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Residence changes proposed

Meghanne Downes | Friday, November 14, 2003

The student affairs portion of Notre Dame’s next strategic plan, “Notre Dame 2010: Fulfilling the Promise,” includes suggestions to enhance undergraduate and graduate programs in an effort to integrate student and academic life and to construct new campus and residential facilities, including the possibility of coeducational housing.

This section focuses on residential life at Notre Dame, noting the hallmark experience of living in the residences and the opportunities for growth and learning that exists in the halls.

“In an ideal world students would feel, and for the most part I feel they do, residence halls would be a place where they share their concerns and their excitement for what they are learning. Similar to in the classroom they could talk about moral and ethic issues,” said Ann Firth, executive assistant to the vice president of student affairs.

Possibilities for accomplishing this include a recommitment to building a Christian community within the dorms. Notre Dame hopes that an increased emphasis on ministry, service and retreats within residences will form intellectual, moral and spiritual leaders who will become leaders in the Church.

Goals are also outlined to expand diversity on campus to encourage learning through the exchange of culture and personal experiences.

Firth said the Office of the Student Affairs intends to create an environment where learning is ongoing but that this integration is not intended to subject dorms to non-stop academic programming.

In response to overcrowding in dorms and the diminishing numbers of upperclassmen, especially seniors moving off campus, Firth said the Univserity intends to build four new residential complexes. The plan emphasizes the importance of the residential community as the percentage of on campus students has dropped steadily over the years from 83 percent to currently 79 percent.

Though Firth said it would be premature to comment on the recommendations for these new residential complexes the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Future of Residential Life would recommend to Father Mark Poorman, Vice President for Student Affairs, early next year, the strategic plan did discuss potential options. This includes senior suites or apartments, coeducational housing and smaller themed residences.

Firth said the committee is discussing several options, including coed housing.

“We are exploring coeducational housing in part because of the national trend that was to have coed halls,” Firth said. “The fact that it does exist means that it is something that Notre Dame has to visit.”

Premier Catholic institutions such as Georgetown and Boston College have undergraduate coed housing.

Other facilities projects that will be explored include constructing an enlarged student center complex, new apartments for married students, additional graduate student housing and a retreat center; replacing Stepan Center; and renovating the University Health Center.

Firth said Student Affairs intends to focus on expanding student services, especially in health services and student organizations.

Though Notre Dame is primarily an undergraduate institution, the plan emphasizes enhancing graduate services and collaboration between graduates and undergraduates.

Firth said that this focus on graduate students would not detract from undergraduates.

“[We want] to try to be a place that is more attentive to graduate students,” Firth said. “We want to do a better job at taking care of them.”

Student Affairs first began exploring possible goals and formulating plans during the 2002-2002 academic year.

Firth said though the office sets goals and may set them high, Student Affairs hopes to accomplish most if not all of the objectives outlines in “Notre Dame 2010: Fulfilling the Promise.”