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Residents, hall staff react to announced dorm renovations

| Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Interhall sports, signature events and mascots are just a few of the factors that contribute to the spirit and unique housing system at Notre Dame. With 29 residence halls, each possessing its own history, the housing system is one of the University’s most beloved traditions, and one that is about to change.

Walsh Hall, pictured here, will undergo extensive renovations during the fall semester of 2016 and the spring semester of 2017. During that time, Walsh residents will live in Pangborn Hall.Kathryne Robinson | The Observer

Walsh Hall, pictured here, will undergo extensive renovations during
the fall semester of 2016 and the spring semester of 2017. During that
time, Walsh residents will live in Pangborn Hall.

On Jan. 13, the Division of Student Affairs sent an email alerting undergraduates of a new chapter in the housing system’s history. The email, signed by Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding, outlined dorm changes such as renovations, hall community relocations, and the opening of two new residence halls this fall.

The email said the residential system is “a treasured and distinctive component of a Notre Dame education, and the University is dedicated to its continued vibrancy.” It listed overcrowding and the intention of advancing renovations as the main reasons for the dorm changes.

As the first change as described by the email, the Pangborn Hall community and its rector, Sr. Mary Donnelly, will permanently move into the new women’s hall on the east side of campus.

“This type of move will honor the personal relationships, traditions and strong sense of community that have been formed in Pangborn Hall and will continue to flourish among those same women in the new women’s residence hall,” Hoffmann Harding said in the email.

Pangborn Hall resident and sophomore Allegra Wallingford said she thought the move would be positive overall for her dorm’s community.

“I absolutely think these changes affect Pangborn residents positively, though some people were upset about the new location since it’s not close to South [Dining Hall],” Wallingford said. “I’m actually so excited to move to the new dorm. My hope is that the women of Pangborn transition well and become a larger, cohesive community with the other women who will live in the dorm.”

Pangborn Hall resident and sophomore Caroline DeCorrevont said when the news broke, she initially witnessed an overwhelming excitement from the majority of the dorm’s residents.

“I was excited about it from the start,” DeCorrevont said. “Mostly just because I know 20 years from now we can come back to campus and see this dorm that we were the first residents of.”

While the Pangborn Hall community adjusts to a new building, the current Pangborn Hall building will be transformed into a “swing hall” for residents whose dorm building will be undergoing renovations. The first residents of this “swing hall” will be the Walsh community in the 2016-2017 school year and then Badin Hall in 2017-2018.

Walsh Hall rector Liz Detwiler said she was excited at the announcement, emphasizing the building’s need for renovations.

“When I was told that Walsh would receive a massive renovation on a scale that exceeded anything done before on this campus my initial reaction was relief,” Detwiler said in an email. “Walsh needs this renovation so badly, and I felt relieved that the University had heard my voice and the voices of Walsh women calling for building improvements.”

Detwiler said that although she was excited Walsh would be restored to its original glory for future generations, the move would still be difficult due to the attachment the Walsh community had to the building.

“It will take time for everyone to come to terms with their feelings about the temporary switch, but Walsh has always impressed me and I have every reason to believe we will rally and be even stronger,” she said. “We are a small community and this is a big moment for us and the only way I know how to do it is together. It’s how Walsh does everything: together.”

According to the email sent to undergraduates, University leaders started a Residential Master Plan in 2006 and invested nearly 56 million dollars in renovations. Off-campus senior and former Walsh resident Erin Bishop said with a plan that was in the works for so many years, she wished she and the rest of the Walsh community would have received earlier notice.

“The email was the first time anyone found out about it,” Bishop said. “While it would have been hard to hear in general, I think that coming from within the hall could have softened the blow slightly. I understand that the move is necessary for the future of Walsh, but I think the situation should have been handled much differently, especially if it’s been in the works since 2006.”

Megan Ball, resident assistant and senior in Walsh Hall, said in an email that she is not worried about the move threatening Walsh’s close-knit community.

“I think that it’s a great opportunity for Walsh to be renovated and made ready for the future,” Ball said. “Although the one-year ‘stay-cation’ won’t be glamorous, it’s a real opportunity for the Walsh community to demonstrate its tight bond and show that what makes our dorms here at Notre Dame is the people, not the building.”

The second change for the upcoming school year will be the opening of the new men’s hall community, which will be led by current Carroll Hall rector Fr. Matt Kuczora. He said when he initially found out about his own move, he was shocked because he was still new to Carroll and had not finished his first semester as their rector. He said he found out right before Christmas break that he would be the new rector for the new dorm.

“I’m really enjoying my time in Carroll, it’s a great dorm with wonderful traditions … and having to leave that after one year is going to be pretty tough,” Kuczora said. “However, they’re trying to build a community from the ground up and they needed a pastoral presence … to start something fresh.”

Kuczora said becoming this new dorm’s rector was in line with his duty to be a priest for those in need. He said he saw a situation with people in need of a rector and it caught his eye.

“I’m excited to deal with events in this new hall, get people excited, bring people together,” Kuczora said. “I want to encourage guys to take leadership and start things themselves.”

Kuczora, a 2005 graduate of the University, was dance commissioner of St. Edward’s Hall during his sophomore year at Notre Dame and was instrumental to helping start the tradition of Yacht Dance. He said although it is unlikely that this new men’s dorm will also have their formal on a boat, he is excited about the idea of starting new traditions.

“I’m looking for guys around campus who want to start something new and want to lay a foundation for a Notre Dame experience that can go on forever,” Kuczora said. “This is going to be historical and I’m looking forward to meeting guys who can do this kind of thing.”

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About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena