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Parents ask for housing for Gateway students

| Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Dear Fr. John Jenkins, Fr. Gerard Olinger and Mr. Louis Nanni: 

We are writing to you as more than 100 parents of the Holy Cross-Notre Dame Gateway 9.0 program to plead with you respectfully that the University find on-campus housing for these rising sophomores for the start of the 2022-2023 school year. 

We trust that there are creative solutions that can be realized by using outside-the-box thinking in accommodating these extremely committed students, who are working hard to earn their place and counting the days until they are part of the Notre Dame campus community. 

We are surprised and somewhat bewildered that the University, with its longstanding commitment to students living in residential hall communities for six semesters in order to form strong intentional communities, would be okay at the prospect of 90, 19-year-old sophomores living off-campus during their very first semester as Notre Dame students. This makes no sense and seems misguided in our view. 

All of the Notre Dame-Gateway students committed to the program knowing that they were not guaranteed on-campus housing upon transfer to Notre Dame, yet your practice for eight consecutive Gateway cohorts indicated otherwise. 

Many of our children did their due diligence in talking with former Gateway students about the program and then took a leap of faith, trusting that their dream of attending Notre Dame and living in a close-knit dorm community in a year’s time would be actualized. A few parents spoke with senior Notre Dame administrators, whom they said made it clear that while not guaranteed, the “housing math” seemed likely to add up favorably as it always had. Other parents were given a consistent narrative from Notre Dame and Holy Cross staff that “nearly every Gateway who has wanted housing has gotten it;” this was a familiar refrain during the recruiting process. 

One Gateway parent, Michelle Tobias, communicated eloquently just today: “For us, safety and inclusion are paramount. It is clear that so much of the campus spirit and faith practice is dorm-based … Policies that force the youngest, newest students to live off-campus are a recipe for non-engagement and non-participation, simply so they can keep themselves safe at night. Gateway students already give up one year of proximity and hence, in many instances, on-campus participation. But two or more years of not being able to roll out of their dorm and into the library or club meeting or to attend a pep rally excludes them from what makes an ND student an ND student.” We agree wholeheartedly. 

These Gateway students are now tasked with securing off-campus housing just six weeks into their college experiences during a cycle of approaching midterms. They are needing to find housing and put down money before their transfers are even official — and in an environment where the majority of adjacent-to-campus housing has already been reserved by current sophomores and juniors for their senior years! 

It is important for you to remember that this class of students experienced a global pandemic over nearly one-third of their high school careers, including their senior years. They also applied to college during a year that included record-level applicants and limited availability due to students a year older taking gap years. Yes, they are highly privileged students compared to most young people their age, however, we feel strongly that upcoming displacement and disorientation need not continue if at all possible. 

We remain concerned that our Gateway students are not being given the priority they deserve. We are unclear why they are being given less priority than seniors being paid to stay and live on campus, or some juniors and athletes who truly live off-campus but have official on-campus room assignments because they are required to have them. 

No doubt, there are juniors who, given the option, would choose to live off-campus after two years of the residential hall experience. In our view, sophomores should take precedence over juniors and seniors for on-campus housing, and Gateway students should be considered equals in a holistic consideration of housing priorities for all Notre Dame students. 

A few of the ideas we have bandied about include:

Offering 96 rising juniors a reprieve from the six-semester on-campus rule, allowing them eligibility for off-campus living via a lottery.

Using Zahm Hall if it is freed up and Sorin students are returned post-renovation.

Using Fischer Graduate Residence.

Turning one study lounge in each of the 32 dorms into a triple room. (Some of us experienced the use of study lounges as housing while students at Notre Dame.)

Revisiting strategies that created 1,000 on-campus living spaces for COVID quarantine this last academic year.

Since the fallout from COVID-19 is still profoundly showing its effects on campus (and may continue for several years), exempting juniors from the six-semester housing policy would seem the strongest, most straightforward idea to implement, freeing up dorm space for Gateway students.

We can envision and respect how complicated your housing jigsaw puzzle must be, yet we trust that you have multiple levers still available to work with this early in the academic year, including a yet-to-be-determined incoming first-year class, study abroad decisions to be finalized and the possibility of offering more flexible housing options to upperclass students that could free up space.

We believe this situation can be rectified if the University really wants to prioritize this transition for the Gateways. 

These students are currently paying their dues, maintaining strong academic performances to ensure transfer and making every effort to integrate themselves into the Notre Dame campus community in their own creative ways. These are some of the most deeply committed, humble, loyal young women and men that you will encounter at Our Lady’s University; they were selected for this program due to their connection to this beloved place, as well as their personal resilience to navigate a delayed beginning at Notre Dame. 

In the winter 2020 edition of Notre Dame Magazine, Erin Camillieri, the director of transfer enrollment, described why young people are selected for the Gateway program: “We’re looking for students who we feel are going to make Notre Dame a better place.” If this is so, why would the University keep them off campus when they clearly have identified students that will enrich and enhance dorm life for everyone? Please do not create a further barrier hampering their welcome and integration.

