since. Lucero is the current advisor for the Hub. “We have a big mix of people on the editorial team,” Baranay said. “Everyone has different interests, which is [what we wanted].” Besides Adam, Baranay and Lucero, the Hub team includes freshman Chris Moore, sophomore Eric Huang, juniors Rosie Conover and Amanda Jonovski, and seniors Annette Ruth, Cristin O’Connor and Dan Jacobs, who is also the photo editor at The Observer. The Hub itself is public, but in order to post entries or comments, a Notre Dame ID is required. Barany said right now they are focusing on reaching out to undergraduates, faculty and staff but including alumni is a long-term goal. “We’ve had a really positive response,” Adam said. “It’s a new way to engage in the discussions we’re already engaging in, but in a more public way.” Baranay agreed. “The Hub is about pushing yourself beyond what your familiar with, doing something more,” he said. A launch party will take place today from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Dooley Room of LaFortune Student Center. Free Jimmy John’s sandwiches, T-shirts and books will be provided. Check out the newly launched website at thehub.nd.edu
Notre Dame’s Army ROTC program prepares cadets for American military life, but this weekend members of the Fightin’ Irish Battalion will compete for German recognition. Four cadets will compete for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, awarded by the German Army, known as the Bundeswehr. Senior Josh Sandler, will compete for the award along with Holy Cross sophomore triplets Randy Jozwiak, Matt Jozwiak and Allen Jozwiak. The group will participate this weekend in Indianapolis, with Sandler serving as the team leader. Each will vie for his own badge individually. Sandler said though the German army gives the award, it is for American participants. “The German Armed Forces Badge is an award for military proficiency from the German army, authorized to be awarded to and worn by Americans,” he said. The competition takes place over two and a half days and is comprised of eight separate individual events — a 200-meter swim, a 100-meter sprint, a five-kilometer run, a long jump, a shot put competition, a first aid test, a 9 mm pistol shoot and a march carrying a 33-pound pack called a “ruck march.” Competitors have to meet or exceed a standard of performance in each event. These standards vary for different age brackets and are based on gender. Further, some events are referred to as “go, no go” contests, and others determine whether a competitor receives a gold, silver or bronze badge, Matt Jozwiak said. “Go, no go” means a competitor will no longer continue in the competition if they fail to meet an event’s standards. Jozwiak said an example of a “go, no go” event is the long jump, where competitors are disqualified if they do not jump at least 4.5 meters. Other events in this category are the 200-meter swim, the 100-meter sprint, the five-kilometer run and the shot put. Jozwiak said the first-aid test is similar to the “go, no go” physical event, as competitors must pass in order to receive a badge. The shooting competition and the “ruck march” determine the type of badge a competitor is eligible to receive, Jozwiak said. “There is a shooting competition with a 9 mm pistol. You have five chances to hit a target 25 meters away,” he said. “Three out of five is the minimum to still be eligible for a badge. If you hit the target five times you are eligible for gold, four times you are eligible for silver, and three times you are eligible for bronze.” The “ruck march” is the final competition and determines what type of badge an individual earns, Jozwiak said. Different distances and time standards for the march are required for different types of badges. Sandler said he wanted to compete for the German Armed Forces badge for the prestige. “In the Army, you wear your resume on your chest,” he said. “This is a shiny new bullet point.” Jozwiak said he is competing for the badge because he has never participated in a similar experience. “I really just wanted to do it because I’ve never done anything like the track-and-field events before,” he said. “The experience itself is what I’m looking forward to. I also want to better myself physically.” Sandler said all of the Notre Dame ROTC cadets have a chance at a badge this weekend. “It’s not a participation ribbon, but if we continue to put the work in every one of us is capable of coming home with some hardware,” he said. Jozwiak said he is confident at least one of the four teammates will come home victorious. “Personally, I don’t know how I will do,” he said. “I think as a team we’ll come back with some badges, at least one gold.”
What would happen if America ceased to be – if it failed to provide the leadership in the international arena for which it is best known? Professor Paul Collier, director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at the University of Oxford, raised these questions and more in his lecture Wednesday titled “International Human Development: Has the U.S. a Leadership Role?” Collier, whose research includes the political economy of democracy and poverty, emphasized the distinct way in which the United States must exert its influence in the world so it may more effectively foster human development. He said the United States must lead by employing soft power, the power of influence and example, as opposed to the traditional notion of hard, physical power. With its “power of example, of imitation, [soft power] is much, much stronger than people appreciate,” Collier said. The U.S. should also use soft power to communicate particular values that have empowered America but are lacking in Africa, he said. Motivation is an important aspect of any healthy, vibrant society, including the United States, Collier said. Prosperous nations and successful organizations empower individuals to make a leap of identity, internalize objectives and become motivated. Africa, he said, suffers from a chronic “failure of motivation.” “If you look at the public sector across Africa – schools, health clinics – the fundamental problem is the astonishingly low productivity of the labor force because the labor force is not motivated,” he said. Collier defined another pivotal value, neutral regard, as two-pronged: it empowers individuals to achieve a cooperative solution to problems and allows for redistribution from the better-off to the worse-off in society. Here too, he said, the developing world struggles and must look to the developed world as an example. “Quite systematically, there are big variances, big differences, between the ability of different societies to reach [a] cooperative outcome,” he said. “It is much more difficult for poorer societies than wealthy societies.” Collier emphasized the power of integrity, which has reeled in the shadows of dictatorships and crumbling democratic governments. “The poorest countries have enormous problems with high levels of corruption, low levels of integrity in their government,” he said. But Collier said the virtue of stewardship – one that even Americans have not fully embraced– is one of the most pressing. “Stewardship is the central task of the present generation of African decision makers,” he said, “in the next decade there is going to be a resource boom.” Collier praised American society as an exemplar, but stressed the urgency of communicating its values to a world greatly in need. “[The developing world] needs role models of high integrity,” he said, “which is something that America has been able to deliver dramatically over the years.”
World Rare Disease Day took place Thursday and the University recognized the international event Feb. 23 with lectures and discussion panels, but Notre Dame offers a number of opportunities for students to be involved with rare disease studies throughout the year. Marisa Truong, program coordinator for the Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases (CRND), said the Feb. 23 event aimed to encourage others to become interested and involved in the rare disease community. “The goal of the event was to engage our students, faculty, patient families and our local community in a group discussion in order to find ways we can all collaborate to become better advocates for the rare disease community,” Truong said. The program consisted of four discussion panels, which focused on rare disease research, ethical dilemmas within rare disease work, patient family stories and student outreach through Rare Health Exchange, a collaborative that allows undergraduates to assist researchers by defining natural histories of the diseases. In hopes to increase awareness of rare and neglected diseases, CRND offers an undergraduate course titled “Developing Health Networks in Rare and Neglected Diseases.” Truong said the course has developed into a student collaborative with the Rare Health Exchange. Students are trained to assess rare disease medical records in order to help physicians and researchers develop natural history studies for them. “These studies are extremely useful for improving disease management, accelerating the time of diagnosis, and new drug development,” Truong said. Additionally, the Center hosts a Clinical Translational Seminar Series in which distinguished professionals who work with the rare disease community are invited to showcase the type of rare disease work interested students could become involved with. Patients and families directly affected by such diseases are also given the opportunity to share their story and raise awareness for the cause, Truong said. “[In this] patient outreach component, students engage with patient families in order to help them submit medical records to us for assessment,” Truong said. Truong said implementing rare disease education at the undergraduate university level is important. In this way, more of our communities are given an earlier exposure to the presence of rare diseases and can be informed of what they can do to help, she said. “[Through undergraduate awareness programs] people are then exposed to a variety of ways they can continue to advocate for rare diseases and are made aware of the socioeconomic and cultural issues involved,” Truong said.
