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Dillon hosts annual light show

| Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dillon Hall residents strung their dorm’s lights themselves this year after a change in price made it impossible for them to pay Maintenance to put up the usual decorations.

Dillon Hall vice-president Michael DiGaetano said the price to put up the Dillon Hall Christmas lights increased dramatically from last year to this year. The Dillon Hall Light Show, an annual Christmas tradition at Notre Dame, was dubbed ‘How the Dome Stole Christmas’ this year in response, he said.

“Normally, the Dome charges us around 20 to 50 dollars to provide a cherry-picker … to help put the lights up on the building,” DiGaetano said. “This year, they upped the price to $2,800 and the explanation was that it would require a lot of man-hours to complete. The price jump did not really make sense though, because it was the same amount of man-hours as every other year, since it is the same amount of decorations.”

Senior Director of Utilities and Maintenance Paul Kempf said the cost shift for dorm Christmas decorations was a cross-campus measure put in place this year.

“Because of the significant costs involved, the decision was made in conjunction with the Housing Office to have each residence hall assume financial responsibility for its own Christmas display,” Kempf said. “This decision was communicated to the rectors.”

Kempf said the prices provided for each hall were based on last year’s actual expenses.

The holiday decorations and lights involved in Dillon’s Light Show are the most difficult on campus to put up each year, he said.

“Dillon’s Christmas light display is by far the most complex and labor intensive display of any of the residence halls, requiring trade labor and lift equipment to install and remove,” Kempf said.

Dillon Hall president Eric Woitchek said the explanation Maintenance gave for the change in price was confusing for Dillon residents.

“Maintenance sent us an email that said, ‘I pulled the time cards from last year’s installation/removal at Dillon. It took 22 carpenter hours, 12 sheet metal hours and 9 hours of lift time.’” Woitchek said. “‘Considering the tradesmen on campus are union workers, and requiring this many hours to install/remove, I hope you understand how costs can escalate rapidly. We have done everything we can to try to keep costs down, but with this particular display there is really no way around it.’”

But [Maintenance] didn’t build anything for us — the show doesn’t involve any sheet metal at all. We already have all the lights and chicken wire – essentially all they had to do was hang it. So the nine lift hours – I don’t know, you probably have two guys, and they spend two-and-a-half hours to put it up and two-and-a-half hours to take it down. But that doesn’t cost $2,800 — or, we didn’t think it should. … It was a surprise to all of us.”

Even though the show would be smaller without the usual Christmas light display, Woitchek said he believed it was “imperative” that there be some kind of Dillon Hall Light Show this year.

“As president, I didn’t want to see the tradition die on my watch,” Woitchek said. “I’m a big traditions guy, that’s one of the reasons I came to Notre Dame in the first place. It’s a school that’s rich in tradition. And being placed in Dillon, one of the oldest dorms on campus, it’s a dorm that has a lot of tradition – a legacy here, if you know what I mean. So it was important to me that the tradition didn’t die completely.”

The importance of Dillon Hall tradition is what brought the dorm residents together to create an alternative light show, DiGaetano said.

“Since it would be entirely student resources, the light show is not as grand as it normally is but the spirit behind the light show is just as grand if not more,” he said. “… The men of Dillon decided to keep the tradition alive any way that we could, and other dorms felt the same way and decided to help out. Sure, it was a little disappointing to have fewer lights and not as good of a show, but you have to work with what you have.”

The support for the Light Show has continued to be overwhelming, despite these difficulties, DiGaetano said. The Show will continue to run tonight after Milkshake Mass and on Friday at 7 p.m.

“I would say there were no real detrimental effects [that resulted from the change with the lights],” DiGaetano said. “Sure, the light show is not as good as it normally is, but many students, about 400 to be exact, gathered together to celebrate the true meaning of our Christmas traditions. Many dorms, including Walsh, Ryan, Welsh Family, Lyons, and Cavanaugh, among others, created walkovers to the event with a few hours notice.

“Having about 400 people at an event with no more than a day’s notice is pretty incredible for a dorm event, so it’s clear that the tradition is incredibly important to the students.”

Despite the successful turnout this year, Woitchek said he hoped Dillon Hall and the Maintenance Department would be able to find a compromise by next Christmas.

“We were disappointed in the way things happened, and we’d like to find some kind of resolution and fix this for years to come,” he said. “Because [Dillon] can’t afford $3,000 dollars, but we feel like the community appreciates what we do for it around the Christmas season.”

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  • David Taylor

    Business Operations acts as if the students are visitors, and pay nothing into the functioning of the university. Meanwhile, stooges like Paul Kempf cannot keep the lights on across campus. Two major outages in the last week. Maybe gouging the likes of Dillon is meant to pay for the blackouts caused by the ineptitude of Utilities. Oh, that’s right: there is no accountability for such power outages.
    Bravo Big Red! Merry Christmas to the men of Dillon.

  • Angela Rodriguez

    As someone who comes from a family of union workers, I find the actions of Paul Kempf reprehensible. I think ND has to reevaluate their business plan and remember that students and parents are customers, and should not be ‘nickeled and dimed’ (e.g. printing costs, setting up lights, etc.). This is an increasingly prevalent problem at the University, and has affected the morale of students. While I believe unions and hard-working union members deserve respect, I think it is disgraceful that Mr. Kempf is behaving in an unethical manner (12 sheet metal hours, really?).

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