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Dillon Hall pep rally returns to campus

Joseph McMahon | Sunday, August 30, 2009

After a one-year hiatus, the Dillon Hall pep rally, a 40-year tradition, returns to campus with an updated format featuring an array of surprise guest speakers and the entire football team.

“The reason it was canceled last year was that everything didn’t come together in a timely fashion,” Dillon Hall president Kevin Doyle said. “It was a whole bunch of different things but basically it just didn’t come together in time for us to put the rally on and get it up on stage and have everything good to go. This year that is not going to be the case.”

Event director and Dillon Hall resident assistant Keith Ruehlmann said losing the pep rally last year made the dorm leadership even more eager to stage the signature event.

“You really don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and when we lost it last year I was really upset about it,” he said.

In years past, the Dillon Hall pep rally was an event primarily organized for students. Unlike other pep rallies, usually held in the Joyce Center, it did not include the entire football team and cheerleaders.

Instead, the Dillon pep rally featured humorous sketches, some of which drew complaints for being offensive. However, despite some updates, the traditional format is not being completely abandoned.

“We’re still having skits,” Dillon resident assistant and director of the pep rally T-shirt Sean McRoskey said. “The first 45 minutes will still be all pep rally skits, and then after that we’ll mix in the team.”

In addition, alumni will be able to attend the event this year, although the primary focus will be on the students.

“The stage might be bigger and there will be alumni since it is on Friday,” Doyle said. “The students will still have the front of the audience and the alumni will fill in behind … It’s really not going to feel different to the students.”

However, the larger audience also forced the scriptwriters to carefully edit their jokes.

“Given the larger audience, there’s been a push to make it more acceptable to the entire audience and not just the student body,” Ruehlmann said. “Because we know that we have to be more careful with it, we’ve kind of been editing it ourselves. And if there’s still something in the script that we’re a little tentative about, we approach either one of the [assistant rectors] or [Dillon rector] Fr. [Paul] Doyle directly.”

Dillon resident assistant and pep rally scriptwriter Patrick Duffey said the prominence of this year’s event and the likelihood of skits being posted on the Internet were also factors taken into account when editing the script.

“The responsibility kind of shifted from writing something that is representative of Dillon Hall and entertaining to writing something that’s representative of the entire University to really the entire world,” he said. “This will probably be filmed and things will probably be put up on YouTube.”

Doyle said complaints in the past about offensive humor often had little to do with the script, but instead were filed against improvised jokes that were sometimes in bad taste.

“In the past the scripts were never that distasteful,” he said. “A lot of the stuff that gets people in trouble is what happens when people get on stage and do whatever they want.”

Instead, Doyle said the humor was more “subtle” this year.

“It is more playful banter than anything else,” Ruehlmann said. “There isn’t anything insulting.”

Despite rumors that last year’s pep rally was cancelled due to censorship, the scriptwriters said they had encountered no problems from the University administration or from the Dillon Hall staff. Although the writers had consulted with Dillon Hall’s rector, they said the final script did not need to be approved by anyone.

“Normally Fr. Doyle stays out of it,” Ruehlmann said. “He trusts that what we’re putting into the script will be handled in a mature and responsible fashion.”

Ruehlmann said the scriptwriters had received nothing but support from Dillon’s rector, who announced the cancellation of last year’s pep rally.

“Fr. Doyle knows how important this is to the dorm,” he said. “This year he offered us an incredible opportunity to bring it back with a bang.”

McRoskey said the enthusiasm of many members of the dorm for the event also helped lead to its reinstitution.

“What happened last year made people want it even more than normal,” he said. “The pep rally has a 40-year legacy, we want to keep that going.”

Doyle said despite last year’s cancellation, he believes interest in the event will be higher than ever.

“Everyone, and not just us, but even people off campus and on blogs like ND Nation was mad that it was canceled last year, so they’re going to want to come back and see it,” he said.

Ruehlmann said the new format of the pep rally would also attract many spectators, but over the course of the week Dillon will be “pushing advertising.” In addition to the football team and guest speakers, the Knights of Columbus will be grilling steaks and T-shirts will be sold during the rally.

“It’s bigger, it’s changed from what it has been, but I certainly think that it is going to bring in a large crowd, especially with the added dimension of having the entire football team there,” Ruehlmann said.

The Dillon Hall pep rally will be held Friday, Sept. 4, on South Quad and begins at 5:45 p.m.