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Zahm’s fight to preserve community

| Monday, March 24, 2014

On behalf of many residents in Zahm, I would like to write about an issue we have been having. Over the past couple days, Zahm has been in a struggle with the Office of Housing over adjustments to our residential life. Most of these adjustments, such as downsizing for more space for each resident, changes to how some rooms are picked and fire safety changes, are trivial and not matters of contention. However, of great concern is the decision to convert what are currently eight-man common rooms on the second and third floors to university lounges and to break up the five-man common rooms into doubles and triples.

Now for those of you who are still reading, you are probably thinking that an adjustment like this is not something to really fret over, so we will go into some explanation.

When you think of Zahm House, the first thing you probably think is “wild/crazy.” The second thing you probably think about is “community.” Whether or not you agree Zahm has the best dorm community on campus, you can likely agree that its reputation is well-known through the passion that Zahm residents show for their dorm and their brothers.

Zahm’s sense of community is largely centered around the common rooms named above. They are the social and communal hubs of each section where people come together for such activities as game watches, movie nights and the occasional social gathering. The common rooms are the first place freshmen are brought to during orientation to meet their new brothers, and, whenever recent alumni visit, the first place they go to is the common rooms because they know that is where they will be able to meet new Zahmbies and reunite with old friends. The common rooms are the places where Zahm men of every year and background can congregate to create the exceptional bonds of friendship that last a lifetime. By no means are they “private social space(s),” for the residents who claim them, as the Office of Housing suggested in their email to us. Instead, they are held to Zahm’s open-door policy, so anyone can come in at any time and thereby foster the growth and friendship that our community holds so dear.

In statements addressing our concerns from the Office of Housing and our new rector, specific emphasis was put on the fact that the university lounges to be created are intended to be used as social spaces. We have tried to convey, to both the University and our rector of two months, Fr. Gary Chamberland, that they indeed already serve this purpose. We tried to convey the importance that the common rooms have to our community and brotherhood, and that any University imposed lounges would not only be detrimental to the Zahm community but also a waste of University funds.

The way these changes have been implemented and the way they were revealed to us are particularly concerning. We have found it increasingly disturbing that the administration claims to have our best interests in mind, while making no effort to understand how our community works. By our rector’s own words, the proceedings of these changes were hidden from us until they were finalized and even the Resident Assistants were not informed until two days before that. We thought a united opposition to the proposed plan, as well as an explanation about the true nature of the common rooms would persuade the University that these lounges would be both harmful and unnecessary. Despite a unanimous voice clamoring that these lounges are not wanted, not needed and bad for the community, and even despite offering alternative plans for a compromise, it was decided these lounges are in our best interest.
It is unfortunate when a university does not care for or respect its students, especially given Notre Dame’s Catholic mission and supposed emphasis on how important student life is. With everything Notre Dame has done for us, we can probably say that the University does indeed care for us, but it certainly does not respect us, as evidenced when the voices of over 200 residents are ignored. This problem therefore extends to everyone, not just Zahm. A university that holds student life and experience as one of its most important components should include residents in the formation of policies that concern them, and residents should not be blatantly ignored when unanimous concerns are raised for their community.

Graduating seniors have been asked to think about their favorite parts of Notre Dame and take them into consideration when making a pledge to contribute donations for next year and for years to come. For most of us, Zahm has been one of ⎯ if not the single ⎯ greatest part of our Notre Dame experience. We therefore cannot contribute to a system that supports actions detrimental to the Zahm community, and we instead pledge that, as alumni, we will not make any donations to the University until the common rooms are restored.

In addition to our own pledge, many parents and current alumni have already joined our effort to support the common rooms by withholding donations. If the disregard for residential life and opinion that has been displayed by the administration towards Zahm’s common rooms concerns you as it does us, we urge you join our pledge as they have.
A hall is where you walk; a House is where you live.

