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Dillon Hall cancels annual pep rally

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dillon Hall Rector Fr. Paul Doyle shocked residents Sunday when he announced the residence hall’s pep rally, held every year before the first home football game of the season, was cancelled.

The pep rally, a series of skits mocking aspects of Notre Dame life, has been a Dillon Hall tradition since the late 1970s, lead pep rally scriptwriter Ryan O’Connor said.

Fr. Doyle cited two reasons for his decision.

“I failed to provide the necessary direction and support,” he said.

The rector also told his residents the pep rally “was not coming together in a timely fashion.”

Though this year’s event is not intended be rescheduled, Fr. Doyle expressed his intent to hold a pep rally in the future.

“I hope we can have a pep rally next year that is the sort of pep rally the Dillon men and campus community have come to expect,” he said.

Before Fr. Doyle broke the news of the pep rally’s cancellation to the dormitory as a whole Sunday night, he had a private meeting with current Dillon Hall President, Brendan McQueeney.

“Fr. Doyle felt that he had not given us enough guidance,” McQueeney said. “He said that he normally has a meeting with the Hall President at the end of the [previous] school year to get the ball rolling, which didn’t happen.”

There was a lot of miscommunication on both sides, McQueeney said.

After speaking to McQueeney, Fr. Doyle held a meeting in order to tell hall staff about the cancellation, O’Connor, a resident assistant, said.

The sudden decision surprised hall staff and scriptwriters, O’Connor said.

The students in charge of putting the pep rally together had been working since the spring and throughout the summer, O’Connor said. They were almost finished with the preparations when they heard the news.

“The script was already written,” he said. “Tryouts were supposed to be that night. Everything was all set.”

The scriptwriters had also already established several guests to speak and appear in skits, O’Connor said.

“We had lined up Charlie Weis, Evan Sharpley and Jack Swarbrick, the new athletic director,” he said.

Fr. Doyle personally called each of the guests to tell them about the cancellation, O’Connor said.

The news was frustrating to the students who had been working hard on the script, O’Connor said.

“Usually [the pep rally consists of] dumb, juvenile humor,” he said. “But this year our object was to make it clever and intelligent without getting laughs at other people’s expense.”

Fr. Doyle had not read the script when he made the decision to cancel, O’Connor said.

O’Connor said he believes that the wheels were partly set in motion by problems with the pep rally t-shirt.

“Our t-shirt design was rejected by the Student Activities Office,” he said.

The setback with the t-shirts seemed to show the rector that the event was not going to be ready in time, O’Connor said.

The explanations given by Fr. Doyle did not satisfy many students involved in the planning. He gave no further details regarding the decision to The Observer.

“He didn’t have a very strong argument,” contributing scriptwriter Evin Harpur said. “He said we weren’t prepared, but any problems could have been remedied if we were made aware of them.

“We would have definitely been ready by Thursday, but Fr. Doyle is a good guy and would not have cancelled the show if there weren’t a reason.”

The sudden cancellation has led to much speculation among residents.

“I think there is a deeper issue,” Harpur said. “I don’t know if his hands are tied.”

O’Connor said it seems the decision was made unilaterally, but “some are wondering if the orders came down to him” from somewhere else, O’Connor said.

After Fr. Doyle cancelled the pep rally, the writers and other residents tried to come up with alternative ways to put on event this season, McQueeney said.

Some suggested postponing the pep rally to the Thursday before the second home game versus Michigan, in order to have more preparation time and the writers offered to go back over the script and “clean up” the show, McQueeney said. By the time suggestions had been offered, however, the decision was final, he said.

O’Connor described the residents’ reactions to The Observer.

“Some were angry and some were just disappointed,” he said.

The pep rally is “the best reason to be in Dillon,” O’Connor said “We do this for [the students] and now we can’t.”

O’Connor said he regrets that the freshmen do not get to experience the pep rally that was especially designed for them. He said he wanted to “apologize to the Dillon freshmen” in particular.

Dillon Hall resident sophomore Sean McCullough said, that, like everyone else in Dillon, he is very shocked about the pep rally’s cancellation.

“I can’t believe that Dillon hall is letting such a beloved tradition not occur this year,” he said.

O’Connor also lamented the discontinuance of both a Notre Dame and a Dillon Hall tradition.

“We love traditions,” he said. “It’s part of what makes Notre Dame Notre Dame and to have this disappear is really disappointing.”

University students all across campus echoed that disappointment at the news of the pep rally’s cancellation.

O’Connor received a call from Student Body president Bob Reish.

“[Reish] had heard about it and seemed genuinely concerned,” he said.

Freshman Gabrielle Stoik is a resident of Lyons, Dillon’s sister dormitory. During freshmen orientation, leaders “made a big deal about the pep rally.”

“I was really looking forward to it. I heard it is really exciting,” she said.