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What we’re like

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sex kills. So come to Notre Dame and live forever.

Student-made t-shirts are ubiquitous on this campus, and four years ago, one of them proclaimed just that. Or at least, that’s what Ed Cohen wrote in his 2003 Notre Dame Magazine article entitled, “Notre Dame Students Today: What They’re Like.”

At the time, the article was a noble attempt to describe the then-ND students, written by “someone nearly as old as some of their parents” – or so Cohen described himself.

He wrote about alumni who “dream of seeing their children follow in their footsteps up the Main Building’s stairs.” Hence the article’s biggest problem – it wasn’t written by a student. If Cohen were a student, he’d surely know the legend – undergrads don’t walk up the Main Building steps. If they do, they won’t graduate.

Four years later, Cohen’s article is as obsolete as landline phones in the dorms. Heck, he wrote it back when Club Fever was still Heartland, when only one campus building bore the DeBartolo family name and when Tyrone Willingham was the one commissioned to resurrect the Notre Dame football program. And unless there are any sixth-year seniors out there, no current undergraduates were around when the administration banned in-hall dances, the loss of which Cohen reflected upon.

So what are the typical non-Main-Building-step-climbing Notre Dame students of the two-DeBartolo-buildings era like?

I’m a student. I can tell you.

As typical Notre Dame students, we enter the Irish aura gushing with arrogance about our intelligence. We reckon no remorse in reporting our ACT scores to everyone sitting within earshot at the Jesus Table in South Dining Hall. Most self-important of all are those of us who are not so-called “legacies.” We suppose we’re smarter because we garnered an acceptance letter without having had a Domer mom or dad.

As typical smarty-pants Notre Dame students, we spend our daytimes with required reading and our nighttimes with required singing – Jon Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” as the dorm party primer. By senior year, we’ll spend our daytimes falling asleep on a CoMo couch while attempting to read Tolstoy, and we’ll spend our Finnegans’ nighttimes belting out “Rocky Top” with an over-priced and over-filled-with-ice pitcher of Red Bull and vodka in hand.

As average Notre Dame students, however, many of us weren’t consumers of cocktails before arriving in the 46556. And sharp though we profess to be, as typical freshmen we fail to realize that by putting up incoherent away messages, we’ve just confessed to our entire family – disapproving little brothers and sisters included – our newfound fondness of the bottle.

Yet while Cohen cited fake ID carrying as the “principal blot on the collective student body’s record,” most underagers don’t use fake IDs. By and large, most of us won’t “catch the Feve” at Michiana’s hottest nightclub until we are, in fact, 21.

While at some other colleges, freshmen secure their fakes on their first day of freshman year, as Notre Dame freshmen, on the other hand, we’re too busy worrying about who’s standing next to us in the football ticket lottery line. We were then unaware of the fact that nobody actually does the jig in his real row anyway.

Some – like the wearers of the student-made sex T-shirt – are unaware of the sex that occurs at Notre Dame. But in truth, if sex does kill, a number of us have indeed sworn away our immortality.

Nevertheless, there are still a preponderance of prudes on this campus. Yet even the prudes are not what Cohen makes us out to be. In his piece, Cohen quoted one student who said that after a night out, “even when one of the parties has a genuine romantic interest in the other (it happens), the evening typically ends not with an awkward goodnight kiss at the door, but a ‘see ya’ and a wave.”

What? No awkward goodnight kiss at the door? Clearly, the quoted student went to bed early every night and never had to sidestep the post-parietals lip-lockers while trying to swipe his or her ID card at the quad-side door of Breen-Phillips Hall.

While some of us are playing tonsil hockey in the vestibule (or in our rooms, breaking parietals – gasp), others of us can be found at one of Notre Dame’s late-night campus feeding holes. The lucky ones of us who live on the South end of campus indulge in scrumptious brick-oven pizzas at Reckers, while those of us in the Stonehenge vicinity select our slice of Sbarro based on which piece looks as though it hasn’t been sitting out for more than seven hours.

Late-night pizza eaters though we may be, according to Cohen we are also “industrious, articulate, respectful, generous, neat, fit, even buff, not to mention tech-savvy.”

What he doesn’t mention is the number of us who are typically too drunk to make it from our tailgates to the football games. Or that during our four years here, most of us learn more about procrastination than politics. And in 2003, Cohen couldn’t have known what an impact the advent of text messaging would have on our communication skills.

But as Cohen wrote, ND students are “goal-setters, goal-reachers.” And you know what? After graduation, we’ll probably save the world.

But – graduation? What? To leave this parietals-full paradise under the Dome?

That’s incomprehensible. If you should know one thing about typical Notre Dame students, it’s that we don’t want to leave.

We’d prefer a 2 a.m. slice of Sbarro over the outside world any day.

Liz Coffey is a senior American Studies major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor. Her column appears every other Thursday. She can be reached at ecoffey@nd.edu

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