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

Cade Czarnecki at

Lilyann Gardner at

Thomas Dobbs at


From the Archives: An early history of parietals at Notre Dame — Part 1

Parietals continue to be a consistently controversial topic at Notre Dame, almost universally igniting the ire of the student body. While this policy may seem to be an eternal annoyance, in fact parietals as we know them date only to the late 1960s and are intertwined with the process of coeducation at Notre Dame, now in its 50th year.

In this two-part series, From the Archives will explore the early history of parietals. In this first installment, we uncover the University administration’s initial opposition to parietal hours, their subsequent change in heart and the promises and pitfalls that arose when parietals were first implemented.

Hesburgh’s “emphatic” opposition to parietals

Nov. 9, 1967 | Observer Staff | April 1, 1968 | Observer Staff | Researched by Avery Polking

Though the social structure of Notre Dame is defined by many things, perhaps one of the most concrete influences on daily life — and the most adverse to students — is parietal hours. While its vast unpopularity among students is well documented, less known is that University administration was initially against them as well.

A November 1967 Observer headline announced, “Hesburgh Emphatic: No Parietal Hour.” The article examined the implications of a comment then-University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh made in which he effectively called parietal hours pointless, commenting that he “[has] no stomach for laws which don’t mean anything.”

“I’m sure that parietal hours will not be allowed,” Hesburgh declared.

University president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh was initially “emphatic” in his opposition to parietals. Observer archives, April 1, 1968.

The Observer expanded on Hesburgh’s stance, reporting that “The University’s reason for not allowing girls in the dormitory stems mostly from the social repercussions of entertaining a girl in a bedroom and the disruption such a practice would initiate in a mens’ dorm which is interpreted by many university officials as a men’s club.”

Hesburgh valued a community in which men and women could work together without the burden of time restrictions, calling this dynamic a “tension modulated by love.”

But not long after in April 1968, Hesburgh showed signs of a softening stance by reinstating four students who had been suspended by James Riehle, dean of students, for an unspecified parietal violation.

Hesburgh acknowledged that there was “moral ambiguity” present in current restrictions and that he was “in the process of outlining a program” he hoped would clarify matters.

Parietals were ultimately approved by the Board of Trustees a year later. However, the contentious conditions under which parietal hours were first debated surely reflects their controversial nature, still evident today.

Parietals approved

March 18, 1969 | Observer Staff | March 28, 1969 | Ted Price | Researched by Lilyann Gardner

Parietals are perhaps an outdated practice in the opinion of many present-day Notre Dame students, but their initial approval was likely considered a win in the eyes of the entirely male student population of 1969. 

Despite Father Hesburgh’s ostensibly “emphatic” opposition to parietals, in March 1969 the Board of Trustees approved the expansion of female visitation hours from just 11 weekends per year to every weekend, with the expectation that certain changes would have to be made to residence halls.

“The Executive Committee ratified the Student Life Council’s proposals for a reorganization of the residence hall governments, including a written constitution, a hall president, a hall legislative council, and a hall judicial board,” The Observer reported. 

The Student Life Council and Board of Trustees made it clear that should any hall fail to make the necessary changes, they would not be granted the privilege of expanded visitation rights. 

Parietals, although approved by administrative powers, were entirely experimental and relied on student cooperation. However, disgruntlement about these mandatory changes was not an issue. 

After parietals were approved in March 1969, an Observer caption said that “No longer will St. Mary’s girls or hometown honies [sic] be forced to sit on the grass for entertainment. Instead, when the new parietal hours go into effect, they can sit on the chair in your room from 5 to 12 Friday.” Observer archives, March 18, 1969.

Roughly a week later, six out of the 12 residence halls were approved to implement the new parietal rules. These halls included Badin, Carroll, Keenan, Lyons, Pangborn and Zahm with the other six following after minor changes in their hall constitutions were made. 

These residence halls moved forward with detailed weekend visitation hours that share similarities and differences with the parietal hours instituted after the move to co-education. 

“The legislation passed by the SLC and approved by the trustees permits women visitation hours in the residence halls for a total of no more than twenty-four hours from 5 p.m. Friday through 11 p.m. Sunday. However, no hall’s may extend beyond 1 a.m. any day nor begin earlier than 1 p.m. any day but Friday,” Ted Price (‘71) wrote. 

Violations of parietals were expected, but the Board of Trustees believed that the additional hall councils and authority figures would help maintain a certain level of maturity and morality in the campus community. 

Whether or not parietals are a necessary good or a necessary evil is up for debate today, but at the time of their approval parietals seemed to be a positive step toward creating a more inclusive campus community

Early parietal problems: sign-ins and citations

Oct. 1, 1969 | Observer Staff | Nov. 6, 1969 | Don Ruane | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Though approval of parietals was met with enthusiasm, their implementation quickly led to a proliferation of student complaints.

The parietal policy, as it initially existed, required visitors to sign both in and out on a sheet in the entrance of the hall they were visiting, denoting the time of both arrival and departure.

A hall member was required to sit next to the sign-in book and ensure that all visitors adhered to the policy. The consensus among the student body was that the sign-in process was a ridiculous and unnecessarily tedious requirement.

As evidence of the absurdity of the requirement, an Observer article shared that “hall presidents [asked] each of their halls to enforce the sign-in procedure [on the] weekend to the letter and to make fathers visiting their sons sign in their wives and small daughters.”

The grievances did not stop there. Others writing in The Observer opined that the sign-in process served no real purpose: “No one…ever stated what the [sign-in] list was to be used for — whether to check as to if the women had left at the sign-out hour or what.”

