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Why dorm life is extraordinary

| Monday, September 18, 2017

Notre Dame has one of the most unique sells out of any University in this country — things it points to and says this is what makes us, us. Unlike any other. Extraordinary. Different. It has a multitude of these, and they are of varying importance to every student. The Catholic identity. The football program. The business school. The student body. I could go on. But the one most attractive, most attention-grabbing, most unique, is the dorm life. It is incomparable to that of any other major school. It’s a transformative experience that is unparalleled elsewhere across this nation. This, we do not argue.
When I mentioned sells before, I meant that purely from a recruitment perspective. What makes Notre Dame unique, and why is that attractive to incoming students? I, like many others here, am a legacy student with parents that love this school on the same level I do. I am also lucky enough that they participate and have participated strongly in alumni club activities – particularly, Notre Dame Club of Chicago events. Being asked as a current student to attend events such as early admittance meetings, where the club tries to convince students who got in early to attend and summer send offs, where I talk to parents and students about what to expect at Notre Dame. I have an extensive background in trying to sell Notre Dame. Not just to prospective students, but incoming students on what to expect. And the one thing that everyone, from current students to young alumni to older alumni, always harps on in talking to these kids is the dorm life. We mention it endlessly – students love to live on campus, we have such great communities, kids love it so much they stay until their junior or senior year. This grabs attention. It isn’t normal. It’s unique. It is our University’s great sell.
But I, along with many in the administration, have noticed this sell beginning to erode, beginning to lose its luster. Our greatest triumph, becoming a problem. But in this administrations solution to this growing problem, there is a decided misunderstanding of the issue that is taking place – and not even of the issue, it is a misunderstanding of what makes Notre Dame so great in the first place.
What makes Notre Dame unique isn’t that students live on campus until their senior year – it’s that students want to live on campus until their senior year.
The former explanation puts the cart before the horse – it accepts a benefit without doing the due diligence that catalyzes that benefit. Students aren’t moving off campus because shiny new apartments opened down the street – shiny new apartments opened down the street because students wanted to move off campus. (My freshmen year — oh sorry, first-year — microeconomics professor can explain that supply/demand issue in more detail — I believe it’s covered in the first class.) Students aren’t moving off campus because they stand on principle against inconsistent rule-breaking procedures — they move off campus because they get caught playing water pong in Morrissey while Zahm can have eight parties going on in their dorm in the same night. No one in Alumni looks at Breen Phillips and says “Hm, I really wish they enforced parietals more strictly here, it’s quite unfair,” girls look at guy’s dorms and ask why their rector watches the door at 1:50 a.m. every weekend night waiting to catch boys walking in. No one cares on principle the rules aren’t equal, they care that they are facing the stricter side of those rules.
The problem isn’t that students are moving off campus. The problem is that students want to move off campus.
And until the administration recognizes that simple fact, whether the ignorance towards the real issue is willful or not, they will only antagonize a student body already reacting against it.
Now, when prospective students ask me what makes this University so great, I cannot point to the dorm life. Yes, we may still keep our (watered down and du Lac conforming) traditions. Yes, we may still be slightly distinctive from each other. But when I go back to those events and try to sell this University to high schoolers, I have no evidence to back up my most important claim. How can they trust I love my dorm, when I am forced to be here?


Chris Brendza


Sept. 13

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Good article. I was hesitant at first when you said “This, we do not argue” in regards to dorm life being universally extraordinary, but you recognize that the problem isn’t people wanting to move off campus, it’s that they WANT to. Dorm life no longer is extraordinary to every student.

    I also think, though, that this whole policy blatantly ignores those who want to begin practicing an adult, independent life and not be treated like high schoolers. Dorm life, while potentially extraordinary, is sheltered, and some move off campus in preparation for that time when they enter the real world and have to cook, clean, do their own laundry, etc. This policy is indicative of the University’s treatment of its students not as cognizant adults, but as ignorant children (or perhaps sheep?) that need to be steered onto the only path they believe right.

  • warmupthediesel

    You can thank all of the jerks who constantly complained about the inequalities between the dorms. By pushing to make all of the dorms the same by removing subsidiarity, the University is smothering one of its most attractive features: Greek-life-like brotherhood/sisterhood with your dorm mates, without the classless debauchery. Let rectors keep discipline in-house and you’ll suddenly find exponentially more students staying for 4 years in a handful of the dorms…just. like. that.