The Supreme Court convened privately Monday to determine whether it will hear a case appealing the Sept. 4 decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.The Justices are considering seven cases from five different states, including Indiana, and can choose to hear all, none or some of the appeals. They could announce their decision as early as this week, but Notre Dame students on both sides of the aisle say the campus response to the appeal has been limited and languid.“I think it’s a hard thing for people to talk about, which I understand, but I think we as a community need to, despite your religious background or your beliefs on the issues, we need to talk about them more in an open space so it’s not just a thing we talk about only behind closed doors,” freshman Jake Maginn, a member of PrismND, said.For those supporting the appellate court’s initial ruling, the excitement of the Sept. 4 decision was short-lived — the court approved a stay on same-sex marriages nine days later, at the request of Indiana’s attorney general. The stay will remain in effect until the Supreme Court either hears the case and issues a new ruling or refuses to hear the case, leaving the appellate court’s ruling in place. Indiana has asked the Supreme Court to take on the issue and decide whether same-sex marriage should be allowed in all 50 states, according to Associated Press reports.Emily Kirkegaard is a coordinator for GlassND, the subcommittee of the Graduate Student Union (GSU) concerned with LGBTQ issues. She said graduate students met the appellate court’s initial ruling with deflated enthusiasm, and many had been “tensely waiting” the Supreme Court’s final decision.“There was not much of a celebration for the recent ruling. There was initially some buzz about it on social media and everyone was very excited and happy but the stay in Indiana came so quickly that there wasn’t nearly the same excited celebration,” Kirkegaard said.Maginn, who favors legalization of same-sex marriage, said he was pleased to read the opinion penned by the appellate court’s Judge Richard Posner, a well-known conservative appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Mangin said Posner found holes in the state’s argument and used sarcasm to expose these flaws.“[Posner] talked about how in Indiana, first cousins over the age of 65 are legally allowed to marry because the idea is that they can’t have biological children,” Maginn said. “The fact that the argument seems to put forth that homosexual couples aren’t as capable of raising children as first cousins to me is absurd.”“Not only that, in Indiana gay couples are allowed to adopt, so if the institution of marriage is to create an environment where children can effectively and fruitfully grow, then I don’t think it makes any sense to let a homosexual couple adopt children but not be married,” Maginn said.Graduate student Tiernan Kane said it was “incumbent” on the Supreme Court to hear Indiana’s case. He disagreed with Posner’s opinion, saying it misused precedent and demonstrated both “flippancy” and a lack of understanding of the state’s case.“On reading it, my first impression is I was sorry to see that [Posner] seemed to have approached this in a similar way to the way he approached the Notre Dame … case [against the Department of Health and Human Services] earlier this year,” Kane said. “It doesn’t appear from the decision that he’s taken the time to understand the opposing point of view.”Kane founded and serves as a leader of Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), a group that last week gained approval from the Club Coordination Council (CCC). He said extreme points of view on both sides often stifle the discussion of marriage on campus, something SCOP experienced when it first applied for club status in the spring.“Particularly regarding Posner, but also I think marriage [debates in general], you don’t hear a lot about it, and I think that’s in part because of the fear of the reaction that greeted SCOP when it tried to raise this point of view,” Kane said. “There was an immediate accusation made by several hundred students, not the majority of students, but several hundred to say this is a position that would be wrongly discriminatory.”Junior SCOP member Alexandra DeSanctis said the court cases and general dialogue about marriage reflect “a fundamental misunderstanding of what the debate is.” She said she believes marriage as an institution must be “permanent,” “exclusive” and “life-giving.”“I think if you understand marriage as having these three characteristics, you see that it naturally points to being between a man and a woman, and I think you can see that regardless of your religion, just through common sense and through reason,” DeSanctis said. “… The state cares about its future citizens and I think defining marriage as between a man and a woman is best for children and therefore best for the state.”Graduate student Greg Cousins, a member of GlassND, said the Notre Dame community should encourage discussion over different ideologies of marriage in spite of potential clashes between traditional and non-traditional views.“People should talk about it even if people disagree with the ruling,” he said. “There should be some open discussion, especially in a very well-renowned University. This should be a place of friendly discourse even if there are differing opinions, and I don’t think there has been enough of that.”Tim Bradley, a junior member of SCOP, said students supporting the traditional idea of marriage often face criticism for refusing to change their views despite pressure from opposing perspectives.