Hall Presidents Council: Hall of the Year award winners
Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 29, 2020
After last night’s announcement of the three 2019-2020 Halls of the Year, the Hall Presidents Council Executive Board would like to provide background about the year-long process of promoting resident life in our halls, up to and including the award determination. The year has shown tremendous community development for each of Notre Dame’s 31 halls. Especially during this unprecedented year where we are unable to celebrate these halls on campus in person we believe in the integral component dorms play in the life and education of students at Notre Dame. We see this every day still in the Zoom hall councils and online community building that hall executives are doing during our time away from campus.
We, the Hall Presidents Council, are a group of 31 sets of Hall Presidents and Vice Presidents that serve our individual halls and collaborate to bolster the Notre Dame community. Our Executive Board consists of six former Hall Presidents and Vice Presidents: Co-Chairs Tom Walsh and John Desler, Athletics Chair Gracie O’Connell, Social Chairs Amanda Bono and Maddie Heyn and Finance Chair Frank Dijak. Our purpose is to foster a community of friendship and learning for all the halls. We coordinate programming among residence halls, provide a forum in which our members can represent their constituents in discussing matters of resident life, and disseminate information to the hall communities. In short, we hope to ensure that students of Notre Dame are developing personally, as members of the hall community, and as members of the community beyond the hall. Hall Presidents Council also allocates funding for Signature Events, an important part of campus culture and hall identity. In the 2019-2020 academic year, there were an intended seventy residence hall Signature Events.
This year, the Hall of the Year calculation included 50% Rockne submissions (taking the average score of seven monthly submissions) 45% Hall of the Year Presentation and a 5% discretionary allotment, which is updated each year to represent matters deemed important to the campus community by our executive board. Constitutionally the 5% that normally is a grade of a hall council was added to the presentation weight as we were not able to complete all of them before the cancellation of in-person classes. This year, the five percentage points were allocated for developing the GreeNDot program in hall communities and growing the participation in hall events open to the campus community. Midway through the first semester we sent benchmarks for both of these that the halls would have to pass to get the allotment. The GreeNDot benchmark was 400 points, following a system based on an allocation for percentage trained and events held by halls that the executive board and director of GreeNDot agreed upon. Participation was a benchmark of 50% of the dorm headcount checking in at a qualifying dorm participation event. Both of these benchmarks were then adjusted down to compensate for the lost time. 338 points for GreeNDot based on the days experienced vs expected and 22.58% because only 14 out of 31 qualifying events were able to occur. Using these measures as a lens, the Hall of the Year Review Board was able to evaluate the degree to which hall communities flourished this year.
The 2019-2020 Men’s Hall of the Year was awarded to Dunne Hall. This hall exemplified a lot of characteristics that the hall of the year award works to encourage halls to move towards, but most importantly this year we were continuously impressed with this dorm’s authenticity and constant endeavor to improve their events and community. It was important to this community that they craft a strong identity to serve as a foundation for the men of Dunne Hall for years to come. Their leadership made hard choices about cutting events that were not reaching their community in the way they were intended and worked with commissioners to make the events they kept around to be the best they could last for the years to come. This year in particular they started a new men’s group to share in their faith and made a stronger presence for themselves with other dorms with several joint hall councils and intercommunity building events. Within their own dorm they worked with their commissioners to improve their retreat and dance. Their hall councils reached record attendances and kept them up with new fun traditions. In true spirit of community, in their Rocknes and presentation they gave credit to the hard work of their commissioners and residents.
The leadership of Dunne Hall strived to create a home for their residents, despite the hall not having many traditions of its own. Popular signature events such as the DunneDance Film Festival and the Dunne Funne Runne made a name for this hall on campus, which this year is especially impressive considering they still received submissions and were able to hold their film festival on Zoom during quarantine. However, they did not just focus on improving their established events; the hall held a slew of inaugural events throughout the year. They held new events such as their very first parents’ weekend and a mentorship meet and greet for their First Years. At the beginning of their term, the leaders of this hall established a “traditions committee” to plan events that would build a sense of hall identity and last for years to come. Taken from one of their Rocknes about their SYR, “This event is one of the longest standing traditions in [this hall] (it has been around about 4 years).” Even though seeing 30 guys dressed up as a beloved celebrity during a football game is already a pretty successful tradition, the men of this hall never settled and continued to build up their community throughout the year. Congratulations to president George Lyman and vice presidents Nick Spitzer and Carson Richter on an excellent year.
