Thursday, October 18, 2007

Maybe We'll Get Al Gore...

I was just alerted during my late night/early morning email check that less than two full weeks after this year's Notre Dame Forum, next year's topic has already been selected:

It is “Charting a Sustainable Energy Future,” a subject that
implicates a host of timely and difficult issues, including climate change
and the condition of the environment, the costs and benefits of economic
development, the fairness of wealth and income distribution, and the
appropriate roles of nations and individuals in creating such a future.

This comes right on the tail of the highly publicized (we're talking t-shirts, elaborate quad displays, and tables in front of the dining halls during several meals) and extensively university-supported 'Energy Week,' which was described in another post. So much for choosing a counter-culturally Catholic topic for the Academic Forum, as one of the commentors on that post suggested. I guess a 'life issues' or bioethics forum just isn't interesting, timely, or 'cool' enough for the Office of the President, et. al.

Another observation is that the ND Forum topics seem to be nicely coinciding with this year's television marketing scheme. We're 'fighting disease,' 'fighting for immigration rights' (or I think the most recent version was something more vague about fighting for 'security' and fighting for 'human rights'), and of course 'fighting global warming'. We're the Fighting Irish. It's what we do.

Perhaps I should be able to veil my disappointment a bit more. But we have really come far from the first year of the Forum, when Notre Dame at least tried to address a faith-related topic ("Why God? Understanding Religion and Enacting Faith in a Plural World"). Although in retrospect, I don't remember that going very well either, with former Sen. Danforth contributing this pearl of wisdom:

Danforth clarified his position by saying that rather than fundamentalism, he believes “certainty is the problem – people who believe that they are on God’s side, or they know God’s will.”

The academic forum seems to have great potential...but alas.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First-Generation Domer's Lament

Have you ever, in the course of a stultifying talk with another student, wondered how your conversation partner got into Notre Dame? I've had this experience so frequently throughout my career here that I became curious as to how so many intelligent people are rejected from Notre Dame in favor of so many dimwits. Eventually I settled for the answer that most of the less acute people had extremely strong extracurriculars -- you don't need to have an IQ of 140 to be a concert pianist or to found a soup kitchen.

In coming to that conclusion, I gave the admissions folks the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the truth is not as flattering:
"...many of the applicants who were rejected were far more qualified than those accepted. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it was not the black and Hispanic beneficiaries of affirmative action, but the rich white kids with cash and connections who elbowed most of the worthier applicants aside.

Researchers with access to closely guarded college admissions data have found that, on the whole, about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America's highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards."

Notre Dame is one of the schools specifically mentioned in this Boston Globe article, along with Harvard, Duke, and others. Apparently, it's far easier for legacies to get in than I had imagined, not only here, but at elite colleges throughout the US.

The article presents this as a bad or unfair practice, but I'm not entirely convinced. I'm a first generation Domer, and I benefit enormously from below-average legacies attending ND. First, they are accepted because they are cash cows for the school. Indirectly, they also subsidize my education. Without the donations their parents exchange for their acceptance, tuition would be a lot higher than it currently is. Second, multiple generations of families attending school here imbue it with the tradition and familiar atmosphere that make Notre Dame attractive. Third, having below-average students brings down the curve, meaning it's easier for me to get the grades I want. Based on the Globe's figure of 15% of students being unqualified "rich dim white kids," I estimate that my getting an "A" is 15% easier.

So by all means, ND admissions, keep the cash cows coming.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Any Chance this week?

With Evan Sharpley starting this week against USC, I think we have a legitimate chance to defeat the Trojans. I realize that the Irish are an awful 1-6 this season, while USC stands at 5-1, but I honestly believe we can win this game on Saturday.
The offense, which has been stagnate under Clausen, has actually been fairly productive with Sharpley under center. He has led Notre Dame on its three longest drives of the season, and the offense, in general, seems to open up more when Sharpley is in the game. While he may not be as accurate a passer as Clausen, the offense definitely responds to Sharpley when he is in the game. Moreover, Sharpley’s elusiveness to avoid the rush has prevented a sack on more than one occasion – a skill that is extremely valuable with an offensive line that has struggled this season.
On the other side, USC has not performed well. They lost to a weak Stanford team two weeks ago, and last week the Trojans just managed to sneak by Arizona. No one can deny the amount of talent on USC, but they seem to be extremely lackadaisical, merely going through the motions. To make matters worse for USC, John David Booty may miss the game on Saturday due to a broken finger, though he insists that he wants to play. If Booty doesn’t play, Mark Sanchez will get the start for USC, and I think that our defense, which has been able to get pressure on the quarterback in the last few games, will be able to rattle the inexperienced Sanchez.
The bottom line: If USC continues to play as poorly as they have in the past two weeks, Evan Sharpley, though he may not be spectacular by any means, will be able to do enough to generate points for the Irish, and lead them to a victory.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Football Post

After ND's latest failure, Weis is considering switching QBs and having Evan Sharpley start next week against USC. Note that, while Sharpley has been better than Clausen, neither has done anything amazing (3 TDs for Sharpley, 1 for Clausen on the season. 1-6 record). Who does senior captain John Carlson think should start?

Tight end John Carlson said the players believe in both quarterbacks.

"They've both proven that they have the ability to get the job done," he said.

And the "job" is what again?

Note: Nothing against Carlson or the QBs. I just thought it was funny.