A number of us Gateway parents are also Notre Dame alumni. We have reflected upon the fact that the very first question asked of us when meeting a fellow alum is: “What dorm did you live in?” As you know well, the residential hall is the primary vehicle for growing and rooting into the Notre Dame culture. It is the connection point to so many vital ingredients that comprise the Notre Dame experience, including dorm Masses, making lifelong friends, volunteering, community service projects, fundraisers, intramural sports, SYR dances and participating in meaningful activities beyond partying.

The University boasts on its website that “Residential hall communities have long been central to an undergraduate education. These communities are designed to be inclusive of all members; dedicated to the intellectual, moral and spiritual development of each individual; and characterized by a collective sense of care and concern for the common good and service to others.” 

Some of us are already seeing our first-year children engaged in off-campus socialization the majority of the time, and we are concerned about the long-term impacts of this relative to the “heart and mind-centered” mission of the Notre Dame experience in which we have such confidence. A subsequent semester off-campus after a full year of waiting for transfer could compromise realization of the above-mentioned shared goal for our children.

We are also concerned that some of the current Gateway students will consider transferring as a result of this changed housing approach, signaling the decline of this program that Gateway students and alumni are proud to participate in. We anticipate issues recruiting future Gateway cohorts. And for some of us, it would be challenging to recommend participation to others, knowing that on-campus housing is an impossibility from the get-go.

Some of us have students who declined generous scholarship opportunities at other prestigious colleges and universities because they made a strong case to us that Notre Dame and its unique dorm-centered environments were their destined home.

It’s also important to emphasize that we as parents have yet to receive any formal communication from Notre Dame or Holy Cross administrators about this latest development related to such a critical issue as next year’s housing; as we move forward, we would respectfully ask for your transparency and clear communication to parents as progress is made. 

We believe there are creative solutions here, and we are insisting that you do everything in your power to help these young leaders thrive by providing on-campus housing for them upon transfer from Holy Cross. They are watching us, and we are responsible for setting a strong pathway for their future success.

We would appreciate a swift response, so we may discuss potential options with our extremely stressed students. Generous thanks for hearing our concerns; we remain grateful for all of your efforts.

Yours in Our Lady,

Marybeth Christie Redmond ’85 & Mark Redmond 

Matt Kornmeier ’84 & Julie Kornmeier 

Bob Kelly ’86 & Gretel Kelly 

John Darrow ’87 & Jodi Darrow 

Maureen Fitzgerald ’87, ’91 

Stephen Smetana ’89 & Bobbie Smetana 

Kristina Jodis ’89 & Jon McClintock 

Joe Capko ’89 

Kevin Brenan ’90 & Kathleen Brenan 

Tim Sullivan ’91 & Ellen Healey Sullivan ’91 

Molly Schmidt ’92 SMC & David Schmidt 

Michael D. Brennan ’92 & Mia S. Brennan

Jennifer (Halbach) Toole ’94 & Tom Toole ’94

Kate Pastore Kayastha ’94 & Sanjiv Kayastha

Chris Werling ’95 & Jane (Oesterle) Werling ’95

Bridget (O’Connell) Collins ’97 & James Collins ’97

Dan Ferry ’98 & Megan Ferry 

Philip & Joan Casper 

Rob & Donna Corrato 

Clarence & Sara Darrow 

Paul & Joan Donahue 

Chris & Teresa Farls 

Rick & Ann Garrison 

Franklin & Ethel Go 

Tim & Sheela Graney 

Edward Gutierrez 

Lisa & Bret Hrivnak 

Javier & Lisa Idrovo 

Michael & Irene Kazimour 

James & Carrie Kuipers 

Jeanne Limoges Lang & Robert Lang 

Paul & Tracy Liebezeit 

Judith and Charles Machion 

Michael J. & Catherine A. Manning 

Michael & Shannon Martin 

Mary P. McArthur 

Steven McArthur 

Frank & Anna Maria McKenna 

Michael & Monica McKenzie 

Rob & Shannon Melinauskas 

Kerry & John Miklus 

Margot & Joe O’Connor 

Ryan & Blythe O’Donnell 

Josephina O’Sullivan 

Linda Pierpoint 

Nick & Julie Pietrosante 

Brad & Maggy Pugh 

Bob & Alessa Quane 

Nick & Shanda Reifschneider 

Terry & Lindsay Rooney

Anne & Sean Ryan 

Jim & Monica Schafer 

Alejandro Septien & Andrea Quintana 

Wade & Agnes Shannon 

Jeff & Jenny Spielmann 

Michele & Tom Sundstrom 

Paul & Michelle Tobias 

Georgiana & Carlos A. Unanue 

Michael & Kimberley Van Dyke 

Todd & Danielle Vitale 

Oct. 3

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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