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Dorm changes uphold tradition

Joe Piarulli | Monday, October 2, 2006

Students at DePaul University in Chicago might just be laughing at Notre Dame right now.

No, they didn’t beat any Irish sports teams or outperform Notre Dame students academically. But they might be laughing at Notre Dame because of what they have that Notre Dame students don’t – in-room bathrooms and kitchens. Or maybe because of their tanning and hair salons. Or perhaps it’s just their satellite television service, their designer furniture and available personal maid and grocery services.

Compared to such luxurious housing, Notre Dame’s dorms can start to look like Walkmen among iPods. But for now, the University is tuning out the laughs – Notre Dame likes its older dorms, and the only changes planned for soon-to-be-constructed residence halls are of the spatial variety, said Jeff Shoup, the director of the Office of Residence Life and Housing (ORLH).

ORLH recently established a committee to discuss the future of residential life and decide what kind of campus living environment is best for Notre Dame.

“There are all kinds of places that have things like climbing walls and hot tubs … but I think everyone on the committee believed that we were better off sticking to traditional kinds of things,” Shoup said.

Though students are not likely to see lavish living changes, they will see improvements in the dorms – especially when new residence halls are built, which Shoup said they hope “will be in the next five or ten years.”

According to Shoup, one of the biggest improvements will address the issue of tight quarters. Based on recent surveys of room size, dorms like Dillon, Alumni, Sorin, Zahm, Cavanaugh, Farley and Breen Phillips are most likely to see substantial changes.

“Once we get new residence halls … the goal is actually to take down some of the occupancies,” Shoup said. “Those are the kinds of things that [the committee] talked about as a group rather than some of the kind of amenities I’m reading about … which to me don’t seem like traditional Notre Dame things.”

Although one of the goals is creating more space for dorm living, maintaining and repairing dorms continues to be a high priority.

In recent years, Dillon, Alumni and Farley have seen serious repairs. According to Shoup, ORLH is always looking at what repairs and changes are necessary. He’s heard the rumors about Morrissey being considered one of the worst dorms in America, but is confident that Notre Dame is working forward.

“A lot of people are coming into college who have never shared a room, and we put them into kind of a tight space,” he said. “It’s something that we’re aware of and hope to fix in the next few years.”

Shoup said the number of students moving off campus has been consistent in the past few years, but he believes the benefits of the new dorms may lead to more students staying on campus.

“Right now we’re just trying to make the residence halls more livable,” he said. “If that means more people stay on then that’s great, if more people move off then that would be their choice.”

Architecturally, Shoup said the new buildings will be designed with a gothic style – in the model of Zahm or Alumni.

“I don’t know that there’s going to be significant amenities or luxuries in new buildings – I think our goal would be that there would be lots of different room sizes,” he said.

A variety of room sizes would allow upperclassmen to obtain better rooms, perhaps even some with bathrooms, Shoup said.

The system of progressing to bigger rooms is not unknown at Notre Dame – in fact, it is somewhat similar to the system for football tickets in which older students sit closer to midfield – but Shoup said he hopes the system becomes more pronounced.

Though new dorms may seem to be on a higher level in terms of standards of living, Shoup said the pricing system would not change.

Right now there are only two possible rates, the difference being between singles and other occupancies.

Shoup said he is still surprised to find that most incoming students seem to want to live in older dorms.

“It’s still one of those things that … if we let students pick, they’re still saying Sorin, Alumni, Dillon, Morrissey,” he said. “Every once in a while somebody will say ‘well I have bad allergies, I really would prefer air conditioning.'”

Sophomore Michael Lammie said he understands why students feel this way.

“The dorms have so much tradition – they’re sources of pride,” he said. “Obviously it would be nice to have all those luxuries, but Notre Dame doesn’t really need all that.

“I’d be worried that the dorms would lose their characters and just become glorified hotels. I don’t brag back to my friends about how fancy my dorm is, but I have plenty to say about our sports and academics that more than make up for it.”