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Residence halls fill to capacity

Mary Kate Malone | Saturday, August 20, 2005

In recent years, Office of Residence Life and Housing assistant director Scott Kachmarik has been faced with a dilemma – not enough beds for Notre Dame’s annual influx of freshman students, which forces his staff to scramble to utilize every inch of dorm space.

But this year’s biggest-yet overflow may carry weightier consequences than squeezing three freshmen into a converted study lounge.

“There is nothing left to ‘create’,” Kachmarik said. “We are maxed out of every available bed space on campus. This year we have hit our peak.”

Additional assistant rectors in some dorms, slightly increasing enrollment and the University’s 96 percent retention rate from freshman to senior year are responsible for the bed shortage, Kachm-arik said.

For now, Residence Life has managed to make room by converting study lounges into living space, changing double-size rooms into triples and converting former study lounges that housed three students last year into space for four.

But if the overcrowding continues to rise, the Office of Residence Life will be forced to take more drastic measures, Kachmarik said.

“We may have to do a lottery for seniors to determine who can live on campus,” he said.

And while creating ever-more cramped quarters is working for the short term, Kachmarik says new dorms are needed to permanently solve the problem. The University’s strategic plan, released last November, outlines the construction of four new residence halls within the next 10 years.

The new dorms would be built not so more students could attend Notre Dame – the University is committed to maintaining its current enrollment – but rather to relieve the overcrowding problem.

“Enrollment has been growing by 10 or 12 students every year, but that adds up,” Kachmarik said. “Students want to live on campus. But the reality is that we need students to eventually move off campus. I need at least 1,600 students every year to move out of their residence halls.”

Last fall the overflow was experienced mostly in the 13 women’s residence halls, but this year, the 14 men’s dorms are just as full.

Of the men’s dorms, Keough and O’Neill have experienced the overflow most this year, Kachmarik said.

Father Peter Jarret, rector of Keough, said this year his dorm will reach its highest population since its construction in 1996. Thankfully, the dorm was built to adapt to overcrowding, he said.

“The study lounges in Keough and O’Neill were built to be converted [to dorm rooms],” Jarret said. “They are pretty much the same size as doubles so space wise it’s not really an issue.”

Jarret said the students seem more or less unaffected by the increasing number of residents in his hall.

“They take it in stride,” he said. “The more the merrier.”