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The status of design at Notre Dame

| Thursday, January 25, 2018

As the Diversity Council of Notre Dame, we make an effort to promote awareness and understanding of all differences that make up the Notre Dame community. And through this endeavor, we are constantly aware of the underrepresented communities on campus. While many of the conversations regarding diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame center around topics of race, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status, we wanted to branch out a bit for this week’s column and lend our support and our voice to maybe an unexpectedly underrepresented (and surprisingly diverse) community: the design major.

For those who are designers, friends of designers or (God forbid) even roommates of designers, you may be familiar with a little old building that goes by the name of West Lake Hall, formerly known as “the old security building.” Located light-years away from LaFortune (making that Starbucks run a 40 minute endeavor), West Lake Hall houses both the industrial design and visual communication design concentrations offered through the design major. West Lake Hall is the distant home for design majors, where many spend their nights on the red couches in the hallways before deadlines simply because it is more efficient to stay the night than to make the trek back to their beds.

For the past few years, students from West Lake Hall have aired their grievances about the condition of their building. These grievances ranged anywhere from its remote location to its seeming ineptitude in being able to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the building. Many students can feel safe enough to shed off their sweaters and coats as they get settled in their classrooms while instantly regretting their decision as they enter the tundra that is the restroom. While most of these students’ complaints have fallen onto deaf ears, a petition was finally released on Dec. 1, 2017, listing in detail the areas in which West Lake Hall needed serious renovations or repairs. While West Lake Hall offers resources that can rarely be found elsewhere on campus with its adjacent model shop, two computer labs and three student studios, they are hardly being utilized to their full potential due to the present barriers that restrict access to West Lake Hall for not just design majors, but all other students who may not even know design exists as an option for their studies.

Through the rapid growth and popularity of courses like “Design Matters,” taught by the incomparable Prof. Ann-Marie Conrado, and the new collaborative innovation minor, even non-design students experience what kind of environment West Lake Hall has to offer and comment on its disparities in reference to other academic buildings on campus. Design is an integral part of not just the products we consume on a daily basis, but also the experiences that make up our everyday lives from the apps in our phones to the appliances in our home. However, the design major is undoubtedly an underutilized and underrepresented community on campus, only further ostracized from the rest of Notre Dame by its location and lack of accessibility. Especially for a university that boasts its sense of community and family as much as Notre Dame does, it’s especially disappointing to see the isolation of an entire major in a building on the edge of campus that’s constantly in need of repairs.

You can find more info on the online petition attached below, and for any questions or comments, you can reach out to the Diversity Council of Notre Dame at [email protected]

Petition with (as of Jan. 23) 580/1000 signatures:


Contact Samuel Cho at [email protected]

The Diversity Council of Notre Dame advocates for awareness, understanding and acceptance on issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other intersectional identities in the Notre Dame community. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Diversity Council, but are the individual opinions of the author. You can contact Diversity Council at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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