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Et tu, Notre Dame?

Joey Falco | Monday, September 26, 2005

Notre Dame students have had a lot to be distracted by lately. Whether it’s been trivial bickering over shirt colors and television commercials, excitement over the early success of a new football coach, or hoopla surrounding the inauguration of a new university president, these distractions have gotten us to ignore the real crisis facing the Fighting Irish:

We’ve been backstabbed by the very administration that claims to be the guiding light and caring mother of the “Notre Dame Family.”

For over a century, Notre Dame prided itself in offering a familial environment in which students were given the rare opportunity to become brothers and sisters-not only in Christ, but in Carroll, Zahm, Cavanaugh, and Pangborn, as well. The key to this unity, of course, was that it did not take place in a rickety old house with Delta Gamma Bojamma written on its outside and naked freshmen in robes being spanked on its inside. The Notre Dame community has always been formed within the welcoming, loving and tolerant walls of its residence halls, where students have historically been guaranteed four years of life, learning and lasting friendships.

Lately, however, the unfortunate push and pull of off-campus absurdities and on-campus fallacies have left students wondering if they misread the welcome mat laid by the university in front of its incoming freshmen.

Case in point: Irresponsible enrollment increases over the past several years have left residence halls packed to the brim this semester. So packed, in fact, that in some dorms (namely O’Neill and Keough), doubles have turned into triples, triples have turned into quads, and study lounges – the supposed refuge for the academic-minded students who keep Notre Dame near the top of the national rankings each year – have been eliminated to clear space for more tuition-paying freshmen. There have even been reports of a case in O’Neill Hall where two students of average height and a 6’7″ football player (football, mind you) are crammed into a tiny, former study lounge! Now that is downright sacrilegious!

These uncomfortable conditions that would make a sardine can feel spacious have even prompted ResLife Assistant Director Scott Kachmarik to admit, “Students want to live on campus. But the reality is that we need students to eventually move off campus. I need at least 1,600 students every year to move out of their residence halls.”

Okay, understandable. Students are constantly moving off campus at schools across the country, and it seems reasonable that the “Notre Dame Family” and the relationships fostered within its residence halls can extend to houses and apartments in the South Bend community.

This situation might even be preferred by the women of Notre Dame who live in the unreasonably strict and constraining environments of some female dorms that have yet to grasp the concept of familial unity that makes the men’s dorms so desirable.

If, in fact, the “Notre Dame Family” truly is forced to extend throughout South Bend because of residence hall cramming, one would expect the university to take extra care to ensure that those students forced into exile off-campus would still be able to maintain their familial relationships with the on-campus community. In a collegiate setting, of course, this would customarily take the form of inviting over one’s former residence hall brothers and sisters to drink and be merry on a Friday or Saturday evening.

That was, of course, until the South Bend Common Council and its disorderly house ordinance amendment emerged this summer, giving landlords the incentive to evict off-campus students after a single noise violation. In essence, this cruel attempt to strike back at the Notre Dame student body while it was away for the summer actually served to further isolate the 1,600 students that ResLife “needed” to move off campus from the rest of the “Notre Dame Family.”

In this case, one would certainly have expected the administration to step in on behalf of the loyal sons and daughters of this university to ensure that the South Bend Common Council did not manage to divide the “Notre Dame Family.”

But it didn’t.

While the Common Council spent the past month bashing Notre Dame students, accusing us of “being wealthy and fornicating,” “poisoning [students] to death,” and a number of other exaggerated lies, did the University come to the aid of its exiled sons and daughters?

Of course not. The only notable adult voice on the side of Notre Dame students during their summer absence was local landlord Mark Kramer. The University, on the other hand, after essentially forcing 1,600 students to move from the safety and security of their residence hall families, did practically nothing to ensure that the “Notre Dame Family” would be able to survive this schism caused by the Common Council.

Welcome to the Notre Dame Dysfunctional Family.

Joey Falco is a junior American Studies major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.