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‘I feel betrayed’: Gateway students react to being denied housing for 2022-2023 academic year

| Monday, October 4, 2021

On Friday morning, Notre Dame’s office of residential life informed students in the 2021-2022 cohort of the Holy Cross Gateway Program that housing will be unavailable for them and all other transfers for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Each year, the College hosts around 75 first-year students as part of the Gateway Program. As long as they maintain a 3.5 GPA in their first year at Holy Cross, the students transfer to Notre Dame at the start of their sophomore year.

Though Gateway students had been offered housing in past years, this year’s students will be the first to be fully denied housing in the nine years of the program.

This decision comes after a spike in yield rates — the percent of accepted students who choose to enroll after being accepted — for Notre Dame’s class of 2025.

“Increased yields in first year student enrollment over the past several years effectively eliminate this possibility for Fall 2022,” the office’s email said. The year’s yield rate, 58%, was Notre Dame’s second-largest ever, according to senior vice president for enrollment Don Bishop.

Further, the email encouraged students to begin the search for off-campus housing immediately. In an email to The Observer on Sunday, University spokesperson Dennis Brown said the announcement was made early to give students adequate time to make other arrangements.

“The letter was sent last week in order to give students as much time as possible to make off-campus housing arrangements,” Brown wrote.

Gateway students, after being offered admission to the program in their application portal, are told that housing is not guaranteed for them when they transfer to Notre Dame. However, many Gateway students, like Claudia O’Sullivan, did not anticipate housing to be an issue.

“In the spring when they were telling us about the whole housing situation, it seemed much more guaranteed than I think it actually was,” O’Sullivan said. “It would’ve changed a lot of people’s decisions, and it’s a pretty big decision.”

But despite her disappointment, O’Sullivan is still holding out hope.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” she said.

Also a member of Gateway’s ninth cohort, Daniel Schrage was upset about the lack of transparency on the issue from the administration.

“I felt like they kind of backstabbed us because they told us we had the chance to live on ND’s campus for three years, then they just took that out from under us,” he said.

Ryan Miklus said he thinks this outcome was the product of Notre Dame’s own miscalculations.

“We’re paying for Notre Dame’s mistakes in terms of housing policies,” he said.

Madeline Murphy said she was upset that the University’s three-year on-campus requirement exacerbates the shortages of housing space on campus.

“Why are they prioritizing juniors who do not all want to stay on campus instead of sophomores who would love the opportunity to be in a dorm?” she wrote in an email.

Dr. Kate Pastore, a parent of Gateway student Grace Kayastha, echoed Murphy’s sentiments.

“My daughter and her classmates have been counting the days until they can live on campus, while there are juniors who want to live off campus and are not being allowed,” Pastore said.

Pastore also expressed disappointment in Notre Dame for not looking for more solutions.

“Perhaps a lottery for juniors wanting to live off campus could serve to accommodate this relatively small group of students who are so eager to join the campus community,” she said.

Murphy said she is also frustrated because she feels as if Gateway students are being treated as inferior to “traditional” Notre Dame students.

“It hurts when they tell us we are valued at Notre Dame; it is beyond evident that we are not,” she said. “I am highly considering transferring.”

Much to the frustration of students and families, Gateway student Aoife Kelly said, comes from a worry of missing out on a special type of Notre Dame community as the students go through the transfer process.

“Dorm life is so integral to the Notre Dame community that not having it makes me feel like I’m still going to be on the outside like I am now,” Kelly said.

Another common sentiment is that, with a full cohort having been denied housing in their sophomore year, the Gateway Program will be far less appealing to future classes.

“It will tank Gateway, potentially tanking Holy Cross financially,” first-year Liam Redmond said. “I feel betrayed. I feel like I was misled by Holy Cross, but I was definitely more frustrated with Notre Dame.”

Others, however, are not as upset. Gateway student Jack Szatkowski said he felt prepared for the decision and explained that the possibility of not having housing did not hinder his decision to enroll in the program.

“It’s not what I signed up for, but the school has been pretty transparent with us, saying there’s a good chance we don’t get housing,” he said. “I didn’t come to Notre Dame to have housing. I came to Notre Dame to go to Notre Dame.”

First-year Liam Linnen also was not bothered with the prospect of living off-campus.

“I was honestly fine with it; I kind of prepared for it,” he said. “There’s no parietals, either. You can do whatever you want whenever you want.”

Linnen has a twin brother who attends Notre Dame, which he says makes navigating the social scene at Notre Dame easier.

“I can see how it would be different not having that connection with friends,” he said.

Davis Cook, another Gateway student, felt the program itself offered a sufficient group of connections.

“We already have friends from Gateway, so we’re already connected that way,” he said.

Cook said he was bothered more by the extra work that will now be required throughout the transition process.

“The fact is that they’re throwing on this extra hurdle that we have to wait an extra semester or two before getting housing,” he said.

Since the Friday announcement, Gateway students have been receiving many words of encouragement. Friday afternoon, Aurelia Wishart, the new coordinator of Gateway Program, sent an email to students commending their strength.

“I’m sorry this happened to you,” she said. “The positivity and resilience of your cohort is astounding to me.”

Many members of the cohort said they appreciated the support.

“I think it acknowledged that our reaction wasn’t an overreaction,” Gateway student Maire Brennan said of the email.

Wishart also shared words from a member of the 2020-2021 Gateway cohort, Alyssa Wilgenbusch, who was assigned to live in Fischer Graduate Hall this year after dorm space was filled up.

“I totally know how you are feeling,” Wilgenbusch said. “It can be very hard knowing that you will not be a part of the ‘normal’ Notre Dame experience. However, I would encourage you that you can still feel like a full member of the Notre Dame family.”

Dr. Pastore, despite being strongly disappointed by the recent news, concluded her email with a tone of optimism for the 2021-2022 Gateway cohort.

“Whatever happens, I have faith that they will continue to thrive, because, as they were told repeatedly through the Gateway decision process, they were chosen for a reason,” she wrote.

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