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From the Archives: An early history of parietals at Notre Dame — Part 2

This week, From the Archives continues its coverage on the early history of parietals at Notre Dame. Part one ended in 1969 with some early issues and complaints regarding initial parietal policies, but an overall sense of optimism that this new system would work out.

We pick up our story in early 1970, as the then-all male student body of Notre Dame increased its calls for expanded hours and more autonomy over visitation policies. While the students got some of what they wanted, the administration ultimately drew a line in the sand. The University’s ultimate decision against hall-determined parietals set a powerful precedent that shaped student life at Notre Dame for decades to come, and remains the basic framework for parietals half a century later.

Student opinions on parietal policies

March 10, 1970 | Gary Gereffi | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Before 1970, real discussions about parietal hours were often confined to various committees and boards. Never before had a direct appeal to the undergraduate population been made. To rectify this oversight, the Student Survey Service, established by the Notre Dame chapter of the national sociological honor fraternity, Alpha Kappa Delta, conducted a student survey on parietals.

At the time, the main debate surrounded whether parietal hours were to be made and enforced by the University administration or by individual residence halls. A random sample of students was taken that was guaranteed to be representative. The Student Survey Service ensured that “95 times out of 100 these findings will not vary by more than 3.5% in either direction from a given result.”

The results were overwhelmingly in favor of hall established and enforced parietal hours. In fact, “only 3% of the sample preferred University established parietal hours, while 68% preferred hall established parietals. And hall enforced parietals were favored by 94%.”

The same sentiment was echoed when it came to the responsibility of individual students. Respondents shared that they were almost twice as likely to report parietal violations if the rules were set by their hall as opposed to the University.

A survey of the student body showed overwhelming support for hall-determined parietals, and a sense that parietal hours, though only recently instituted, were not a privilege but a right. Observer archives, March 10, 1970.

Possibly the most significant question students were asked to respond to was whether or not they would still bring girls into their room if parietal privileges were taken away. Seventy seven percent responded affirmatively. In the words of Gary Gereffi, director of the student survey, “The responses suggest the interpretation that parietal hours, ostensibly a privilege, are felt by the students to be a right.”

The final two questions of the survey asked about the national image of Notre Dame. The first dealt with whether or not the removal of parietal hours would tarnish the University’s national reputation, and the second asked if this should even be a consideration in the parietals debate. Seventy nine percent of students responded “no” to the first question and 82 percent responded “no” to the second.

The sentiment was clear: parietal hours, perceived to be a right, should be set by halls, regardless of what the administration or the general public may think.

Board of Trustees extends parietal hours, hall autonomy

April 16, 1970 | Edmund A. Stephan | Researched by Lilyann Gardner 

With Notre Dame students clamoring for increased authority over parietals, the Board of Trustees agreed to loosen their leash, albeit within well-defined limits.

In April 1970, the Board announced that they would allow halls to individually decide women’s visitation hours. However, the outer limit on possible parietal hours was set at 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. on all other days of the week. Further, the halls would be under the regulation of a new Hall Life Board.

The nine member Hall Life Board, composed of three administration representatives, three students and three faculty members, was specifically created to regulate parietals and other residential life issues as a separate entity of the Student Life Council (SLC). 

“The Hall Life Board will be appointed by the President of the University, and charged with the responsibility of evaluating the proposals of each residence hall board feels [sic] will successfully provide the best hall environment consistent with good order,” Observer staff wrote. 

The Hall Life Board permitted hall regulation of parietal hours until a final decision could be made during their meeting in March 1971 with the SLC and Board of Trustees, but they also maintained that a visitor sign in should be kept in place until that date. 

Observer archives, April 16, 1970.

In a statement letter from, Edmund A. Stephan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to Professor James Massey, Chairman of the SLC, it was emphasized that students should play a larger role in determining the ordering of hall life but only if they are willing to enforce rules in the case of “flagrant violations.” 

The rules regarding student life were acknowledged as being able to either aid or detract from hall quality and Notre Dame traditions, depending on the particular hall and hall staff. Thus, it was determined that those halls with an established and disciplined fraternal community would need less restrictions and assistance than the halls experiencing disorder.  

“The Student Life Council has recognized that each residence hall has special problems, requiring solutions which are peculiar to that hall. It has recommended that each hall be authorized to prepare its own suggested visiting hours and enforcement mechanisms under the supervision of a regulatory body, which must ultimately approve or disapprove the hall’s plan,” Stephan wrote. 

The extended parietal visitation hours, which are reminiscent of today’s parietal hours, were dependent on a mutual understanding that halls would abide by the boards’ expectations of rule enforcement and regulation. In other words, the University maintained an untrusting attitude toward the students, proving ever-hesitant to relinquish control over parietals to the halls themselves.

Hesburgh denies hall-determined parietals

Sept. 28, 1971 | Ed Ellis | Oct. 15, 1971 | Fred Schaefer | Oct. 29, 1971 | Observer Staff | Researched by Thomas Dobbs

Still unsatisfied with slightly expanded control over parietals, Notre Dame students made one last push for full autonomy. On Sept. 28, 1971, an estimated student crowd of 600 attended an SLC meeting concerning sanctions for violations of University drinking and parietal regulations.

The council unceremoniously referred the report back to the Steering Committee for revision. Students were reportedly frustrated by the lack of action. Le Mans resident Jackie Stone relayed the sentiment with her claim that dean of students Fr. James L. Riehle’s public hearing was a “token” gesture.

A crowd of 600 students gathered at the September 1971 meeting of the Student Life Council to push for expanded autonomy over parietals. Observer archives, Sept. 28, 1971.

Students did not have to wait long, however, for a more meaningful confrontation on University policies. Almost three weeks later on Oct. 15, 1971, the SLC voted to adopt two parts of the Hall Life Committee Report. 

The approved amendments outlined sanctions “for assault, larceny, and the sale or distribution of drugs” and also proposed that “halls be allowed to determine their own parietal hours.” Their proposal now awaited University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s consent.

The proposal did make an effort, albeit a rather vague one, to address potential abuses of hall autonomy. After appropriating autonomy over parietals to hall leadership, the SLC first reminded halls to “construct rules that are in accordance with Indiana State Laws.”

Proposed hall policies would also be subjected to approval by a supervisory board, which would base decisions on a hall showing “maturity, responsibility, and the ability to use this freedom wisely.”

The SLC received their response from Fr. Hesburgh on Oct. 29, 1971. Hesburgh rejected the parietals proposal, writing that “neither the Board at large nor I are convinced that it would be either practical or wise to leave the determination of parietal hours to the individual halls.”

Fr. Hesburgh rejected the SLC’s proposal for hall-determined parietals in a precedent-setting move that has largely determined Notre Dame parietal policies for the past half century. Observer archives, Oct. 29, 1971.

It appeared that Fr. Hesburgh’s reply surprised few students. An Observer contributor responded that the University’s decision on parietals “should be greeted by a yawn.”

Unbeknownst to the students at the time, Hesburgh’s response cemented an unchanging policy for decades to come. The University has preserved its jurisdiction over parietals, much to the disappointment of Notre Dame students over the decades.

Contact Spencer Kelly at skelly25@nd.edu

Cade Czarnecki at cczarne3@nd.edu

Lilyann Gardner at lgardne2@nd.edu

Thomas Dobbs at tdobbs@nd.edu

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