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  • Manorite

    #firstworldproblems

  • guest

    If Zahm wasn’t responsible for so many difficulties with the university, these changes wouldn’t be happening. The residents of Zahm brought this upon themselves, as the “common spaces” referred to are used for parties and not for their intended purpose, private spaces for those living in the 8-man rooms. Boo hoo, you’re getting new lounges with nice new furnishings. Some halls have nothing of the sort; Dillon, for example, the most populated dorm on campus, has one small “lounge” (the 24 hour space) for its over 330 residents.
    Also, threatening to withhold donations over something self-imposed is pathetic. You’re effectively saying you support nothing about this university now because of some minor changes to your way of life here. Nobody outside of your dorm will join your special interests “pledge”. Let’s be real. This isn’t some noble fight to preserve community in your residence hall – it’s a weak attempt to prevent your ideal party spaces from being turned into open lounges. I point to this article as further proof of the sad state of affairs in Zahm HALL: http://ndsmcobserver.com/2013/04/the-rules-of-existence-in-zahms-kingdom/

    • Ed

      I do not see how the article you cite (a sarcastic letter to the editor by Zahm responding to a sarcastic letter to the editor by Knott) serves your point about the “sad state of affairs” in Zahm.

      Nor do I see how a threat to withhold pledges is pathetic. It’s a long-proven source of leverage for dealing with policies that impact major aspects of university life. With how much time a resident spends in his/her dorm (12-14 hours or more a day including sleeping?), I it seems crass to dismiss changing the makeup of rooms as “minor”.

      You also say “the ‘common spaces’ referred to are used for parties and not for their intended purpose, private spaces for those living in the 8-man rooms”. I would submit that the “intended purpose” of a room is for the people who pay 13,000 a year to live there and their neighbors to determine (within limits enforced by Hall Staffs). If the University needs to annex every room being “used for parties” on this campus, then they’ve got their work cut out for them.

      I would also refer you to the discussion section of their online petition, in which myriad Zahm underclassmen, alumni, and RAs have cited the common rooms as helping them adjust socially freshman year and build a tight-knit community that is the envy of other halls. Alumni from literally decades ago are writing in because the common rooms were a major part of their experience here at ND. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-zahm-common-rooms

      Finally, that another dorm (you cite Dillon) doesn’t have as nice of a setup for its residents does not mean that the University should make Zahm’s experience worse. Your argument goes:

      (a) Zahm has common spaces they love
      (b) Dillon doesn’t have as nice of common spaces as Zahm
      (c) Therefore, go ahead and diminish Zahm’s enjoyment of their common spaces.

      That’s backward logic my friend.

      Signed,
      Former St. Ed’s Resident

      • Ignatius

        Thanks for your support Ed. I’d just like clarify, that our new pledge on withholding donations is at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/zahm-pledge should anyone wish to sign. The one you reference was more of a show of support, and has already been dismissed by the University.

    • Tim

      You make a great argument why these resources should be going to Dillon instead of Zahm. Please sign the petition.

  • guest

    “A university that holds student life and experience as one of its most important components should include residents in the formation of policies that concern them, and residents should not be blatantly ignored when unanimous concerns are raised for their community.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Why should I support a university that ignores its students? Wouldn’t want the same for my dorm, so I shouldn’t expect Zahm to comply.

  • Ryan Janecek

    In response to the comment made by “guest” user:
    Firstly, the common rooms of the 8-mans are not primarily “used for parties”. Yes, social gatherings on weekends may occur in those rooms on weekends, but that is not why members of the Zahm community – both past and present – have chosen to stand up for them. These common rooms, first and foremost, provide a welcoming environment for freshmen who are new to college life. They give freshmen, who may not initially find a place where they “fit in”, a place where they are truly accepted as a brother and a friend. As a freshman last year, I found no other place where I felt as incredibly welcome as I did in the Zahm common rooms. This is what we want to preserve – our brotherhood and community. Parties are easy to find in any dorm and can be removed to any other room; they are replaceable. Zahm community can not be replaced. A “University Lounge” will not foster this type of community, it will harm it. So I fundamentally disagree with you when you say these changes are “minor”. Is community “minor”? Is a sense of belonging “minor”? Personally I do not think they are. Zahm alumni have not chosen to withhold donations because the university has taken away a party room. They have chosen to do so because these very common rooms were an integral part of their lives at ND; where they met life-long friends and were introduced to the community that recently ranked highest among any dorm on campus. Is that minor? So when the university chose to take away these common rooms, I was deeply disturbed. Should I sit around in the very rooms that fostered relationships with individuals I now call my brothers, while they are about to be pulled out under my feet by the university in favor of cookie-cutter and impersonal University Lounges? These changes are not “minor”. We have already received support from many students living in other dorms, including their choice to withhold donations to the university. When the university attempts to take away the community and traditions of dorms on campus, it does become a matter that members of EVERY dorm should be concerned about. I hope that more students begin to understand the negative effects that “standardization” may have on each dorm’s unique community.

