Low-income families have long relied on tax refunds to catch up on bills, cover medical needs and pay down debt. But just as the pandemic-fueled recession has put many in a precarious financial position, their tax refunds could be much smaller this year — or they could owe. People who did not have taxes withheld from their unemployment benefits may face a tax bill. But perhaps more significant, unemployment benefits don’t apply to two critical tax credits that fuel the refunds for millions of people. There is a fix, though it’s not been widely publicized: Taxpayers can use 2019 income, rather than 2020 income, to qualify for tax credits.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration was quick to breathe new life into the last remaining treaty limiting U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons. The going will be slower when it turns to other arms control problems that are either festering or emerging as potential new triggers of an international arms race. China is modernizing its arsenal of nuclear weapons and has shown no interest in negotiating limits. North Korea is at or near the point of being able to threaten the U.S. homeland with a nuclear missile strike. Russia has begun deploying exotic new weapons. Iran is the biggest missile threat in the Mideast.
MIAMI (AP) — Washington lobbyist Robert Stryk continued working for El Salvador’s government even after the country’s president claimed he had annulled a $450,000 contract that triggered a wave of criticism in the poor Central American country. Newly filed foreign lobbying records disclosed Saturday show that Stryk’s Sonoran Policy Group continued making calls to congressional offices and collected $214,000 in payments from El Salvador’s state intelligence agency even after President Nayib Bukele’s office said in August it had backed away from the deal.
Among the University’s largest applicant pool in history, the members of the Class of 2014 stand out. The University accepted about 29 percent of over 14,500 applicants, resulting in an incoming freshman class that boasts an average SAT score of 1408 and an average ACT of about 32. “This is another exceptional class for us,” Bob Mundy, interim director of Admissions, said.Mundy said the Office of Admissions works to create a well-rounded, diverse class and is able to do so by providing as much financial aid as possible.“The University is making a very strong commitment to financial aid that helps us to enroll a class that is as diverse and talented as we have,” he said. About 48 percent of the incoming class will receive need-based financial aid, with an average scholarship of just over $25,600, he said.Mundy said Notre Dame’s commitment to providing financial aid has been crucial. “With the economy, many colleges are literally scrambling to find ways to spend less money. Fortunately, we remain committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of all of our students,” he said.For those who didn’t make the cut for need-based scholarships, this year marked the first time that students had the opportunity to apply for the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholarship, which is merit-based.The program awarded 25 members of the class of 2014 a scholarship based on academic achievement, leadership, moral character and commitment to service. The scholarship totals at $25,000 per year, per student.“They are outstanding. They are absolute leaders in their high schools and communities,” Joan Ball, associate director of the scholarship program, said.The class of 2014 is made up of about 2065 students — 53 percent male and 47 percent female. Twenty-four percent of the class is children of Notre Dame alumni.The class has a similar ethnic make up to last year, with 23 percent of the class coming from minority groups.Last year, the Admissions Office expressed disappointment in the percentage of black students in the Class of 2013. The group now makes up a slightly larger percentage of this year’s incoming class — jumping from 3.5 to 4.3 percent.Asian Americans make up 7.3 percent of the class, and Hispanics account for 10 percent. Native Americans make up 1.5 percent of the incoming freshman class.The international population increased slightly from last year’s freshman class. The Class of 2014 is made up of 4 percent international students, a 1 percent increase from last year.This year’s international students come from 25 different countries. The largest group of students comes from South Korea, followed by China.“We have 20 more international students in the class this year, and that group of students was up pretty significantly in their applications as well,” Mundy said.Mundy said the Class of 2014 was “very strong” in extracurricular participation as well. “We’ve got some exceptional stories of students committing to and completing some tremendous volunteer work, some statewide and national honors,” he said.
