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Guns and laws

Maddie Hanna | Friday, August 24, 2007

Two Notre Dame seniors just got shot.

The South Bend city council is plowing ahead with an ordinance that, many outraged students argue, would mean the death of off-campus house parties.

It’s a bleak greeting, I know. But before you start bitterly wishing you went to that state school in a real college town with forty other kids from your high school, remember why you came.

This is Notre Dame. Rudy images aside, there are plenty of people who only dream of going here – and plenty more who flood campus for a taste of that dream every football weekend. We’re the lucky ones.

We’re more fortunate than popular, however. You’ve arrived on campus at a time when long-simmering town-gown tensions have reached a new peak. For years, South Bend residents have complained about the music-blaring, lawn-littering habits of their Notre Dame neighbors. For years, South Bend bars have housed underage Notre Dame students, a situation that occasionally results in an embarrassing bust. For years, South Bend and state police officers have patrolled Notre Dame-heavy apartment complexes, slapping not-quite-legal partygoers (and their enabling hosts) with arrest tickets and fines.

The proposed party permit ordinance – followed by the shooting in a student neighborhood – only makes the situation worse.

Why do twenty percent of us still insist on living off campus?

As gorgeous as Notre Dame’s campus is, it’s also extremely insular. That’s great for walking to class without having to dodge traffic, for always spotting a familiar face in LaFortune, for spending sunny afternoons tossing footballs on South Quad.

But as we get older, whether we stay on campus or move off, our Notre Dame lives increasingly edge into South Bend. A few weeks here, and you’ll look forward to a trip to Meijer. You’ll consider an off-campus dinner a treat. Eventually, you’ll find dorm parties a little too sweaty. And you’ll know more and more friends who move into apartments or houses.

I can’t tell you exactly how many rude Notre Dame students are to blame for the shaky relationship with the community, or how many angry South Bend residents, resenting past incidents, are unfairly shoveling blame on the rest of the student body.

I don’t know exactly what happened before Matthew Collins and Mitchell Depree got shot, whether the violence was completely random or related, to some degree, by the fact that they go to Notre Dame.

But I know that the time I’ve spent off campus has defined my Notre Dame experience – the group treks to Turtle Creek, the lazy Saturday mornings at Lafayette, the late nights at Nick’s Patio.

It’s far from a perfect situation, but Notre Dame and South Bend are linked. The streets outside of Notre Dame’s green quads are, in parts, ugly and rough, but they shouldn’t be shunned – just approached with the intelligence that got you here in the first place.