No home under the Dome for families?
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, September 27, 2017
As Notre Dame plans to mandate six semesters of dorm life for undergraduates, it is eliminating University housing options for students with families. In June 2018, the six-building apartment community that serves graduate student families, University Village, is slated to be shut down with no replacement. As current residents of this beautiful and necessary place, we humbly ask that you join us in requesting that the University reconsider its plans to demolish our home.
Notre Dame has been home to me in several ways. It welcomed my family when we emigrated from Korea and gave my father a Ph.D. in Physics. I came here for undergrad and lived on campus all four years. I met my husband here, and our daughter was born and baptized here. We love, and will always love, this institution. However, we are tremendously sad and confused about the decision to replace our family’s home under the Dome with yet another commercial endeavor.
For most student families, every dollar matters, and there is nowhere in South Bend/Mishawaka that can compete with the deal we get in the Village. We currently pay $520 a month for a two-bedroom apartment; bigger families pay $785 for four-bedroom units. South Bend is not known for a high cost of living, but nothing within commute-range comes close to matching these rates. My husband and I do not receive stipends for our schoolwork, so we cannot afford more than $600/month in rent with our part-time job earnings. If the Village were to close, our family would have to move into a one-bedroom with no washer-dryer, playground or guarantee of a smoke-free environment. The Office of Housing has offered grandfathered lease rates for some Fischer Graduate units, but these are only available to families who entered the Village in 2014 at the latest. Most current residents do not have financially feasible housing alternatives if the Village shuts down.
Even aside from the monetary aspects, University Village offers an experience that could not be replicated anywhere else. Families here compare the Village culture to undergraduate dorm culture. Proximity to each other, proximity to classes, a communal building structure and regular community events foster a sense of unity and pride among residents. For families new to Notre Dame — especially families of international students — the Village is often what most situates them in the larger Notre Dame community. As the child of an international grad student, my best and clearest childhood memories took place in the Village’s enclosed playground space and Beichner Community Center. My mom took her first English lessons from fellow Villagers and grew vegetables in the community garden. Our family didn’t have to buy a car because my dad could bike to campus. After my dad graduated, our family would not have retained such strong attachments to the University if we had not lived in this specific community.
According to a recent WNDU article, the University is in talks with Holladay Properties to build something resembling Eddy Street Commons where the Village now stands. That Notre Dame is prioritizing profit over safe and affordable community living for student families is contrary to its mission statement and commitment to Catholic Social Teaching.
We are asking Notre Dame not to tear down our home until it can offer equivalent housing — equivalent in terms of price and family-friendly communal environment.
Please help us by signing the petition that can be found on savetheNDvillage.com, and by keeping student families in the ongoing conversations about housing and community life at this great university.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.