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Hard versus soft differentiation policy — what you need to know

| Tuesday, January 28, 2020

This past fall semester, the administration held a forum to discuss the off-campus differentiation policy for students who decided they don’t like Notre Dame and wanted to live off campus.

For starters, this column may seem a little premature. As you may well know, these policies have not been established yet, so there isn’t much point in talking about them. There are a series of complicated steps that must be taken before a policy like this can be enacted, such as: announcing the proposed policy and enacting the policy. Everyone knows that in Congress, bills are debated strictly after they have been written into law. This was why it is so important to pass bills, so that people can then understand what is in them.

It’s still a little questionable as to why people thought these policies were official. To quote the email proposing the differentiation: “New policies will take effect in fall 2021.” Personally, I can’t seem to understand why anyone was confused by this.

But now, let’s explore the core of this problem. Notre Dame seniors are moving off campus due to greedy, all-powerful landlords, who have had the audacity to build developments right next to Notre Dame that are so nice that students will sign up a full two years in advance to avoid a fourth year on campus. Notre Dame has responded with a $2,000 dollar credit to any student who commits to living on campus senior year by sophomore year (limited to 250 students, let’s not get ridiculous, but no pressure to make that decision sophomore year).

There are many arguments as to why off-campus students should be treated differently than on-campus students.

Some students have thought that it is unfair that off-campus students can use dorm facilities and attend events. Over 5,000 others signed a petition saying that they 100% don’t think this, but yeah, let’s call it 50/50. We can all agree that access to the various dorm basement gyms, 85-square-foot kitchens and $10 SYR’s is worth differentiating dorm community in the name of equality.

Some have argued that non-dorm housing is an important step for students to get used to living on their own after college, and the administration has said they think this is a valid point and a very good idea. They have also said they still want half of the senior class to live in the current dorm construction. So clearly it is a very good idea for half of the senior class, but not the other half of the senior class, for, uh, reasons.

However, the differentiation did come with some positives for dorm life as well. Let’s explore some of the costs and benefits of this differentiation policy for future seniors.

Costs and benefits for future seniors:

Costs — Exclusion from dorm sports. Exclusion from dorm dances. Exclusion from dorm governments, leadership roles and service events. Exclusion from being able to swipe into your own former dorm.  Also exclusion from dorm email lists (some of which has already happened).*

Benefits — All the free laundry you can get your hands on. You got whites? Colors? Bring ’em in, baby. We’ve got cold water, hot water and all the extended tumble dry you can handle. All for free.**

Notre Dame residence halls have long been about much more than a set of four walls in which students live. They are, at their core, about community, and this community is easily one of the best things about Notre Dame.

Unless, however, you change the four walls before your four years are up, and then Notre Dame residence hall communities have a hard stop at year three. If someone asks you what dorm you were in after graduating, you are required to give your senior off-campus address.

Finally, the administration is still considering whether they will adopt a “hard” or “soft” policy. With a “soft” differentiation policy, “off-campus students would still have different rights and privileges,” she said, but they could “still participate in the day-to-day life of the community.” Here’s my best guess as to how those policies will shake out:

Soft differentiation policy

Off-campus students will not be allowed to participate in dorm athletics, dorm events, private dorm meetings, dorm alumni groups nor anything dorm related.

Off-campus students must keep a 50-foot distance from their former dorm at all times to ensure dorm community is not disrupted. Sorry, Farley, you can’t get into North Dining Hall anymore.

Hard differentiation policy

All that other stuff AND:

Students will begin to take classes online through Arizona State University in order to ensure the comfort of off-campus living they had so desired.

Parking passes for off-campus students now equals $2,500.

At press time, an anonymous administration official was overheard saying in a meeting, “Well guys, why don’t we just allow kids to still be an active part of their former dorms, because this really is one of the most important part of the Notre Dame experience? Why don’t we let kids who contributed to their communities for three years still be involved with the things they care about while enjoying a little freedom and preparing for the real world? Why should we make enemies of our newest class of alumni for no real reason?” The meeting then broke out in raucous laughter, as the joke was incredibly well received. The conversation then moved to how they could reduce administration response time to major student issues from eight months to seven and a half months.***

*In many dorms, not necessarily all of them. Again, I can’t stress enough how little I research my columns. Hate to admit it, but this one got a little bit of research.

**Detergent and dryer sheets not included.

***Obviously this did not actually happen.

Danny McMaster is a senior business analytics major, and has never once been wrong in his entire life. He can be reached at [email protected] or @DanMcMaster14 on Twitter.

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

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