“For some people who think that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, it’s easy for them to be afraid to speak their mind because there’s a risk of being labeled a bigot or a homophobe or being told you’re on the wrong side of history, and those are hard things for someone to hear,” Bradley said.Students’ hesitancy to speak out in fear of criticism can make the discussion of marriage appear lopsided, Bradley said.“On the surface one would think that most students are in favor of redefining marriage because that’s the impression given in the media but I don’t think that that’s true,” he said. “I think a lot of people are silent on the issue.”Senior Chris Weber, a PrismND member, said he hopes many who argue for traditional marriage on religious grounds will start to reconsider their beliefs, as the Church has done in the past.“I think there are some in the church community who believe with time this will probably evolve, our idea of marriage will evolve,” Weber said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be within the next decade or my lifetime, but I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Catholic Church evolved their thoughts on this issue just as they evolved their thoughts on evolution or on heliocentrism.”Cousins said Notre Dame has a unique opportunity as a Catholic institution to foster greater dialogue and encourage open discussion.“The University and the University administration shouldn’t be afraid of encouraging conversation about it because silence is not a very good defense of their position,” he said. “It shouldn’t be something that’s kept hush-hush.“I think it would be very progressive of them to encourage this sort of discussion officially and hopefully we will see some of that.”Tags: gay marriage, GlassND, Graduate Student Union, indiana, LGBTQ, same-sex marriage, Supreme Court
In a lecture Tuesday titled “Journalism and the Coercive Power of the Chinese State,” associate professor Timothy Weston of the University of Colorado Boulder discussed the status of the press in modern China.Weston, who serves as associate director of the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, said recent protests in Hong Kong reveal a deep-rooted tension between the paternalistic actions of the Chinese government and the press.“The Beijing government’s approach to the press, as seen in the Hong Kong case but also in a myriad others in contemporary times, comes to be seen as the latest iteration of a longstanding feature of Chinese political culture rather than an expression of a sharp moment of communist censorship, pure and simple,” he said.Despite the government’s censorship of the media, the ideal of a free press is alive in China today, he said.“Article 35 of the Chinese constitution states clearly that ‘Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly of association, of procession and of demonstration,’” he said. “The normative ideal of press freedom is enshrined in China’s highest legal document.”However, he said, tension exists between the stated ideal of freedom of the press and the practices of the government — namely, censorship of events and “routine arrests of journalists in China, often on trumped-up charges.”Weston said the government’s censorship of the media arises from a distinct understanding of the nature of free press. The government does not condemn freedom of press, he said, but rather takes a paternalistic approach in regarding the press as a means of molding society.“No modern state is going to take a stand against the idea of press freedom any more than it will take a stand against the idea of human rights,” he said.He said the recent events in Hong Kong have prompted the government to adopt an offensive and defensive approach, consisting both of censoring the press and presenting an “alternative narrative” of events to Chinese citizens.This alternative narrative, he said, depicts the protesters in Hong Kong as “petty criminals engaging in illegal behavior.”Weston said the government has not been entirely successful in its efforts to suppress the dissemination of reports of protest in Hong Kong.“In the digital age it is impossible to enforce a total information embargo,” he said.Nevertheless, he said, the average Chinese citizen is unable to view internationally popularized images legally, such as the one of a protester holding an umbrella to shield himself from tear gas.He said the government’s treatment of the events in Hong Kong has focused international attention on the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ — so christened because of the image of the protester with the umbrella. The response of the Chinese government to the international spotlight has been to accuse foreign agents such as the United States of manipulating naïve students to incite rebellion, Weston said.“Blaming conspiring foreign agents also has the complicit effect of treating the Hong Kong protesters — of which there were tens of thousands in the early stages of the movement — as gullible children,” he said.Weston said although China maintains the ideal of a free press, the actions of the government undermine its realization.“The logic of the paternalistic state with regard to question of freedom of the press then is that the people are free to know everything, except when they are not,” Weston said.Tags: censorship, China, Journalism, Kellogg Institute
