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HPC co-chairs attempt to rebuild community after pandemic-riddled 2020-21 school year

| Wednesday, December 8, 2021

When seniors Caroline Cameron and Mabry Webb were presidents of Breen-Phillips and Cavanaugh Halls, respectively, during the 2020-21 school year, they were tasked with trying to foster community within their dorms while maintaining strict COVID-19 protocols. After hall presidencies filled with missed traditions and unforeseen circumstances, Cameron and Webb have focused their terms as Hall Presidents Council (HPC) co-chairs on assisting each dorm’s executive boards in rebuilding their communities following the tumultuous 2020-21 year.

To help accomplish this, Cameron and Webb have tried to create a fun and collaborative environment during weekly HPC meetings to encourage members to brainstorm creative initiatives and events and to work together. One of their primary means of doing so was by implementing “HPChat,” which starts with a question posed by Webb and Cameron aimed at provoking conversation to facilitate thought about diverse and different initiatives.

“I think we’ve done a really good job of allowing a fun space for the presidents to talk to each other and build relationships so that they can do events with different dorms,” Cameron said.

Cameron said they have seen this collaboration result in several inter-dorm events that have already been hosted this year.

Another priority during Webb and Cameron’s terms as HPC co-chairs has been to update, clarify and improve the HPC by-laws and procedures. For instance, Webb said they have been working to make the scoring for hall of the year more clear and more objective.

As currently constructed, 50% of the hall of the year scoring comes from the hall of the year presentation, 40% comes from monthly Rockne presentations from each hall that recap all of the events put on since the previous Rockne, 5% is discretionary points based on criteria decided upon at the beginning of the year by the co-chairs and the final 5% is determined by hall council visits. 

Cameron and Webb are working to update the scoring to make 2.5% of the scoring based on GreeNDot training, which was typically included in the discretionary scoring in previous years. The two co-chairs decided they want to permanently incentivize GreeNDot and allow the discretionary scoring to be devoted to other initiatives.

This year, the discretionary scoring is based on Cameron and Webb’s diversity and inclusion initiative. The initiative requires each dorm to have two “substantive” diversity and inclusion events each semester. Webb said a common example of a diversity and inclusion event is MiNDfulness training and that they created a rubric to clearly define what a substantive event looks like. 

They also are clarifying how hall council visits are scored. Cameron and Webb are specifying that the scoring is determined by 10% of the dorm attending the hall council in which the co-chairs visit, for which they have two tries each semester. 

“[It’s a] very doable threshold, but the incentive that we’re trying to relay was we want you guys to have hall council and hall gov,” Cameron said. 

In another effort to make hall of the year scoring as objective as possible, Webb and Cameron started reviewing each of the Rockne scores themselves. The two social chairs of the HPC grade each of the Rocknes, but the co-chairs decided they want to review the scores to ensure they are consistent and fair.

“So we will go through every single Rockne at once and then make sure that the scores between the two social chairs are comparable,” Cameron said. “That’s why we review every single one of the Rocknes because we want everyone to have a fair chance. And even if it’s just changing your score by a point, like that matters to us.”

Both Webb and Cameron said their biggest challenge has been rebuilding dorm culture back to pre-COVID levels and helping the hall executive boards get everyone involved, especially for sophomore presidents and vice presidents.

Webb said there are basically two classes of first-years, in terms of dorm culture, because the restrictions on hall events last year prevented the current sophomore class from experiencing the full Notre Dame dorm culture.

Although it has been difficult having only one full class of students on campus who know what Notre Dame dorm communities can be like in a more normal year, Webb said the HPC members are doing a good job of engaging their communities with a variety of creative events.

“I think that they’ve done a really good job of engaging their communities with a variety of programming,” Webb said, “which is what our biggest ask from them is — that they don’t just cater to the kids who are super social and go to the more social events, but also catering to the kids who have like a more spiritual interest or who are a little more introverted.”

Co-chairs Mabry Webb and Caroline Cameron have made strong efforts to offer each HPC member individual attention and provide insights into typical dorm culture following the unusual 2020-21 school year. They have done an excellent job of trying to make the hall of the year scoring as fair and transparent as possible. Overall, Webb and Cameron have reenergized HPC and appear to have facilitated a collaborative and fun environment, but need to continue to work on ensuring that every residence hall has hall council, as they said a small number of dorms currently do not hold hall council regularly.

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About Ryan Peters

Ryan is a sophomore in Knott Hall who hails from Lake Forest, Illinois. He is majoring in business analytics and minoring in constitutional studies. He currently serves as an associate news editor for The Observer. Follow him on Twitter @peterrsryan.

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