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Abolish parietals during finals week

Alex Caton | Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Some people like to study in their rooms. Some people like to study in groups. Some study groups in the college game are mixed gender. And no study group likes to be lifted out of productivity by an unwelcome distraction just as soon as they really get “in the zone.” Yet for those like me who would rather be able to complete a final group project in the comfort of my two-room quad than try fruitlessly to find a group study room amidst the bump and – study – grind of “Club Hes,” parietals are that distraction.
Parietals are a tired and usually contentious subject. Some say they rob us of the “real college experience.” Some say they’re an asset to Notre Dame’s unique on-campus living. I say it doesn’t matter. Granting parietals are good, or at least that we can’t generally do anything about them, we can still say definitively they serve none of their prescribed functions during finals week and should thus be abolished during that time. This may seem a radical or even unnecessary step, but it would address a real need in the University community – that of insufficient quiet, open and private study space when all 11,000 or so students here are trying to find it at the same time. By bringing this up now we can give the University several weeks to think it over before they adopt what is – as I’ll show – a very reasonable solution.
As far as I can tell, the arguments traditionally posed in favor of parietals are as follows: They help us as students to “close out the day” at a reasonable hour, they reinforce a sense of dorm community and they prevent excessive breaking of DuLac’s ban against premarital sex.
Here are the reasons why, during finals week, all of the above arguments are no longer relevant. First, after three semesters here, I have yet to have a day during finals week that “closed out” before 12, two, three or sometimes four in the morning. I imagine most will agree with me here.
The second argument is actually the one I most agree with. The freedom to walk down the hallway in boxers or to burn through a few episodes of “Archer” with your bros can hardly be overestimated. I’m sure girls have post-parietals bonding moments too, I just don’t know what they are. The problem here is finals are an individual – or the occasional three-to-five person group – venture. Dorm community goes out the window. Exam week is, in the words of somebody who will surely show up on my International Relations final, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” And for this short period of time, the University ought to make some concessions to benefit students who want to responsibly utilize all of the study spaces they pay for.
In response to the third argument, I may be naïve, but I honestly think students just aren’t having sex during finals week due to two factors. The first is desirability. A guy who hasn’t shaved in eight days and a girl with her hair in the classic “I haven’t washed my hair in over 56 hours” braid are not going to find romance among the excesses of stress and sweatpants. The second is the even simpler fact our individual desires to attain high GPAs and to put in the sleep and study time necessary to accomplish them can and do override the burdens of hormonal urges, if only for a week. Those who doubt me here will at least concede students really are unlikely to use extended nighttime hours for anything but study or sleep. The closer an exam gets, the more urgent these anything-but-sexual needs become. If sex is happening here during finals week, I doubt it’s after 8 p.m. And we’re not going to institute 8 p.m. parietals now, are we?
Ultimately, this comes down to Notre Dame’s commitment to facilitating the most rewarding finals experience possible. There are few things worse than having the flow of your study interrupted. If I am on a roll, steaming through history notes or economics problems, the fact I am doing so in a female group member’s common room at 12:04 a.m. on a Wednesday is simply not sufficient reason to uproot me from my work.
Whatever your stance on parietals for the other 15 or so weeks of the semester, we can agree during finals week they are a nuisance and nothing more. Let’s end them.

Alex Caton is a sophomore studying political
science.  He can be contacted at acanton@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.