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ND students move off-campus

Teresa Fralish | Friday, November 21, 2003

As increasing numbers of Notre Dame seniors opt for off-campus housing, the trend of declining amounts of undergraduates living in the residence halls poses a major problem for Notre Dame.For a University that prides itself on the quality of its residence hall system, the trend toward off campus housing is problematic. Scott Kachmarik, associate director of residence life, said about 52 percent of current Notre Dame seniors live off campus. Because on campus housing for Notre Dame currently stands at 101 percent capacity, a certain number of students must live off campus each year to allow the University to meet the demand for housing.”We need about 1600 students every year to move off campus,” Kachmarik said. Since the freshmen and junior classes are larger than normal, Kachmarik said the housing crunch would likely continue for the next several years.The University has also seen an increase in the amount of sophomores and juniors who choose to live off campus, Kachmarik said. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of undergraduate students living on campus has declined 5 percent to its current level of 76 percent, according to the University’s strategic plan Web site. Traditionally, about 82 to 83 percent of undergraduates live on campus. Many students say they simply want the increased freedom of living off campus. “It’s a chance to have your own place,” said junior Phil Koesterer, who plans to move off campus next year. “The entire idea for me is getting outside of Notre Dame’s jurisdiction.”As part of an attempt to keep more of its seniors on campus, Notre Dame’s sister school Saint Mary’s has opted to build on campus apartments that are set to open next year with space for 70 occupants. In this decision, Saint Mary’s joins a growing number of colleges and universities that have provided on campus apartments for their students. Students said they are excited about the chance to remain on campus but have additional space and freedom. College officials have not yet decided whether the apartments will be governed by the same policies as the residence halls. Because the College opted to provide the on campus apartment opportunity to its seniors, Saint Mary’s will keep at least one more senior on campus. Junior Melissa Montoya said she hopes to live in the new apartments, and would definitely consider moving off campus otherwise. “We want the experience of living off campus,” she said. Montoya said she does not hope to see the same residence hall policies put in place for the new apartments. “It’s ridiculous to have parietals for seniors,” she said. “If they want us to act like adults they should treat us as such.”If Notre Dame chose to provide seniors with other on campus housing options besides the residence halls, several students said they would highly consider staying on campus.”We loved the dorm, but we’d had enough,” said Notre Dame senior Megan Horner, who lives at Turtle Creek. Both Horner and Koesterer said they might have considered such an option if any on campus apartments were free from Residence Life policies. In dorms with limited amounts of singles such as Stanford, Lewis and Keenan, students may choose to move off campus to find increased space.”Some students said if they weren’t going to get a single they would be moving off campus, said Mark Thesing, rector of Keenan Hall, which has only four singles. Thesing said that having seniors, in addition to the resident assistants, choose to stay in Keenan was important for the atmosphere of the dorm. “I think seniors add a great deal to the life of the dorm,” he said.Students in dorms with more variety in room types said they might be more likely to stay on campus.”Last year I was in a quint,” said junior Rebecca Tapp, who plans to stay on campus her senior year. “We had a really large common room.”Kachmarik said Notre Dame has made some changes to room configurations to allow students more space. In Farley and Cavanaugh, two triples were converted into doubles. Kachmarik hopes to see more changes, but is faced with a severe housing crunch. “In order for us to do that, we have to reduce occupancy at a time when demand has never been higher,” he said. Long term, Kachmarik said he believes the University will need to build more dorms to accommodate the numbers of students who want to live on campus. According to the University’s strategic plan Web site, Notre Dame intends to implement a 10 percent bed reduction, build four new residence facilities and consider the possibility of alternative types of senior housing, including co-ed housing, within the next 10 years.Notre Dame requires all freshmen to live on campus, while students who transfer to Notre Dame or return from a leave of absence are placed on a waiting list.