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Duncan Hall welcomes its first students

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, August 22, 2008

Notre Dame, meet Duncan Hall.

The new men’s residence hall, which cost approximately $20 million and took 17 months to construct, opened this week, taking its spot on West Quad next to McGlinn Hall.

The first of the 232 men who will live in the building began moving in this week, and the overwhelming reaction to the first dorm built on Notre Dame campus since 1997 has been positive.

Luis Silva, a senior, was playing pool in his new dorm Thursday morning.

“It’s definitely a step up from my other dorm,” he said. Silva, who was wearing his new “Duncan Hall” T-shirt Thursday, previously lived in St. Edward’s Hall.

Jeff Shoup, the director of the Office of Residence Life and Housing added: “The size of the rooms are very nice – just the newness and freshness of it.”

The rooms in Duncan Hall are larger than most rooms in Notre Dame’s other residence halls, and the students who moved in early have been surprised by the size of their new rooms, Shoup said.

“A lot will come unprepared,” Shoup said. “They will bring a lounge chair and realize they need more things [to fill up the room.]”

Duncan has three floors, plus a basement. Every wing contains a social space and a study space. The chapel is on the second floor, a feature shared only by St. Edward’s Hall.

Some other highlights include “super quads” – two doubles connected by a common area, complete with bay windows, a bathroom and a shower; whiteboards built into the wall outside every room. a workout facility in the basement, an area in the kitchen where residents can do food sales and benches in the stairwells so people can socialize or read.

What the dorm is currently lacking, however, is its own identity. Duncan Hall does not yet have its own mascot, signature event or colors.

Shoup, who is in his 20th year at Notre Dame, has seen previous new dorms go through the process of forming their own identity.

“It kind of just takes shape on its own,” he said.

The residents will decide as a hall what their mascot, colors and signature event will be, Shoup said.

“That’s going to be up to the men of the community, and they are going to bring a lot of different viewpoints,” he said. “There are people from every hall on campus that will go into the building, plus there are freshmen and there are transfer students that were placed there. That will be totally up to them; we won’t be a part of that. And I think that just develops as people live together.”

Father Tom Eckert is Duncan’s first rector. Eckert obtained a master’s degree in Iberian and Latin American Literature last May, and prior to that was the rector of St. Edward’s Hall for three years.

“I’m confident that the excitement of opening a new residence hall for the first time in 10 years will really bring the residents together,” he said. “There cannot help but be a great and unifying bond.”

Senior Rafael Diaz, who spoke to The Observer as he was driving from Las Vegas to South Bend, said he’d like to see Duncan take the dragon as its mascot. But, he said, he’s heard people joking that Duncan should be the Donuts, a reference to the nationwide coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts.

Diaz, who studied abroad last semester, hasn’t seen his new dorm since it was “basically cinderblocks.”

“People have been telling me that it’s real nice now,” he said.

Diaz left his former home in Morrissey in search of a bigger room, and will be living in one of Duncan’s “super quads” with three of his friends.

Most of the residents who are living in Duncan won their rooms through a lottery system held last year. Shoup said 350 people applied for spots in the 232-bed hall. Seniors make up 15 percent of the hall, juniors and sophomores 25 percent each, and freshmen 35 percent.

Duncan’s six resident assistants will be running Freshman Orientation, Eckert said, along with a team of students recruited by the Office of Residence Life and Housing.

Duncan’s hall staff lived in O’Neill for a few days before the contractors turned the hall over to the University. They moved into their rooms last Saturday.

The hall will be dedicated in early October, and the residents will get to meet the Duncan family, Shoup said. The building was funded by 1952 Notre Dame graduate Raymond T. Duncan, president of Duncan Oil Inc. and owner of Silver Oak Cellars in Oakville, Calif.

It will be the University’s 28th dormitory and 15th for men. One of the reasons for building the new hall was to reduce crowding in other residence halls, as Notre Dame was at a 104 percent capacity in its residence halls last year. With the addition of more than 200 beds, the University was able to take beds out of other halls, in dorms like Morrissey, Alumni, Zahm and Dillon, as the on-campus population increased by only 20 over last year.

But overcrowding is still a problem in women’s dorms, and the on campus percent capacity is still at 103, Shoup said. Construction on a new, currently unnamed women’s dorm began last March next to the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, and it is slated to open next August in time for the 2009-2010 school year, Shoup said.

Notre Dame also has long-term plans to build one more men’s and one more women’s hall.