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Malloy, Sorin College residents explore dorm’s history

| Tuesday, March 27, 2018

For well over a century, Notre Dame’s first residence hall, Sorin College, has stood on God Quad beside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Much has changed since its construction in 1888. For instance, the dorm’s front porch has not always been a part of the building, and Sorin has not always been known as a “college,” Sorin rector Fr. Bob Loughery explained.

“That’s what defines us, having that kind of history as a dorm,” Loughery said.

Tom Naatz | The Observer

Sorin Hall, left, more commonly known as “Sorin College” after it seceded from the University in 1969, was the first dormitory at Notre Dame. Four University Presidents have lived in the dorm.

Prior to 1888, all students lived in residential areas in Main Building. As the University grew and living quarters became crowded, Notre Dame’s founder, Fr. Edward Sorin, decided upon the construction of a separate residence hall, originally intended to be called “Collegiate Hall.” It was only during the laying of the cornerstone on May 27, 1888, that Sorin learned that the hall would be named in his honor. Originally, the entire Notre Dame law school was housed in the first floor of the hall. Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy, former University President and Sorin resident for 38 continuous years, said the law school’s location is what led to the construction of Sorin’s front porch.

The dean of the law school [Colonel William Hoynes] used to go in and out the front door, and one day some students, in an antic, were pouring water on their friends going out, and he got poured on,” Malloy said. “He went to the president, and the president said that we need to build a porch so Colonel Hoynes can get in and out safely.”

Since its founding, Sorin has been home to four University Presidents, including Malloy and current University President Fr. John Jenkins. Former Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne and the football players comprising the “Four Horsemen” also lived in the hall.

“In some ways, the dorm has changed as the University has changed,” Malloy said.

Malloy noted that in addition to multiple renovations and physical changes to Sorin College, the dorm also houses fewer undergraduates than in the past.

“When I first moved into Sorin there were 175 students, now we have 147, and that was deliberate to reduce some of the crowding and have more social space,” he said. “In terms of the spirit of the hall and the quality of the students, that’s always been one of the hallmarks of the dorm.”

Sorin Hall seceded from the University in 1969. To protest the Vietnam War, the hall residents declared themselves separate from the University, unofficially renaming the hall “Sorin College.”

“The seceding was never accepted by the University,” Malloy said. “Nobody did anything. That was the wisdom of [former University President] Fr. Hesburgh — he didn’t respond. He just let it go on. So, it’s still called ‘Sorin College’ by its residents, but the official name is ‘Sorin Hall.’”

Hall president, sophomore Steve Provencher, said the dorm community finds its unrecognized secession humorous.

“We have a banner that says ‘Sorin Hall: Hall of the Year 1888,’” he said. “And we also have a banner that says ‘1969: College of the Year.’ I don’t think we’ve actually ever won the [Hall of the Year] competition, but we have both those banners which is kind of funny.”

However, the dorm’s nominal status as a separate “college” does have an effect on Sorin’s community, Provencher said.

“I think we’re definitely kind of independent, and we don’t really care about ‘Rockne’s,’” he said. “We don’t really put a whole lot of effort into them, and we don’t really care about being ‘Hall of the Year.’ … It’s definitely more ‘Sorin loves Sorin.’”

The legacy of Sorin College’s secession also lives on in one of the the dorm’s signature events, “Secession Week” — a week in April dedicated to hosting a variety of events for members of the dorm. The week culminates with “Kick-it for Kevin,” a kickball tournament to raise money for cancer research, held in honor of Kevin Healy, a Sorin resident who passed away from cancer in 2009.

Sorin’s mascot is the “screaming otter,” which can be recognized on the hall’s crest and interhall sports jerseys, as well as in the residents habit of referring to each other as “brotters,” short for “bro-otters,” Provencher explained. Malloy said that a contest was held to determine the hall’s mascot.

“A bunch of guys sat around and they came up with ‘screaming otters,’ and that was about the extent of it,” Malloy said.

Malloy said he believes that Sorin enjoys high visibility within the campus community.

“We feel we don’t have to explain who we are, people kind of know what Sorin is and who we are,” he said. “I think a second thing is, we’re like Switzerland. When there’s the first snowball fight, where one quad is against another, there’s Sorin just sitting. During first-year orientation time, Sorin doesn’t march around the campus yelling out its name. It never does this. It’s just taken for granted that pretty soon everyone will find out what Sorin is, who Sorin is.”

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