  • Fact Check

    If the University is imposing these penalties due to sexual assaults or a “dangerous culture” that needs fixing, let them say so. So far, there is absolutely no indication that the issues you cite are the impetus for the changes. Jumping to conclusions, such as the ones you have made, reeks of bias.

    • Her Loyal sons

      I thought ND kids were smart. Yea the dome is just going to tell you straight out it’s because of your douchebaggery, two sexual assaults in one weekend, hazing, etc. “Build Community” at ND is code for that–just as the title here suggests. I’m sure you still believe in Santa too–maybe you’re smart enough to know a huge bunny isn’t sneaking into your house at night. Good luck at finals…you’ll need it if it has anything to do with common sense

      • Fact Check

        Thanks for the well wishes! All the best to you as well.

  • Riley

    Just because sexual assaults were reported does not mean anyone was charged.

  • Anon

    “the dangerous culture that Zahm is most known for and the multiple sexual assaults perpetrated…this past year”

    This quote demonstrates ignorance and a lack of critical thinking. Over the course of the year, two sexual assaults have been reported in Zahm and neither case was deemed valid by any legal authority. So no one has committed sexual assault in Zahm this year and the two accusations have fallen flat. It would behoove you to learn the facts regarding the reality of what happened, rather than relying on gossip like a high school girl.

    Secondly, to take these two false accusations and use it as a basis to claim the entirety of Zahm sustains a dangerous and depraved culture is a logical fallacy. You need to provide more concrete examples, ones that are actually true would be ideal, if you want others to take your claim seriously.

    • Guest

      Guest:

      “No one has committed sexual assault in Zahm this year…”

      Do you really think this claim holds up? Do you really believe that nobody in Zahm Hall has perpetrated a sexual assault since August 2013? Don’t you think it possible, if not likely, that sexual assaults occur without being reported, let alone prosecuted? Given that many sexual assaults go unreported, don’t you think it pretty unlikely that not a single sexual assault has been committed in Zahm Hall this year?

      Please demonstrate sounder critical thinking next time!

      • Corry Colonna

        Is Zahm the only dorm where sexual assaults are committed? If I remember correctly not every sexual assault was followed by “in a north quad dorm”, which is generally assumed to be Zahm.

      • Guest

        I guess Zahm is the only dorm on campus where unreported sexual assaults ever happen…….How about you demonstrate some intelligence on your part before criticizing him hm?

      • Guest

        Your argument applies to your dorm and every other one on campus. Ever think about that?

    • Her Loyal Sons

      Just because there wasn’t a conviction doesn’t mean they were “false” accusations or didn’t happen…

  • Reality checking reality check

    Mark Gianfalla, stop hiding. Here’s a reality check.

    • H.J. Mozans

      Gianfalla: Keep focused on Ann Coulter, intolerance, and alienating not only Democrats and independents, but campus Republicans, too. Although we know you hate it when men love one another, leave Zahm and our former “liberal” rector alone! You don’t know the reality whatsoever.

  • Madeline Flores

    As a female alum of the class of ’13, I believe Zahm was one of the best dorms on campus because of their true spirit of friendship (even though Zahmbies would probably pridefully and sarcastically deny that claim). The common rooms were part of that – yes, for parties, for watching the away football games, for watching movies after mass, for getting together before going out for a rec sports game or the grotto, for sharing za. The “private” space gave each room personality and its residents the responsibility of taking care of it – and each other.

    “University lounge” areas will be “public,” but ironically lacking the unitive characteristics of the common rooms. When a freshman sits in a university lounge, no one has to acknowledge him. When common rooms are the predominate social spaces, students must take the initiative to invite others in, to share their time and space. That’s one of the great qualities of Zahm: everyone, no matter how strange or loud, brilliant or annoying (or both), has the respect for each other that fosters brotherhood. The common spaces are symbolic of that brotherhood – brotherhood characteristic of the Notre Dame family that even extended friendship to a shy freshman like me, that convinced me I had to apply to transfer to Notre Dame.