Hundreds of candles shined through a cold winter night as Notre Dame students, faculty and staff congregated at midnight to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. early Monday morning.The midnight march and prayer service was the kickoff event for the inaugural Walk the Walk Week at Notre Dame, a series of events designed to reflect on King’s legacy and promote diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame. Katie Galioto | The Observer Students, faculty and staff process from the Main Building with candles to the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus following a prayer service reflecting on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.As attendees entered the Main Building, they were handed candles and directed towards the rotunda beneath the golden dome. Members of the Notre Dame community crowded on the main floor and in overlook areas on higher floors.The march was originally scheduled to start outside of Hesburgh Library and finish with a prayer service at the Grotto. However, organizers modified the plan due to dangerous wind-chill conditions and expected snowfall, according to a University-wide email.University President Fr. John Jenkins began the prayer service by encouraging students to strive for courage and determination to follow King’s example.“It would have been nice to have a march outside, but there’s something special about being here, under the golden dome, the heart of campus, as we pray and as we start this celebration of Dr. King’s legacy,” he said.Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, delivered a speech examining the importance of King’s legacy, both from a global perspective and in relation to Notre Dame.“Arguably, the most profound reason we are here at midnight is because of King’s achievement of making the promise of the U.S. Constitution more true,” he said. “We claimed all men are created equal, but we didn’t practice that promise of our own Constitution.“We talked the talk, but we did not walk the walk.”Love said King’s legacy has a special meaning at Notre Dame because University President Emeritus Fr. Ted Hesburgh was an avid supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.“King wanted to be a pastor in a Southern Baptist church and simply raise his family. Fr. Hesburgh said if he had to do it all over again, he would still choose to be a priest,” Love said. “But neither one could stand idly by and let the injustices of the time go unchallenged.”Love encouraged members of the Notre Dame community to make others feel welcomed and comfortable on campus.“It doesn’t matter where you are from, your religion, your ethnicity, sexual orientation or family income,” he said. “Whoever you are, if you are here, you are part of our family, and you should be expected to be treated with dignity and respect.”Love concluded his speech by challenging students, staff and faculty at Notre Dame to make a difference in the world.“I have no doubt that we have the brilliance and tenacity of Dr. King and the political savvy and compassion of Fr. Hesburgh among us this morning — among us in you,” he said. “My question for you is, what will you do to walk the walk?”Following the prayer service, attendees were invited to place their candles by the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Hundreds of paper luminaries lined the walkways from the Main Building.Sophomore Katie Hearn said she felt a strong sense of community and solidarity while standing and praying with her fellow Notre Dame students.“Everyone had their own reasons and motivations for going,” she said. “But these different reasons brought us all together and created an atmosphere of prayer and togetherness that, to me, was something special.”Junior Joe Etling said the only events he considers similar to the midnight prayer service during his time at Notre Dame were Fr. Hesburgh’s funeral and Holy Week.“I think it’s important for us and for anyone to celebrate Martin Luther King Day because of what he stood for and what he did for this country,” he said.Students, staff, faculty and other community members were invited to eat breakfast in South Dining Hall after the event.Tags: Hesburgh, march, Martin Luther King Jr., MLK, MLK Day, NDWalktheWalk, Prayer service, Walk the Wak
Katie Galioto | The Observer Led by sophomore Adam Wiechman, students in Fossil Free ND march in a protest in October of this year.Currently, 4 percent of the University’s endowment funds are invested in fossil fuel companies. Jenkins has said there are no plans to change that number in the near future. On Sept. 20, Jenkins announced the University’s five-year sustainability plan, which included eliminating coal usage on campus by 2020 and providing at least 25 percent of the University’s energy from renewable resources by 2050. “A few weeks ago, 47 developing countries committed to going 100 percent renewable,” senior Sophia Chau said. “I feel like if they’re able to do that, we — as the world’s leading Catholic university — should be able to set a more ambitious goal than just 25 percent renewable by 2050. “I hope this will bring attention to the disappointment regarding Notre Dame’s sustainability goals on campus, and I hope that the administration will be more willing to engage in meaningful and fruitful dialogue with students and faculty.” Before the petition was delivered, the students gathered in front of the steps of Main Building