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Seniors reflect on a controversial four years at ND

Maddie Hanna | Friday, May 13, 2005

Notre Dame projects an image of constancy, a sense of the perpetual. The Golden Dome has served as a beacon since its addition to the Main Building in 1882, and the Grotto almost always shelters a few weary souls, no matter the hour or weather.

But seniors looking back on their four years under the now scaffold-shrouded dome have seen a multitude of changes that have shaped their Notre Dame experience for better or worse.

The elimination of the in-dorm SYR and a new alcohol policy

“I think the biggest changes were probably the SYRs and the changes in the alcohol policy,” senior Alexandra Holland said. “I think that really affected student life.”

Senior Kate Brady agreed with Holland, noting the outrage that resulted from the Office of Student Affairs’ 2002 ban of in-dorm SYR dances and hard alcohol.

“I definitely think it affected dorm unity,” Brady said. “I know a lot of people who weren’t even interested in going anymore.”

Senior Eric Tarnowski said the administration greatly impacted the Notre Dame community with the new alcohol policy.

“It changed the face of the University as far as what people did on campus,” he said. “Freshman year we spent a lot more time on campus.”

Tarnowski said these changes reflected a preoccupation of University officials with projecting an image.

“The longer I was here the more to me it seemed that the emphasis from the University was more on the image and not on the students themselves,” he said. “That’s probably what has bothered the seniors the most.”

Football coaching carousel

Seniors had a variety of opinions on four years of football, which saw multiple coaching changes. The seniors started with Bob Davie, who was fired in 2001, and then saw George O’Leary get hired and then fired after falsifying his résumé. Most recently, Tyrone Willingham was fired and replaced with Charlie Weis.

“I think it was just kind of disappointing because I didn’t feel like we had any continuity,” senior Heather Kimmins said.

However, Tarnowski said he didn’t mind the changes.

“I personally think that the change from Ty Willingham to Charlie Weis was a good one,” Tarnowski said. “I think that the University is sort of just trying to find itself.”

Senior Drew Updike agreed and said the campus seems more excited about football during transitions.

“It was kind of exciting when we got Ty. Then we get Charlie Weis, everyone’s jumping around about that too,” Updike said. “I thought it actually made things more interesting.”

A regilded Dome

Students returned from spring break to find the regilding of the Dome underway.

While counting the days until graduation, many also counted the diminishing inches that separated the scaffolding from the Virgin Mary. A current of student unrest directed by senior class president Darrell Scott shook University officials and ultimately drove Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves to strike a deal with contractors in which they partially removed the scaffolding prior to graduation.

“Back in March many of my classmates expressed concerns over the scaffolding situation and asked if there was anything that could be done to alter the situation for the better,” Scott said.

Tarnowski drew a comparison between other actions taken by the University.

“I really felt that that [scaffolding on the dome] just sort of epitomized the whole outlook of the University,” Tarnowski said. “They didn’t tell the students about it until after it was too late … exactly what they’ve done over the years.”

The Notre Dame experience

Seniors were on campus during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the all-campus Mass on South Quad was one remembered by most.

“I think that was the event that really sort of gelled our class with the University and pulled our class together,” Tarnowski said.

Despite the significance of events such as that Mass, many seniors say the little moments are what they will remember the most.

Senior Eleigh Radigan recalled the time when she played “fire soccer” by soaking soccer balls in kerosene and wrapping them with chicken wire.

“We went out to the McGlinn fields and got chased by the cops,” she said. “It was awesome – definitely one of my favorite Notre Dame memories.”

Senior Maria Padilla simply enjoyed when good weather came along.

“Every day it’s warm here is a good memory,” Padilla said. “Everyone is outside. Seriously, this place is meant for warm weather.”

Predictions for the future

Most seniors said they felt it would be hard to predict the future direction of Notre Dame due to the new changes in the administration, as University President-elect Father John Jenkins is set to take over July 1, replacing outgoing University President Father Edward Malloy.

“I think it definitely seems like the University is starting to head in a direction focusing more on competing with other universities and trying to maintain this reputation it’s established as a top university,” Tarnowski said. “But I think it is sort of getting away from the things that are uniquely Notre Dame. There are so many small things that make Notre Dame what it is and I think some of those things have been sacrificed over the years.”

Updike said he felt as though the University did not always keep students first in its plans and that the administration “neglected” students’ concerns.

“It was just one thing after another,” he said.

Updike referred to the example of students’ inability to obtain University recognition for a student group designed to promote dialogue between gay and straight students.

“I watched how motions would be made in Student Senate, Campus Life Council, then go to Student Affairs and die out,” Updike said.

Updike also commented on the conflict between Notre Dame’s traditional Catholic foundation and its status as a national university.

“Obviously [Notre Dame] is a Catholic school, but if it wants to stay at the top with some of these other schools, academically and athletically, it has to get its head screwed on about the way you run things,” Updike said.

Drawing upon the memory of the Hesburgh years, Brady expressed a vision for the future that would return to the past.

“My hope is that the change in administration will focus more on the school that Father Hesburgh wanted it to be,” Brady said. “Hesburgh’s attitude was more ‘I have trust in the students, I believe you know what the right thing is, that is why we accepted you.'”

But even with this uncertainty for the future, Brady said her passion for the University would never change.

“I still love this school,” Brady said. “I will always love Notre Dame.”