Notre Dame University – Sociology 101

Guest Opinion published June 1, 2017, Siskiyou Daily News

Vice President Mike Pence recently gave a commencement address at Notre Dame University.  When he stepped up to give his speech, a significant number of graduates got up and walked out, robes and all.  Wow! Was I impressed!  This was the graduating class of Notre Dame, after all.  Probably known more for the Fighting Irish, Knute Rockne, and Joe Montana, than for its academic programs.  Nevertheless it is a stand-out university for both its academic and sports programs.  Or was.

Why did they walk out?  Not personally being in the rarified world of academia, I’m having difficulty grasping the purpose of the walk–out.  I can offer a couple of guesses.

Guess number one, probably the most logical, is that they all had to pee.  Perhaps that morning they had too much coffee or five-hour energy drink or whatever modern college students are drinking these days, and they just couldn’t wait.

Guess number two, far less logical, but which the mainstream media seems to glorify, is that they were heroically making a statement, a protest.  There was something they didn’t like, so they not very eloquently told the world they didn’t like it.  Okay.  What didn’t they like?  That is hard to say.  Getting up and walking out really didn’t answer that question.  And did it solve whatever it was they didn’t like? 

I actually do have a possible answer as to what they didn’t like.  Reflecting upon my own college commencement ceremony more than fifty years ago, if I would have been more heroic, I would have gotten up and walked out too, rather than having to sit through three or four hours of acute tedium watching graduates, one by one, receiving their diplomas and shaking hands with the university president.  It was hell, but I got through it.

Probably that’s not what the Notre Dame graduates had in mind.  They were probably making a statement about something other than the boredom of having to sit through a graduation ceremony.  But what?  I think I’ve got it.  They didn’t like the Trump administration.  What didn’t they like?  Immigration policy?  Tax policy?  Healthcare policy?  Environmental policy?  All of the above?  It didn’t matter.  “We will strike a blow for righteousness!  We will show them!   We will walk out and not listen to find out if the Vice President might have something worthwhile to say.  We don’t want to hear it because we already possess all knowledge and truth and anyone who doesn’t share that knowledge and truth is stupid.”

Makes perfect sense.  If you don’t want to hear it, don’t listen.  I hear sirens.  There is an officer at the door.  He is telling me the wildfire is out of control and I need to evacuate immediately.  I don’t want to hear that, so I won’t listen.  Perfect university-educated logic.

I can’t help but wonder what forty years from now those Notre Dame graduates will tell their grandkids about their bravery at their university graduation.

“We did everything we could to fight evil.  We gave our all for The Gipper.  We got up and walked away.”

Bob Kaster


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