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Direction of Zahm examined, questioned

Letter to the Editor | Friday, December 1, 2006

My name is Mark Marquez and from 1999 to 2003, I lived in Zahm Hall. In my time in Zahm Hall, I served on the Freshman Orientation Committee my sophomore year and was as co-commissioner at Zahm Hall Foodsales my senior year. My years as a Notre Dame student and a resident of Zahm Hall constituted some of the happiest moments and best memories in my life. I was deeply saddened upon reading the article “Zahm struggles with culture shift” because the article describes the growing indifference and apathy now associated with being a Zahmbie.

While I was a student at Notre Dame, Zahm did have the “Animal House” reputation, but along with that also came the Zahm Hall spirit. I do believe that Zahm was the closest thing to a fraternity in terms of dorms at Notre Dame. There was a camaraderie among the men that lived in Zahm, but unlike a fraternity, Zahm had none of the negative drawbacks, such as the hazing that goes on in most traditional fraternities. I would hardly consider intoxicated juniors and seniors coming home from bars and waking up freshmen a hazing ritual. With that, I pose the question, “What older brother hasn’t played a prank on a younger brother?” Now, I understand that a line has to be drawn somewhere, and I don’t condone any type of physical abuse, or waking up freshmen the night before mid-terms or finals, but that is a far cry from an actionable offense worthy of sending students to Residence Life.

In my time at Notre Dame, I never truly felt that Zahm was a “whipping boy.” Yeah, jokes were made, but I would submit to you, the source of those jokes came from those who only wish they could emulate the Zahm spirit, and those jokes were never taken seriously anyway. Besides a sense of community and togetherness, the Zahm spirit also encompassed community service. While the assertion was made that Zahm Foodsales was neglected, one thing myself and the other co-commissioner accomplished in our tenure as Commissioners of Foodsales was the donation of Foodsales profits to a local charity in South Bend called, “There are Children Here,” founded by Jim Langford. That is a rich tradition that seems to have died.

The article made mention of two Zahm Hall rectors: Father Dan Parrish and Father Tom Bednar. I feel I would be remiss if I hadn’t mentioned, at this point, a rector that truly embodied the Zahm spirit. Before Parrish became rector, before Bednar’s tenure and even before his immediate predecessor Father Jim Lies, was Father Jim King. Rather than fighting the Zahm spirit, King embraced it. I personally have met Father King only once, at one of the famous Zahm Decade Dances, but I know him from the stories that were told about him by Zahmbies that came before me.

One such story had King in the middle of the debate regarding which dorm to convert into an all female dorm: Zahm or Cavanaugh. As the story goes, King told the administration that if Zahm were to be converted to a female dorm, he would lock himself in his room, and let the Zahmbies have free reign. By sharing this story, I do not intend to promote complete anarchy. I simply mean to illustrate that Zahm Hall, as a dorm, and as a community constitutes one of the strongest bonds a Notre Dame student could have, and precluding its existence is a tragedy.

Furthermore, if you have been accepted at the University of Notre Dame as a student, there is a reason for it. Every year, I read about the average SAT score getting higher every year as well as the statistics on students at Notre Dame being generally well rounded. It’s not like Notre Dame has “undesirable” matriculants who are then ostracized to Zahm. Zahm Hall is not British Colonial Australia.

Finally, the article alluded to legendary dining hall dinners, rowdiness at the football pep rallies and the running of naked males through LaFortune. While I agree with Zahm dinners and pep rallies being loud and boisterous, I don’t believe the description of “naked males streaking through LaFortune” is entirely accurate; we were all wearing shoes.

Mark Marquez


Class of 2003

Nov. 30