    This change imposed by The Office of Residence Life and Housing is not the first affront to mold Zahm into a dorm like any other in America. I hope that the administration would listen to its students, provide them the opportunity to practice stewardship and create friendships that only Zahmbies share, and recognize the rare spirit of a dorm like Zahm, one all too rare in Notre Dame campus life.

  • guest

    I believe many of us would appreciate it if you would kindly refrain from leveling entirely false accusations against a hall in which you most likely have never set foot, and falsely slandering a man who you most likely never have met. Thank you.

  • Guest

    This is ridiculous, what is the difference between having private common rooms and public social rooms? And to fight this out in public is obscene. Other dorms have had to sacrifice social lounges to increased capacity, but here Zahm isn’t. The University is merely changing the status of rooms from private to public. Why? Because they obviously believe that it’s better for the university and everyone involved if this happens. Everyone knows the stereotypes around campus, and I’m not here to add to them. But this is ridiculous! People are proceeding as if the University is an evil empire whose goal is to destroy all that is good in the world. Obviously they’ve identified something, apparently with the help of the new rector, that they believe has been causing issues and leading to problems. I can’t blame them

    • Madeline Flores

      “Ridiculous”
      “Obscene”
      “Obviously”
      “stereotypes”
      “evil”
      “all that is good in the world”
      “What’s the difference?”

      It sounds like you’re generalizing to me, and at extremes. Those with specific ties and pertinent examples of the problems with this issue – which is an attack on the unique character of Notre Dame – should be allowed to voice them. Hopefully, our words will reach the ears of the administration, who should put the students – not exclusively the reduction legal and logistical “issues” and “problems” – first.

    • Corry Colonna

      What are these issues and problems you speak of?

  • Pat

    Check out http://www3.nd.edu/~ndspd/nwsblot/ and do your homework before making allegations.

    According to NDSP’s records, ALLEGATIONS of rape, sexual assault, and sexual offence were claimed to have taken place in the following halls thus far this academic year:
    3 Stanford
    2 Keough
    2 Zahm
    1 Alumni
    1 Dillon
    1 McGlinn

    In terms of ambulance calls for intoxicated students:
    6 Dillon
    5 Alumni
    5 Morrissey
    4 Keenan
    3 PW
    3 Stanford
    2 Fisher
    2 PE
    2 Pangborn
    2 Zahm
    1 each in BP, Farley, Duncan, Howard, McGlinn, O’Neill, Ryan, Steds, and Welsh Fam

    • The Plagues

      http://www3.nd.edu/~ndspd/nwsb

      Add more ambulance runs for intoxication to both Dillon and Alumni.

      • her loyal sons

        Ambulance runs are not an indicator of much to be honest. Stanford used to have a couching policy so never called for an ambulence while Keenan had a rector (Fr. Nolan) that same year who was quick to call 911 even with a .1 BAC. It’s up to the rectors to make the call so it doesn’t mean much so rectors tolerate more and others don’t. Not reflective of the dorm. Good try though. Statistics can easily be manipulated and explained away, and while the plural of anecdote is not data, it is often a fairly good indicator as long as the source is a reliable unbiased person.

  • Max

    Having only ever lived in one dorm for my 4 years at Notre Dame, I cannot even pretend to know what it is like to live in others such as Zahm. Therefore, I cannot under good judgement believe that Zahm is wrong to protest this change. I do know however that all dorms cherish their traditions very much. I would also argue that the dorms care more about preserving traditions than the university does. People need to think of their own dorms in this matter. If Notre Dame easily changes the foundations of Zahm, who is to stop them from changing all the traditions we love about our own dorms. I admire Zahm for what they do and find it appalling for how people cowardly sit behind a computer and bash something they don’t understand.

    -Keenan Alum ’06

  • John

    Here are statistics for the last five years from NDSP’s public daily crime logs (http://www3.nd.edu/~ndspd/nwsblot/).