Members of the Saint Mary’s College community gathered Tuesday to remember three great thinkers who died within almost one month of each other this time last year. The memorial honored Edward Schillebeeckx, who died Dec. 23, 2009, Mary Daly, who died Jan. 3, 2010 and Howard Zinn, who died Jan. 27, 2010. Sr. Kathleen Dolphin, director of the Center for Spirituality, spoke about Schillebeeckx, a Dominican priest who worked to reshape theology. “Dominicans were very influential in recasting theology in newer ways of thinking,” Dolphin said. Dolphin said she decided to study Schillebeeckx’s works while she worked to complete her doctorate at the University of Chicago. “I knew with great clarity that I wanted to study Edward Schillebeeckx,” she said. Dolphin said she worked with his sermons and had the opportunity to study directly with Schillebeeckx. “He was so personable and so helpful,” she said. Religious studies professor Stacy Davis spoke about Mary Daly, a feminist who worked to empower women. Daly was extremely well educated and earned three PhDs, Davis said. “Daly is probably the best example of what an educated woman is capable of,” Davis said. Davis described Daly as a “radical feminist.” “The only way you can really exist is just to be free,” Davis said. “What she wanted for everybody was to exist free from patriarchy, free from oppression.” Davis said Daly left the Church because of its patriarchal structure. “Her argument was you should not waste your time banging your head against a wall,” Davis said. “She was not persuaded that Christian institutions would do the right thing on their own.” Davis said Daly was ahead of her time and directed many of her efforts toward creating equality for women. “To be a radical feminist is to choose life, both for women and men,” Davis said. Professor Jan Pilarski, director of the College’s Justice Education Department, spoke about Howard Zinn, and showed a short video based of off Zinn’s memoir. Pilarksi discussed how Zinn took life experiences and reflected on them in order to shape his lifestyle. Pilarksi said Zinn was a professor and worked to teach his students how to make changes. According to Pilarski, Zinn made modifications that were incremental to help his students question what was going on within society during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. “As young people, as scholars, as other faculty got involved, [they noticed] that they weren’t allowed to use the public libraries,” Pilarksi said. Pilarski said Zinn helped educate others about social issues so they could bring change to society. “They really reversed at least one institution and changed it so that the students and the faculty who were engaged in that struggle really kind of uprooted and transformed the institution and the community,” Pilarski said.
Though his term as student body president has officially come to a close, senior Pat McCormick will take his leadership to Washington, D.C., when he attends the National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC) Summit this weekend. McCormick, who serves as a member of the NCLC Executive Committee, said the conference represents the culmination of his collaboration with both the Notre Dame community and collegiate student governments. The goal of the summit is to form a nationally unifying student government entity that promotes “advocacy power for individual campuses and campuses across the country.” “Over the course of the 2011-2012 term, we as a student government collaborated with other schools to form a coalition of campuses nationwide in partnership with the NCLC and its staff of young professionals,” McCormick said. The summit will bring student leaders together through sessions at the White House and American University, he said. The representatives will address issues in financial aid, campus sustainability, college accessibility and youth unemployment. Participants will also meet with policymakers to directly influence future legislation on these matters, McCormick said. “This [summit] can serve as a means by which students nationwide can come together to confront shared challenges and advance broader national policy goals that are consonant with the concerns of individual student bodies,” he said. The conference will facilitate continuity between past and present Notre Dame student government administrations, as current student body president Brett Rocheleau, a junior, will accompany McCormick to the nation’s capital. “[One thing] consistent … is our commitment to the idea of working simultaneously on issues of convenience and confidence,” McCormick said. “We hope that’s an example of the kind of student government we’ve tried to build, one that’s bigger and more capable of working on these issues simultaneously.” Rocheleau said the conference’s breakout sessions and speakers will reflect the common interests of peers nationwide and allow for the exchange of ideas on these topics. “There will be a lot of different perspectives on different issues,” he said. “Maybe one student government did something that worked that we can try to implement at Notre Dame. Hearing solutions to issues will be a great resource.” Expressing the opinions and concerns of Notre Dame students is key at a national conference, Rocheleau said. “Our main goal is to advocate for our students on a national level by talking about issues Notre Dame students feel similarly about, like paying for college and employment after graduation,” Rocheleau said. “There are related policies being worked on in Congress that may not get a lot of press … but there’s power in numbers, and if we get a lot of people behind something, we can make a big difference.” The advocacy for student interests takes on a more influential role within the NCLC and paves the way for the nation’s future college students, McCormick said. “This is a way to continue to amplify the voices of students who have advocated in the past and can now take them directly to policymakers in a more institutionalized way,” he said. “[The NCLC] is an infrastructure for future student governments to have a way into the White House, and we hope it will provide a way for students at Notre Dame to continue to engage national policymakers on issues of concern to our student body in the future.” McCormick engaged in this advocacy in December 2010 when he represented student government at the White House and advocated for Notre Dame’s Playing for Peace initiative. He and other campus leaders spoke with Samantha Power, the senior director of multilateral affairs for the National Security Council and one of the architects of the Obama administration’s policy surrounding the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement. McCormick said he and student government initially became involved with the NCLC through an advisory role with NCLC staff members. The team provided feedback for the development of the organization, which currently represents more than 8 million students on 150 college campuses nationwide. In early 2012, the NCLC selected McCormick to serve on its Executive Committee, which consists of ten student body presidents who communicate with other student body presidents at universities in their geographical regions, McCormick said. “We saw [the Executive Committee] as a valuable platform to advance our broader goals and exercise full determination of what we choose to advocate for and work toward on our own,” he said. Although the conference focuses on current issues and concerns of U.S. college students, McCormick said it sets a precedent for future leadership of the country. “The challenges we face as a country will be shouldered by us,” he said. “Whether it’s the national debt or the energy crisis … this will be an opportunity to work with other campus leaders nationwide and begin to articulate ways in which students can contribute to national policies.”