for a brief prayer service. Senior Luke Hamel said the prayer was written in seven sections, one for each Catholic social teaching. “Each section starts off with a description of that Catholic social teaching and then a personal story of someone around the world who’s been affected personally by climate change,” he said. “Climate change is affecting real people; it’s affecting them now, and we want to share that through prayer and make sure the whole message that Catholics have to protect the most poor and vulnerable is clear.”During the service, students held up painted cardboard signs, reading statements like “planet over profit,” “climate justice is social justice” and “the climate is a common good.” The signatures for the petition were gathered in the last month since Fossil Free ND’s last rally Oct. 27, former student body president Ricketts said. He said the administration’s response to the earlier rally was promising. “We were able — the week after — to sit down with [University executive vice president] John Affleck-Graves and talked through some of the concerns that students have expressed and tried to find some common ground on the technical issues we were facing,” he said. “ … We’re looking forward to seeing the recommendations [the sustainability committee] puts forward in the coming semester or year.”Weekly meetings for Fossil Free ND are held Mondays at 9 p.m. in the basement of Geddes Hall and are open to the public. The planning session for next semester, however, will start at 8 p.m. this Monday, Ricketts said.While the student-led organization will be planning for the near future, Ricketts said the long term goals of progress in sustainability and increased student awareness never change. “We, as students, know the world we want to grow up in and want to create — and it’s one that’s a just place and a sustainable place,” he said. “I think we feel those are more under threat than they have been before, but that’s not going to stop us from trying to have an impact where we can — in the place we call home.” Tags: Climate change, Fossil Free ND, fossil fuel, petition, sustainability A month after their last demonstration, more than 20 students involved with Fossil Free ND presented a petition with 1,183 signatures to University President Fr. John Jenkins’ office Thursday afternoon. “We’re asking that Notre Dame live up to the mandates of our Catholic faith and fully divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and set a target of 100 percent renewable energy on campus by 2050, which we think are reasonable goals and goals that other universities have done. We’re asking Notre Dame to step up to the plate as well,” fifth-year student Bryan Ricketts said. Jenkins was not in his office, but the petition was delivered to his chief of staff, Ann Firth.
“President Putin’s goals are very simple: to ‘Make Russia Great Again.’” George Liber, professor in the department of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said this in his lecture Monday night called “Back to the Future: Soviet Collapse, the Long Post-Communist Transition and Putin’s Interventions in Ukraine, 2004-2014.” This talk, sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, was centered on Ukraine’s post-Soviet Union history and President Putin’s interventionist role. Liber most recently authored “Total Wars and the Making of Modern Ukraine.”Liber spoke of the history in post soviet Ukraine in the past 25 years following the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991 and the emergence of 15 independent republics. Liber said upon its independence Ukraine had a plethora of problems, including deep internal divisions, flawed political design and major corruption which prevented the new “demokratura” — a blend of democracy and dictatorship — from running smoothly. A lack of economic reform in Ukraine had economic costs, such as a major decrease of GDP and a hyperinflation rate of over 10,000 percent, Liber said.Liber warned against reading too much into the information, stating that Russian speakers in Ukraine are not always Putin supporters.“These statistics are even more complex — there are other issues involved, not just ethnic or language differences in Ukraine,” he said. “Ukraine is essentially a country in which a population is co-mingled. The Russian population in Ukraine and the Ukrainian population in Ukraine are not that different.”In a struggle to maintain a solid political regime and therefore defaulting to a pluralist system of sorts, Ukrainian politicians often struggle with resistance becoming corrupt, Liber said.“These demokratura have democratic trappings — they have constitutions, they have parliaments, they have elections and guarantees of freedom of speech and assembly. In practice, however, according to Asherson, they are manipulated to maintain the privileges of the post communist elite. The authorities in Russia, as well as in Ukraine, discretely falsify elections as well as use violence against some political challengers … the important thing is to keep your mob in power by persuading your people and the outside world that the political process at least roughly reflects the popular will,” Liber said.This style of corrupt governance ultimately caused two major crises in Ukraine, he said. Liber recounted the events following President Viktor Yanukovych’s rigged election, Yanokovych’s refusal to sign an EU trade agreement due to President Putin’s opposal to it, and his false imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political opponent. Each of these events culminated in public demonstrations, some of which turned violent. “This was the worst political violence in the history of Ukraine since the independence,” Liber said.Just before signing a peace agreement to calm the protests which was overseen by the EU, Liber said, Yanokovych disappeared, fleeing to Eastern Ukraine for his own safety. Putin took over amidst the chaos and eventually annexed Crimea, and he later attempted to create a corridor from Russia to Crimea, he said. Putin’s interventions in Ukraine peaked when he sent Russian troops to Ukraine under the guise of the protection of the Russian speakers in Ukraine, Liber said.Liber said that the violence that happened in Ukraine was a result of the peoples’ attempts to find a common future. He said Westernizers, moderate reformists and “Soviet-ophiles” all see Ukraine heading in different directions. Nonetheless, he said, Putin’s interventions have not swayed the deep-rooted desire for growth and change in the Ukraine.“Despite everything that Putin did, Ukraine did sign this EU association agreement,” Liber said. “Most citizens after 1914 aspired to move closer to Europe than ever before. The hybrid war that Russia conducted in Eastern Ukraine since 2014 only served in the post-Soviet consolidation of the Ukrainian identity, introducing new perceptions of what it means to be Ukrainian. Not that one defines oneself as Ukrainian by ethnic or linguistic realms, but rather one defines oneself as Ukrainian by means of civic standards.”Although Liber said historians probably shouldn’t make predictions, he said he believes that the conflict in the Ukraine will exist for a very long time. Tags: Communism, political violence, Putin, reform
Saint Mary’s Social Work Club may include students from the College, but the group’s mission involves stepping away from campus.Club president and senior Marilla Opra said the club will provide members with the opportunity to become immersed in the South Bend community.“Our goal is to promote social work values in the service opportunities that we do both on- and off-campus,” Opra said. “We hope to give people the chance to serve while connecting with social work ethics.”Students have much to learn from the surrounding area, explained Opra.“I think it’s good for us to actually be involved and get acclimated to the community around us because the city of South Bend really is an up-and-coming city, and there are so many great organizations to be part of … instead of just focusing on what happens on campus.”This year, the club will participate in several service projects, such as working with residents of La Casa de Amistad, a local organization that empowers the Latino community through education and childcare in a bilingual atmosphere.“They’ve also been talking to us about possibly working with them in their English learning program and after school tutoring center,” Opra said. “We’re also working to adopt a family for Christmas.”This year, the club is changing its focus and making strides to communicate ethics and awareness of social work to other majors too, said club vice president and senior Jessica Ladd. The club’s service aligns with the College’s emphasis on justice, Ladd said.“President Cervelli’s core value for this year is justice, so … going out into the community and really working at integrating students is perfect to promote the value of justice that she’s focusing on,” Ladd said. Treasurer and senior Kelly Geelan said the club accomodates a wide range of interests and has a place for everyone.“We’re kind of restructuring the club, so it can fit all different interests,” she said. “We’re going to have different communities that focus on specific things that we’re addressing in the club and have fundraising committees to work on raising all the money that we donate to the charities we use for our events. Campus outreach, [which] focuses more on things we do on campus like advertising and contacting the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross communities, and community outreach are the people that will be personally in contact with agencies we want to work with … whatever your interest is, there’s a section for you.”According to Geelan, social work fosters empathy.“The people that you’re interacting with most of the time aren’t in the best circumstances or the best time in their lives, but just your presence being there already makes it better,” she said.Opra said on-campus involvement remains an important component of the club, however.“On campus, we’re working with BAVO [Belle’s Against Violence Office] to sponsor Green Dot training and with the Student Diversity Board to work on some cultural sensitivity training,” she said.Ladd said the club allows members to connect with the South Bend community and beyond. She said she hopes the service the club does will initiate the development of an increasingly sensitive and compassionate environment.“It’s just all about helping people,” Ladd said. “I speak for all of us when I say: ‘you’re always making a difference in someone’s life, and it’s a positive one. You’re always looking for a better outcome, and so even the little things on campus that we’re doing can start here but go much bigger.’ That’s what we’re trying to push.” Social Work Club’s call meeting will take place Monday September 11 at 6:30 p.m. in 145 Spes Unica Hall.Tags: BAVO, Green Dot, social work, St. Margaret’s House