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South Dining Hall: Doing it right since 1927

| Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ethan Chiang | The Observer

The start of the school year came with some new additions to the South Dining Hall experience. Between “late lunch,” the mini to-go coffee cups and the new ice cream topping dispensers, it’s honestly hard to keep up. Luckily, there are certain things within the sacred walls of SDH that never change. Here is a guide for freshmen, visiting families and sad souls traveling from North Quad of some of the best practices to navigate the unique culture of SDH.

Give ‘em a hand

A thunderous applause erupts in a corner of the room, spreading like wildfire until the whole dining hall is clapping. Did Sam Hartman announce a miracle seventh year of eligibility? Did the University put an end to parietals? To many students’ dismay — no. 

Instead, someone dropped a cup or plate, prompting an excessive — but affectionate — round of applause from bystanders. It’s best practice to join in this clapping, regardless of whether you heard the fatal clattering or not. It’s our way of saying “Nice going, dude,” but in a community (and character) building way — you know?

Take a (specific) seat 

Visiting parents or prospective students may not realize this, but there’s an unofficial assigned seating chart for the dining hall. South Quad dorms consistently congregate around the same tables and assert their dominance. I considered drawing out a map, but in the spirit of not getting political, here’s an incomplete overview:

On the left side of the dining room, one can find the men of Pangborn and Morrissey staking their claim, along with a spattering of other groups thrown in. Assigned seating gets a little more specific on the right side. Nearest to the tray tables sit the men of Fisher, Carroll (easily identifiable by their freshmen’s bleached hair) and Alumni Hall (a new addition now that they’re back on South Quad this year). Moving to the middle tables, Duncan, O’Neill and Sorin occupy a large swath of prime real estate. Finally, Badin Hall can be found at the long table against the far wall.

However, this is all assuming we’re operating in the west room of the dining hall. Want to throw this whole system for a loop? Check the seating arrangements when dining gets moved to the east room. Disaster. 

Fill up 

A hallmark of the SDH experience is the Vitamin Water dispensers. Do these dispense Vitamin Water as marked? Of course not. It’s actually a place to fill up on normal water. What makes it so funny, despite the confusing markings, is the very limited space to use said dispensers. Best practice is to use either the furthest left or right dispenser and — this is key — make room for someone else to use the other. That way, we’re maximizing efficiency here when it’s a Sunday night and lines are long. The kicker is the ridiculously weird (and slow) flow rate of these dispensers, forcing you to stand for an uncomfortably intimate amount of time next to the other person filling up. I have yet to witness small talk attempted, but props to you if you try.

With all of this said, if it’s your first time visiting South Dining Hall — don’t worry. Trial by fire is usually the way to go. The best part of it all is the fact that I could even write this long of an article about one of my school’s dining halls. I couldn’t fit it in, but I easily could’ve gone on about how they go all out for game day weekends on decor and food (truly tricking the alumni), how lovely it is to see the same workers everyday, the sticky tables … you get the idea. South Dining Hall is a prime example of Notre Dame’s essence — and no, I’m not getting paid to say this. It takes a bunch of kids and makes a community out of them — a beautiful mission accomplished.

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About Allison Elshoff

Allison is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California and currently residing in Badin Hall. She aspires to sit in a hammock 24/7 but somehow ends up in the library instead (weird).

Contact Allison