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Stanford Hall wins Hall of the Year; Flaherty, Knott grab women’s, men’s titles

| Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic placing restrictions on residence hall life, three dorms stood above the rest in the 2020-2021 Hall Presidents Council (HPC) Hall of the Year contest. Stanford Hall won Hall of the Year, Knott Hall won Men’s Hall of the Year and Flaherty Hall won Women’s Hall of the year.

Junior and former Stanford Hall president Allan Njomo said he originally ran for the Stanford presidency after a racial slur was used against a female visitor to the dorm in the fall of 2019. He said although it was a hard decision, junior Michael Babikian — who would become his vice president — convinced him to run.

“I was really facing this tension of how to stand in solidarity with her while still loving the place that I call home and working towards making it a better place,” Njomo said. “And so ultimately we went into it together, hoping to make Stanford a better place for all.”

Njomo said the Stanford community refused to let COVID-19 policies derail dorm life. From the start of Welcome Week, he could tell this year’s residents were special, he said. Although he didn’t run for president with the specific goal of winning Hall of the Year in mind, he said the energy at Welcome Week inspired him to send an email to all of the Stanford Griffins saying they should work toward it.

Courtesy of Allan Njomo
Pictured from left to right: former Stanford Hall senior event coordinator Marty Kennedy, former Stanford Hall president Allan Njomo and former Stanford Hall vice president Michael Babikian, all current juniors.

The hall, however, had gone through a lot of changes. They began the year with a new rector and a new priest-in-residence. Njomo said these changes made him feel pressured to maintain the Stanford culture.

“Really what kept us together the entire time is this thing in Stanford that we call ‘Big Stanford Love,’ or BSL for short. It’s this idea that no matter where you’re at, as long as you’re a Stanford person, you emit this Big Stanford Love, and people feel it,” he said. “That’s what really pushed us throughout the year, whether it was engaging with the community or just playing football.”

Besides planning events and competitions with his vice president and commissioners, Njomo said he was especially proud of the turnout at GreeNDot training — a violence prevention program — and at MiNDful training — a program against microaggressions — which 120 out of 200 residents attended.

“Coming together as a community in really innovative ways, despite what we were facing … despite being apart, is really what made us stand out from all the other halls,” he said.

Flaherty Hall: Women’s Hall of the Year

Junior and former Flaherty Hall president Maureen Steier said Flaherty is the first dorm to have won a Hall of the Year award two years in a row, despite the fact that the hall is only five years old.

“Going into the year, we were riding that high of Women’s Hall of the year already, and so we didn’t expect to win, which I think made it all the sweeter because we tried our very hardest again to build that sense of community and have the events for the sake of the events — but not for the sake of winning at the end of the year,” she said.

When classes went online for two weeks at the beginning of the fall semester, Steier and her two vice presidents, juniors Emma Koster and Dani Harold, planned a virtual event for each day, including online workouts and virtual room tours. Steier said they tried to continue holding a wide variety of events for Flaherty residents throughout the rest of the year.

“We got books to celebrate Black History Month using ND Day funds,” Steier said. “A lot of our programming and stuff that we could do this year was focused on inclusivity, so I think we were really proud that that is what shone in our Hall the Year presentation.”

Steier thanked her commissioners and vice presidents for assisting her in leading Flaherty.

“After such a tough year, the joy of the Flaherty residents when we told them that we won was incredible,” she said. “It was so worth it to see their faces in celebration.”

Knott Hall: Men’s Hall of the Year

Jack Looney, junior and former president of Knott Hall, said he was elected just days before the COVID-19 lockdown began, which altered how he viewed his term as president.

“The upperclassmen helped integrate me into not just Knott Hall, but Notre Dame as well,” Looney said. “I had this really strong desire and passion to give back toward that community that gave so much to me, but my goals quickly shifted once the COVID pandemic happened, into trying to make the most of the year.”

With the help of his co-presidents, sophomore Spencer Koehl and junior Brian Cariddi, and Knott Hall’s commissioners, Looney said he was able to plan over 50 events for Knott residents.

Looney said they tried to focus on events that fostered the internal community; however, they still had a few standout events with other dorms. He said he was most proud of ‘Knott Your Average Hoedown,’ which combined Knott’s signature event — a potato sack race — with Welsh Family Hall’s ‘Hoedown Throwdown.’

However, Looney did not begin his term with wishes to win Hall of the Year — in fact, he said doing so would have possibly been a “flawed strategy.” He and his administration were just trying to maintain dorm culture, he said.

“We came into the year wanting to build a great dorm culture and have a great year where memories last a long time by building a culture of inclusivity and understanding,” he said. “The Hall of the Year thing, that was really just the icing on the cake, kind of proof, externally, of our hard work.”

While Looney said he felt proud that his dorm won, he acknowledged this year has been hard for every hall — and they all deserve recognition.

“Really, every dorm president should feel proud of their accomplishments just because this wasn’t the year that anybody asked for,” Looney said. “And the fact that most dorms, if not all dorms, were able to have great events and a really fun time and foster cultures and inclusivity makes getting through this year a huge accomplishment. This year, it really seemed like everyone was on the same team, working toward this goal of getting through COVID together and not so much competing for Hall of the Year.”

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