Because of the current economic climate and the high rate of tuition at Notre Dame, some seniors have chosen to graduate at the end of this semester rather than in May. Senior finance major Alex Vander Linde said his decision to graduate early was primarily financial. “The reason I decided to graduate early was because I had the credits to do so and because I did not want to spend another $25,000 on tuition if I did not have to,” Vander Linde said. “I came into Notre Dame with 18 AP credits and have taken 15 credits every semester never dropping a class. I currently have exactly enough credits to graduate.” Vander Linde said he will remain in South Bend and continue with his part-time job on campus while crossing off some other bucket list items. “I do plan on visiting friends at other universities, going skiing and traveling abroad given the amount of time I have before I start my job at the end of June,” he said. “While in South Bend I will continue working my part time job in the development department and hope to find a hobby and several charities to occupy my time while others are in class.” Senior Brendan Sullivan said despite spending the spring 2012 semester in London, he was able to complete his political science major early, with some help from the 14 AP credits with which he came to Notre Dame. “It wasn’t like I did any special planning. It just kind of worked out that way,” Sullivan said. “I realized last year, ‘Oh wow, I can graduate early.’” Sullivan said he also plans to stay in South Bend and get a job while continuing to live in his same off-campus house. “In a lot of ways I’ll be getting next semester all the easy parts about being a student and not all the hard parts,” he said. Senior philosophy and gender studies major Christina Genovese said she is planning to work in Chicago beginning in February. “I interned at a law firm this past summer, so I’m planning to go back there and do that for a year and a half,” Genovese said. “Then I would go to law school.” Genovese said being in Chicago will allow her to visit campus frequently. “I figure if I’ll be in Chicago, I’ll probably just visit school most weekends,” she said. The school does not sponsor an official graduation ceremony for those who graduate in December, but Genovese said early graduates get to walk with their peers in May. “I’m excited to be in Chicago, and it’s nice that you can still walk with your class in graduation and come back for Senior Week and all that,” she said. Even though he will miss seeing his friends in class every day, Vander Linde said he has no regrets about graduating early. “I view it as a privilege that not many people have and am grateful for the time off,” he said. “This will probably be the last time in my life when I have six months with absolutely no obligations and when I can truly do anything I want. I look forward to having a great time with my friends and doing things that truly make myself happy and help others less fortunate than myself.”
Notre Dame will award the 2014 Laetare Medal to Kenneth R. Miller, a cell and molecular biologist who ardently supports the compatibility of Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Christian faith, at Notre Dame’s 169th commencement ceremony May 18, according to a University press release.“Kenneth Miller has given eloquent and incisive witness both to scientific acumen and religious belief,” University president Fr. John Jenkins said in a statement. “As an accomplished biologist and an articulate believer, he pursues two distinct but harmonious vocations and illustrates how science and faith can mutually flourish.”The Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious honor given to American Catholics, annually honors a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity,” according to the press release.“Miller is a prominent and outspoken critic of proponents of the creationism and intelligent design movements who argue that Darwin’s theory of evolution is inherently atheistic and incompatible with Christian faith,” the release stated.Miller, a current professor at Brown University, researches the structure and function of biological membranes. He has appeared on television shows including “The Colbert Report” and C-SPAN programs to debate with supporters of creationism and intelligent design, according to the press release.“Like many other scientists who hold the Catholic faith, I see the Creator’s plan and purpose fulfilled in our universe,” Miller said recently, according to the press release. “I see a planet bursting with evolutionary possibilities, a continuing creation in which the divine providence is manifest in every living thing.“I see a science that tells us there is indeed a design to life, and the name of that design is evolution.”Miller graduated from Brown in 1970 and earned a doctorate in biology from the University of Colorado before teaching at Harvard University from 1974 to 1980 and then returning to Brown. He authored two books, “Finding Darwin’s God” and “Only a Theory,” as well as co-authored biology textbooks for introductory college courses and high school classes, the press release stated.Recipients of the Laetare Medal date back to 1883 and include former President John F. Kennedy, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, actor Martin Sheen and University president emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, according to the Archives of the University of Notre Dame. Notre Dame announces the award recipient each year on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, the press release stated.Tags: creationism, evolution, Fr. John Jenkins, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, intelligent design, Kenneth R. Miller, Laetare Medal, Notre Dame