    ALLEGATIONS of rape, sexual assault, and sexual offence were claimed to have taken place in the following men’s halls (2010-2014):

    08 Keough
    04 Knott
    04 Stanford
    03 Alumni
    02 Carroll
    02 Sorin
    02 Zahm
    01 Dillon
    00 Fisher
    00 Keenan
    00 Morrissey
    00 O’Neill
    00 St. Edward’s

    Number of ambulance calls for intoxicated students in men’s halls (2010-2014):

    19 Dillon
    19 Morrissey
    14 Stanford
    13 Alumni
    13 Keough
    12 Zahm
    09 Keenan
    08 Duncan
    08 Knott
    06 Fisher
    06 St. Edward’s
    05 O’Neill
    03 Siegfried
    03 Sorin
    02 Carroll

    Counts of batteries and aggravated or simple assaults committed inside men’s halls (2010-2014):

    06 Dillon
    06 Siegfried
    03 Keenan
    03 O’Neill
    02 Alumni
    02 Fisher
    01 Duncan
    01 Stanford
    00 Carroll
    00 Keough
    00 Knott
    00 Morrissey
    00 St. Edward’s
    00 Sorin
    00 Zahm

    Counts of drug violations inside men’s halls (2010-2014):

    07 O’Neill
    05 Carroll
    05 Dillon
    04 Saint Edward’s
    04 Siegfried
    03 Keough
    03 Morrissey
    01 Alumni
    01 Fisher
    01 Keenan
    01 Knott
    01 Stanford
    00 Duncan
    00 Sorin
    00 Zahm

  • While her loyal sons

    I must be missing something. You want community but reject community rooms? Am I missing something? Can you not still have FIFA tourneys, game watches etc in those rooms? The truth is Zahm is the shame of ND. That the “wild and crazy” guys of Zahm think they are loved isn’t a surprised. We as Domers make fun of you. That the “bun run” is still alive is a joke. It’s sexual assault and if I ran NDSP I would catch every participant and bring them to res life. At AR meet and greet, nobody goes to Zahm. Nobody wants to live in that dump and deal with your whinny problems and socially awkward parties and advances on girls. It’s not worth it. You would have to pay me triple to even consider it, and even then I probably still wouldn’t. Why didn’t you address the reality. Zahm has a culture of sexual assault. Why do you think the rector left in the middle of the night the week after two assaults in the dorm? Why not address these issues in the column? You are obviously trying to glaze over some serious issues. By the way, the “great history” of Zahm includes a naked resident sneaking into Brady Quinn’s room and snuggling with him, panelling, and running around naked with a bunch of dudes. Awesome. I’m sure the Zahm family has asked if they can get their money back or change it to a girls dorm. But keep up your whining–all those traditions are clearly worth keeping–especially the sexual assault one.

    • JJ

      This obviously comes from someone with zero knowledge considering you recite “the ‘great history’ of Zahm includes a naked resident sneaking into Brady Quinn’s room and snuggling with him, panelling, and running around naked with a bunch of dudes,” which demonstrates a complete absence of personal knowledge. The Quinn event was in fall of 2003 and the resident was not naked. It was a joke and Brady was fine with it. And there is definitely no culture of sexual assault. The men in Zahm do not put up with that.

      No other dorm on campus has as tight a bond across all class years than Zahm. The fact that your dorm lacked the character and kinsmanship that Zahm has built over decades is no reason to denigrate one of the best dorms on campus.

      -’07

      • Her Loyal Sons

        Hahahaha an ’07 grad is telling a current double domer he has no knowledge. Brady was really ok with it? That’s why he moved out of Zahm? Cause he was ok with it? Right…And the bun run is a joke too right–just harmless hijinx of those “crazy” kids in zahm instead of sexual harassment? So is panelling? I suppose we should add to the list sexual assault while we’re at it too. This obviously comes from someone with zero knowledge considering you graduated in ’07 and didn’t mention the two sexual assaults the occurred on the same weekend at the beginning of the year or the prior rector leaving in the middle of the night later that same week. I’m sure those two events are not related. Just as I am sure those Zahm men who are saying the accusations are false given that there wasn’t a criminal conviction are really standing against sexual assault. Everyone with half a brain knows to stay away from Zahm. They have a bad reputation for a reason. I know for a fact nobody went to Zahm to be an AR because former domers told them to stay away. There’s a reason. But I’m sure you think it’s because they aren’t a true Zahmbie…or some nonsense like that. Until you face the facts the dorm will continue to be a place people don’t want to go or worse yet, a bunch of crying, entitled, petulant children. God help us if one of your children becomes one of them.