Dorm communities work to stay connected despite physical distance
Christopher Parker | Thursday, April 16, 2020
As lectures, discussions and even exams have moved online, so too has dorm programming. Many of Notre Dame’s 31 residence halls have continued their traditions virtually in some capacity. Rectors and hall governments are finding new ways to engage with their communities in a time of isolation.
Many dorms have retained hall council meetings and now supplement them with online interactive games like Kahoot and Jackbox. Siegfried Hall president, freshman Aidan Creeron said in an email that weekly games are simple ways for everyone to stay in touch and engage with their communities.
“Our goal is really to maintain the same levels of engagement and interaction that we had while on campus,” he said. “It’s definitely a different experience operating over Zoom rather than in our lovely home of Siegfried Hall, but we make it work.”
For some dorms, staff still living at Notre Dame have helped keep students connected to campus. Keough Hall president, junior Dylan Fritz said in an email that their rector, Fr. Brogan Ryan, has sent out weekly emails that often include pictures from his daily life.
Meanwhile in Pasquerilla West, rector Emily Orsini has maintained a school year tradition, according to president Ellyn Jarrell.
“On Wednesday mornings our rector has a tradition of providing us with Einstein bagels and coffee in her apartment, called ‘Coffee and Chats,’” the sophomore said in an email. “Now, we have been trying to maintain this virtually with a live stream of our rector on the Pasquerilla West Instagram. Weasels can go live with her or just join for a bit while eating breakfast and drinking coffee in their homes.”
In Duncan Hall, a tradition for those graduating continues over Zoom.
“Every year, Duncan has a tradition — we do ‘What I learned at ND’ talks,” sophomore, dorm president Jason Wanamaker said. “Seniors, all the RAs and some off-campus guys give short speeches to everybody. We’re doing some of those at Hall Council.”
Some dorms have had to restructure signature events. For Farley residents, their yearly Coffee House will go on as planned Thursday night via Zoom.
“It’s a talent show, and we’ve expanded it to be funny acts instead of just musical acts,” president, sophomore Cecelia Berens said. “We’re really excited about that, still being able to do at least a portion of our signature event.”
Most dorm presidents said their community participated actively in virtual dorm programming. Berens said without the drive of many of Farley’s residents, the events would not be possible.
The Cavanaugh Hall co-presidents, sophomores Carrie Mauk and Mabry Webb, said in an email that sharing stories, activities and recipes has kept their bonds tight.
“Though we are scattered all around the world during this pandemic, the Cav community has remained as strong as ever,” they said.
Still, social distancing strains dorm social lives, some presidents said. Several dorm communities have struggled to maintain their camaraderie while so far from their physical dorm. Alumni Hall president, junior Peter Hennessey said in an email that the unscheduled connections are often the most meaningful.
“Our best events are generally informal gatherings of many guys — in the dorm or on the quad — and not being able to coordinate events which truly enrich and develop personal relationships has been tough,” he said.