Women’s Hall of the Year for 2019-2020 was awarded to Flaherty Hall. This women’s hall started the year strong ready to improve and strengthen their community. They were intentional in their widespread collaborations with other halls, student groups and community partners. They reached the GreeNDot and hall participation allocation threshold with 449 points and 76% participation. They encouraged programming that included all types of residents and brought back old favorite events such as a holiday week, study abroad socials and an annual hype video. They strengthened their tie with Beacon Children’s Hospital throughout the year with fundraising, supply drives and DVD collections. Their focus on sustainability included creating a textbook exchange program, helping clean Saint Mary’s lake and collecting seven pounds of pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House.
Flaherty’s hall leadership team developed heart, mind and spirit for their fellow residents. They encouraged self-confidence through Grace & Gratitude, and created a safe space for difficult but much needed conversations surrounding mental health, sexual assault and female empowerment. Their fighting spirit extended beyond successful signature events and they inspired healthy lifestyles with pilates on the patio and a yearly retreat. This hall builds community and skills in many other ways such as balancing two food sales services along with Bear-BQing indoor and outdoor with other dorms. Their support for many causes such as the Boys and Girls Club of South Bend and Center for the Homeless show how eager they are to bear the load for others and support one another with enthusiasm and passion.
Their final presentation was structured like a resume. But like any recruiter at the career fair, we took a quick glance at it and threw it away. Because residential life at Notre Dame is not just about checking things off the list. That spirit that you hear about during Welcome Weekend, that spirit is not something you can point to, but rather something you can feel. This hall was always passionate about fostering community, within and between residence halls, and that is the mission of Hall President’s Council.
Finally, the 2019-2020 Hall of the Year is Carroll Hall, led by President Aidan Cook and Vice President Jacob Stellon. When we first met these two, they had clear eyes set on one goal: winning Hall of the Year. Now, most of our hall presidents and vice presidents have this nominal goal in mind somewhere in their consideration of how they will approach their time in office, but what made Aidan and Jacob stand out was the way they interpreted this goal. They saw it as the natural culmination over the course of the year, we saw the tremendous growth of community and spirit, characterized by a culture of small acts guided by family and familiarity. Carroll, more than any other hall, represented a place of inclusivity and hall spirit, where all Vermin are welcome and loved. This atmosphere allowed for a fluid development of events that catered to every member of the community.
They had the perfect intersection of small events encompassing every conceivable aspect of life at Notre Dame. This programming included many lake cleanups, third-floor ab workouts with new partner dorms, lots of support for their brother/sister dorms and a new Carroll Cares volunteer program. None of these events seemed forced on their part, as they had terrific participation in most of these events. The frankly absurd Lime Week that has become a smash hit among the residents even with the untimely demise of Lime Bikes speaks to the fun community that is flourishing on the side of the lake. They have become a true family, bonded as they say by their 13-minute walk to Debart. Especially impressive was the large number of events collaborating with other dorms and unwavering participation in events across the campus even with their small numbers. They won the Dorm-Based Athletic Attendance Contest, easily had the most student participants in the Kelly Cares 5k, even though it was during the early morning of a football game day and knocking our own hall event participation out of the park.
We could continue to list the multitude of events Carroll put on — a men’s group, speaker series, etc. — but it’s almost endless. What we really cared about was their genuineness in their actions, as everything they did helped the residents of their dorm. Aiden and Jacob wanted to put Carroll on the map and change the perception of the dorm. Instead of someone telling a freshman they are sorry they got put in Carroll they wanted that person to congratulate them and say how lucky they were instead. We believe Carroll Hall has done just that.
A huge congratulations to these three halls and the remaining twenty-eight, each of which we are extremely proud of for providing an inclusive, unique, and fun home for Notre Dame students. Our campus community will soon welcome one new residence hall in Baumer Hall as well as see the girls of Pangborn officially become the amazing community of Johnson Family. We cannot wait to begin Fall 2020 as 32 homes under one Dome. Thank you to all who helped make Hall Presidents Council 2019-2020 term a terrific one and helped us leave our mark on Notre Dame.
Hall Presidents Council
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.