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Dorms fill up for next year

Aaron Steiner | Thursday, April 12, 2007

Residence life is an integral part of the Notre Dame experience, and the abundant applications for on-campus housing confirm that maxim yet again this year.

While the official number of students who applied for on-campus housing will not be available for another few days, it seems the dorms will be filled to their maximum capacities – and beyond next year, even as a growing amount of seniors move off campus, said Scott Kachmarik, associate director of Residence Life and Housing.

While his office has seen large numbers of seniors move off campus in recent years, Kachmarik said the number of seniors staying on campus has grown as well. He clarified that the proportion of seniors moving off campus to those who stay in dorms has remained stable at around 50 percent.

The increase in the number of seniors can be explained by enrollment figures, which have increased over recent years. More students have decided to attend Notre Dame after they were accepted, and a relatively large number of transfer students are admitted regularly, Kachmarik said.

With tradition and community playing an important role in the lives of Notre Dame students, the high amount of seniors that have moved off campus has been a concern to some officials who worry about preserving the University’s residential climate, Kachmarik said.

Notre Dame, however, currently needs those seniors to move off campus, because there is not enough space for them, he said. Residence halls have been filled from 98 to 103 percent of the buildings’ maximum capacity in recent years, Kachmarik said.

Farley Hall Rector Sister Carrine Etheridge said she believes the number of seniors living in Farley has increased in recent years, something she has been pleased to see.

“I like having seniors in the hall because they give stability,” Etheridge said.

Seniors who stay on campus often have a significant impact on the hall environment and the dorm’s sense of ongoing tradition, she said.

Of approximately 250 girls living in Farley next year, 53 will be seniors, Etheridge said.

Mark DeMott, rector of Keough Hall, said about half of the current juniors will stay next year. Although he has only been Keough’s recort since last fall, DeMott said he senses about 50 percent of juniors regularly stay in Keough their senior year.

“It’s really an asset to have upper class students involved in the hall community,” he said. Not only does the hall depend on upperclassmen to serve in the hall staff, but these students often serve as mentors, he said.

For former Fisher Hall vice president and junior Drew Whiting, who plans to live off campus next year, seniors do provide stability in the dorm and help carry on the traditions. Losing some upperclassmen could create a sense of absence in the hall environment and tradition, Whiting said, although he said he hasn’t felt that loss in his dorm.

“As long as the underclassmen can understand what a place is all about and embrace it, you don’t lose those things,” Whiting said.

Kachmarik said that maintaining a proportionate representation of each class in the residence halls is a priority.

“We’re committed to making sure there’s a balance and good mix,” Kachmarik said, something he thinks usually happens without effort from his office.

“It tends to naturally balance itself out,” he said.

The annual migration of students off campus is a concern for some members of the community, like Whiting, who are concerned about the safety of students.

“They are venturing off into a community which is dangerous and unfamiliar,” Whiting said, ” [You] hear about muggings and robberies in downtown South Bend.”

While there is little room for more seniors on campus now, Whiting said more seniors would stay in the dorms if they were given some of the liberties students off-campus enjoy.

Whiting cited the inconvenient contract dorm residents must sign to host social gatherings and parties and the restrictions placed on alcohol consumption as primary reasons for moving off campus, in addition to the financial savings associated with the off-campus life.

“A big incentive to move off campus is that it is cheaper,” Whiting said. “Room and board costs far more than living off campus.”

Whiting said he has seen a decrease in interest in dorm leadership during his three years in Fisher. New rules and restrictions and the rising costs of room and board are enough to lure some students off campus, and when some go, their friends follow, he said.

“The snowball effect of others moving off campus has led many, including myself, to see [moving off campus] as the best option for my last year at this school,” Whiting said. “If it made sense, I would live in Fisher for senior year in a heartbeat. It’s convenient to live on campus … and an afternoon on south quad – once the permacloud clears up – is ridiculously awesome.”

In the meantime, Kachmarik said that while Residence Life and Housing cannot do anything immediately to reduce the numbers of seniors moving off campus – due to the lack of space – construction of new dorms like Duncan Hall, scheduled for completion in the fall of 2008, will address this problem.

Kachmarik said the additional space would allow more seniors to live on campus senior year if they wanted to stay and would offer more comfortable living conditions to all students.