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Reflections on one vermin’s life in Carroll Hall

| Thursday, April 23, 2020

It’s a common Notre Dame stereotype that everyone believes their residence hall to be the best. For my last column of the year, I am going to argue that this belief is true for one hundred men on campus. Well, ‘on campus’ is a stretch, but that’s an argument for another day. 

Let’s start with my own story. Notre Dame was not my first-choice university; as an overweight, gay, athletically-disinclined young man, I wasn’t sure Notre Dame was the right fit for me. 

I said as much in one of my supplemental application essays: I challenged Notre Dame to take a chance on an applicant who would be taking a chance on them. When I visited in my senior year, it was the strength of the residence hall communities that really convinced me there was a place for me at this university. After matriculating, I made a list of which halls I considered most desirable, based on every scrap of information I could find on the internet. 

I can distinctly remember housing-assignment day: I was on the phone with my mom, I had trouble logging in to the portal, and my heart sank when I read the name, “Carroll Hall”. For a fraction of a second, I questioned whether Notre Dame had been the right choice. I tried to make the best of it, thinking of how much talk there was of Carroll’s unique community, but I struggled with the thought that I was being denied the real residence hall experience. While the overwhelming majority of students would be close together, in big, tight-knit families, I would be isolated across the lake with guys who might, or might not, accept me. While other students were given the space to make friends with who they wanted, within big communities of brotherhood or sisterhood, I was basically given only a hundred options. 

There was one particularly difficult aspect to this struggle: my sexuality. I had been out in high school, with no negative repercussions whatsoever; but that was a left-leaning public high school in northern New Jersey, not a Catholic university in northern Indiana. My general anxiety over fitting in was compounded by this more specific, more personal difficulty. 

So that’s my story. In my two previous visits to Notre Dame, I had never been to Carroll. I first saw it up-close when I moved in on August 18, 2017. My life was drastically changed that day — for the better. 

Contrary to my previous worries, I was not denied the guaranteed residence hall experience — I was provided that experience to an extent the majority of Domers don’t understand. On my first day of classes, three different upperclassmen from Carroll shouted “Hey, Vince!” at me from across a quad. I know the names of everybody who has lived in Carroll from the day I moved in till right now — and I would feel pretty comfortable texting any of them if I needed something. I’ve relied on my friends, my roommates and even Hall Staff for personal, professional and academic help. Sure, I’ve had ‘less’ options to choose from when it came to friends — but I’ve realized that life isn’t about choosing some people over others; after all, I was trying to avoid not being ‘chosen’ all along. I’ve gone to countless dorm parties, stayed up late preparing for signature events (Carroll Christmas!) or just playing board games on a Friday, had boisterous political arguments in the lounge and wasted hours playing Mario Party with people I didn’t even know too well. I’ve loved every second of it, because this is what I came to Notre Dame for — a special kind of community. 

Many aspects of this experience have been denied, and continue to be denied, to LGBTQ students on campus. I would love to see a study done on the percentage of these students who do not remain in their assigned residence hall after their first year. I think it is much higher than it is for cisgender, straight students, because many residence hall communities are not welcoming to ‘outsiders.’ 

That is not the case in Carroll Hall. It quickly became apparent many of my concerns regarding the culture at Notre Dame wouldn’t come to fruition in my new home. I have never once faced backlash or disrespect based on my sexuality. I’ve brought a significant other to a Carroll dance, and I’ve knocked on my RA’s door late one night after a difficult conversation with an ex. Carroll, like Notre Dame overall, is not a progressive wonderland (and, if you’ve read my column before, you could probably guess that I’m happy it isn’t one). We all have our own opinions on the many issues, including LGBTQ issues, which divide people in our modern world. This does not get in the way of our being a diverse, respectful brotherhood. 

I’ve been to other residence halls on campus. I have plenty of friends who feel strongly about their own homes under the dome. But I truly believe Carroll is unique. There is no other hall on campus where every stranger is recognized (and welcomed), because we all know who’s usually there. There is no other hall where the entire community, at every dance, forms a mosh pit when a particular song plays. There is no other hall on campus where the entire community has meetings in a single room to listen to, argue with, and complain at Hall Staff. Speaking of, there is no other hall on campus where every RA knows every resident’s name before they move in. There is no other hall where your section only matters because it determines how many stairs you have to climb every day. There is no other hall like Carroll Hall. 

I was devastated when my last few months in Carroll were stolen from me by the coronavirus. I love that building, that community, that home, with my whole heart. To quote my favorite corny college chant of all time: 

“I don’t care what people say, 

Carroll Hall is far away. 

Small in number, large in size, 

We’re the best 100 guys.”

Thank you to the best one hundred guys, for being you.

Vince Mallett is a junior at Notre Dame majoring in philosophy with a minor in constitutional studies. He is proud to hail from Carroll Hall and northern New Jersey. Vince can be reached at [email protected] or @vince_mallett on Twitter.

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

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