The Office of Digital Learning (ODL) launched its first annual ND Digital week Friday, and it will feature more than 30 events between now and Oct. 9 dedicated to promoting digital teaching, learning and research on campus.Mary McGraw | The Observer “The ODL is a new office on campus tasked with enhancing the bonds between students and faculty and driving a first-class learning experience via cutting edge technology,” Elliott Visconsi, Notre Dame’s Chief Academic Digital Officer, said. “It’s really important for us to hear student feedback and engagement — what their concerns are and what they want to see in their learning experience.”A keynote lecture by Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX and professor at MIT, will kick off the week at 3 p.m. Friday in the Geddes Auditorium. “[Agarwal] will be discussing the evolving nature of higher education and the role of digital learning within it,” Melissa Dinsman, projects and operations manager for the ODL, said. “We’re hoping it will generate a lot of buzz and discussion.”Tim Bozik, CEO of Pearson PLC, and Tara McPherson, Associate Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California will also present lectures. They will discuss online learning and digital scholarship, respectively, on Monday.Dinsman said other events include a series of round table discussions on digital education as well as workshops on digital publishing, e-portfolio preparation and digital comics creation. There will also be open houses hosted by the Digital Visualization Theater in Jordan Hall, Academic Technologies Lab in DeBartolo Hall and ePortfolio services.“This is a big announcement that the ODL is here and has plenty of resources to offer students and faculty alike,” Dinsman said. “We also want to highlight all the great digital scholarship already being conducted on campus.”Dinsman said the ODL plans to showcase the digital scholarship conducted by Notre Dame graduate students with “Lightning Talks” on Thursday. Each graduate student will present a five-minute talk on the theme “New Technologies, New Knowledge.”Sonia Howell, research fellow of digital initiatives at the ODL, said the week will also include interactive activities for students such as a digital scavenger hunt, Twitter Bingo, a 3-D printing contest and CasheND, a geocaching race. Prizes include T-shirts, bookstore items and restaurant gift cards, with the scavenger hunt champion receiving a free iPad mini.“This is the first time Notre Dame has done anything like this, and it’s important because it’s a great opportunity to present ourselves as world leaders in the sphere of digital learning,” Howell said.For updates and a complete list of events, visit online.nd.edu/digitalweek2014 or follow @NDDigitalWeek on Twitter.Tags: digital education, Digital Week, edX
Erin Rice | The Observer The Department of Information Technology (IT) released BelleMobile today as part of Saint Mary’s first ever Social Media Week.Chief Information Officer Michael Boehm said BelleMobile allows students to check information on their phone which in the past, they might have had to find on the Saint Mary’s website or through a visit with somebody on campus.“Now [students] have the ability to search number of things related to campus activity through their phones, whether it’s their course schedule or the master calendar,” he said.The app allows students to check their grades, a calendar of campus events, available computers on campus and even the lunch menu and laundry availability, Boehm said.“BelleMobile, as with most apps, is a matter of convenience,” Boehm said. “It provides information at your fingertips.”Boehm said IT worked with a vendor called Dublabs that has created apps for over 200 schools.“We got a lot of knowledge from [Dublabs] about what functionalities work and don’t work in their experience working with other institutions,” he said.Boehm said in addition to Dublabs, Saint Mary’s associate director of technology integration and software development Steve Hideg did a lot of the work behind the scenes in order for the app to release this week.Another feature of the app is a map, which can give the user directions to academic buildings on campus, Boehm said.“It will be very helpful for new students when they are trying to figure out where their classes are,” he said. “The maps feature is also a huge benefit when parents are coming for the weekend, trying to figure out where various meeting places are around campus. They can use the app to give them directions.”Boehm said another benefit of the app for Saint Mary’s is that the College can send push notifications to the users of the app as often as necessary.“If there was a big function, like reunion weekend, we can put the list of activities on the app and push it to the users,” he said.In the case of emergencies or important school-wide updates, the app will serve as another avenue to reach users and notify them with an urgent message, Boehm said.Boehm said BelleMobile also brings all the information that is available through other avenues into one place, including links to the Notre Dame athletics calendar and The Observer.The most valuable feature of the app will depend on the preference of the user, Boehm said.“There are some users who will find the connection to BlackBoard and checking their grades as the best feature of the app, but there are other students who might appreciate the interaction with social media,” he said.Boehm said BelleMobile is an evolving tool that IT will periodically update, incorporating user feedback as users download the app.“The nice thing about mobile app technology is that we can continue to evolve and update the mobile app based on our user needs,” he said. “The primary audience is our students, so if after a period of time the consensus is to add new functionality, we will update to support user requests and needs.”Boehm said he hopes students find the information BelleMobile provides valuable and convenient.“The whole idea of a mobile app is to make life more convenient, to provide information to our students that is timely and effective,” he said.Users can download BelleMobile at http://www.saintmarys.edu/~bellemobile. The app is also available on the App Store and Google Play.Tags: BelleMobile, Dublabs, Michael Boehm, Mobile app, Steve Hideg