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Now & Then: SYR

Marissa Frobes | Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SYR season is in full swing. Whether you have already attended one this past weekend or are attending one in the coming month, take a look into the not too distant past to see how this tradition has evolved.

Years ago, it was typical for each dorm to host one semi-formal SYR and one more formal dance each semester. The host dorm held the SYR in any large space available within the dorm — decorated hallways, 24-hour lounges, entire floors or whatever was available. Formals were held at various on- or off-campus locations such as the Senior Bar (now Legends) or hotel ballrooms.

In 2002, Notre Dame enforced a new policy insisting that all dances be held outside of the dormitories. Many dances moved to locations like South Dining Hall or the LaFortune ballroom, where they remain today.

SYR, an acronym for “Screw Your Roommate”(or “Set-up Your Roommate according to the modest “Dome” editors of the early 2000s), is a term used to describe the process by which students acquired dates to their dorm’s dance. Roommates picked out dates for one another in a completely arbitrary fashion.

Students were as creative as they liked — picking out gems at the dining hall, from the “Dog Book” or through friends of friends. Some people ended up with the dates of their dream and new significant others, while others endured a painful evening with a purposely awkward date as a joke. While some still put this tradition to use today, date hunting has become a largely individual process.

One other noteworthy change has arisen in the past few years: the disappearance of “the gift.” Before an SYR could begin, the boy or girl of the host dorm had to present their date (blind or chosen) with a gift. Serious options included books, flowers or candy, but most opted for gag gifts. Shannon McGonigle could even stand inside the present she received from her gracious date in 2003 — a massive Easter basket. Needless to say, the ND student body should work collectively to revive this hilariously gratifying tradition.

Though location and pre-SYR preparations have been modified within the past decade, one aspect of SYRs has not: the theme. It has been customary for quite some time for SYRs to declare themes that imply a dress code, which can range from full-out costumes to semi-formal apparel. Some have become tradition (the Keough toga dance, the Lewis Hall Crush), while others are suited to the time, like an Austin Powers themed dance held in Pangborn in 2000 or the dance entitled “Thug Life” of 2002.

Yes, freshmen are curious of this SYR tradition looming upon us all now, but some veterans are skeptical of its ability to make a night worthwhile. This year, try embracing some tactics of decades past to guarantee you will have a good time — set up your roommate, buy your unknown date a gift, find a creative costume and hope for the best!