Parietal violations began to occur almost as soon the policy was enacted — some due to ignorance and others due to protest.

Transgressing halls were often reported by rectors of other dorms. In fact, the Hall Life Board conducted an investigation into seven halls known to be repeat parietal offenders: Holy Cross, Dillon, Walsh, Alumni, Flanner, Carroll and Morrissey.

The implementation of parietals was characterized by widespread complaints and frequent violations. Observer archives, Nov. 6, 1969

The Hall Life Board threatened these halls with the suspension parietals as a whole if they did not clean up their acts. The board also promised a follow up investigation to ensure the appropriate changes in conduct were made in these recurrently offending halls.

While some saw the actions of the Hall Life Board to be oppressive, executive coordinator Ron Mastriana defended its investigation, saying, “The purpose of the Hall Life Board is to help the halls along and to make sure that everything is working as it should.”

While Mastriana’s comments undoubtedly soured some students even further on the Hall Life Board, there was a general belief that the Hall Presidents Council would actively work to help revise the parietals system in a way agreeable to all parties involved.

Contact Spencer Kelly at

Avery Polking at

Lilyann Gardner at

Cade Czarnecki at


‘Objects in the Rearview Mirror’: The story behind the first women at the University

When Deborah Dell, known to her loved ones as Debi, arrived at the University of Notre Dame in 1972 with the first cohort of women, she entered with a sharp mind and a lot of determination. 

Now, almost exactly 50 years later, Dell is publishing a book, “Objects in the Rearview Mirror: A Social History of Coeducation under the Dome.” The story took shape over the span of 20 years and with the help of more than 150 contributors who were impacted by the decision to implement coeducation. 

The first years – inspiration and roadblocks

Sitting at the desk of her Morris Inn hotel room, Dell looked at a blank page. 

“Was I the right person to be doing this?” she wondered. 

Dell lived in Breen-Phillips Hall, Walsh Hall and Lyons Hall during her time on campus. She admitted that her circle of friends was small and stuck to themselves most of the time. 

“Books like this should be written by somebody who was important,” she explained her hesitation. 

She was in the midst of a lull in motivation. Dell said she came back to Notre Dame to get inspired. 

“I’m in the hotel room, and I’ve just been to the library to get some stuff out of the archives and I’m struggling,” she said. “It’s like I hear Father Hesburgh, saying ‘Debi, put your faith in the Holy Spirit and His mother, and stop thinking so hard and just trust.’”

Dell said she started brainstorming and researching for this book in 2000 and wrote a couple drafts with a few of her friends contributing in 2001, 2006 and 2011. Her trip to the Morris Inn was during the second draft in 2006. 

“[This book] was a long time coming. That’s an understatement,” she quipped. “I think the only book that took longer was the Bible.”

Debi and Darlene — missed connections and missing pieces

Darlene Connelly, class of 1977, was Dell’s right-hand woman during the second half of the project. She was also Dell’s neighbor on the first floor of Breen-Phillips Hall in 1977 — unbeknownst to either of them until a classmate introduced them a few years ago. 

“Darlene — we lived in the same hall, and I didn’t know her!” Dell said. “It was just the perfect timing and the perfect marriage as far as her approach to things and my approach. We just complemented each other so well.”

Connelly said she was introduced to Dell because she was also thinking of writing a book about her experiences. Connelly’s inspiration came in the form of a mentor, Fr. Tom Tallarida. 

Connelly explained that she had a long friendship with Tallarida throughout her time as an undergraduate and that she maintained contact with him as an adult. 

“We stayed in touch over the years. One year, I think it was 1992, he sent me a letter. He pleaded with me to write the real story about coeducation in those early years at Notre Dame,” she said. 

Connelly said she forgot about that plea until one Christmas when she decided to pay Tallarida a visit. A few days before her plans, Connelly said she got a letter from Tallarida’s niece that he had passed away. 

“I carried Catholic guilt,” she said. “I never got to it. I never got around to it, and I am so sorry, so sorry that I don’t know what the story was that he wanted to tell.”

Dell said Connelly not only brought her expertise to the project, but also the contributions of the women of the class of 1977. 

As Dell hosted mixers for her classmates in South Bend before home football games, word about the project got out, and men started chiming in. The men of the classes of 1976 and 1977 were soon added to the list of the writing process contributors.

Around that time, Dell said she started gathering information about the second generation of women at the University — what had changed and what had not. This was done with the help of Emily Weisbacker. 

Dell also mentioned she believed it was important to include what was going on at Notre Dame’s peer institutions and in the nation at the same time. 

“It was very important to me to also make sure that it wasn’t just the Notre Dame story. We looked at Yale and Princeton, and we looked at what was happening in the culture of the United States during the 70s,” she said. 

Dell said she finally felt ready to write the book once she had collected the experiences of the women and men of the first five years of coeducation, the second generation of women at the University and the historical context for the story.

“So now we had the women who went through it, the men who went through it and then the second generation that was benefiting. [They] were able to tell me about the things that hadn’t changed in 30 or 40 years,” she explained. “[The book] really became so much bigger than the original concept because of the delay that took place.”

Those who went without mention — early women’s athletics 

When the girls first arrived on campus, nothing was set up for them, Dell explained. Other than two hastily renovated dorms, the first few classes of women at Notre Dame had to fashion everything themselves. This included clubs, policy groups, information sharing networks and sports. 

Ron Skrabacz, class of 1976, oversaw the research and writing of the chapters on early women’s athletics. 

Skrabacz, who was only participated in interhall sports during his time on campus, was recruited to write the section because of his work as a sports writer. He wrote for the Daily Herald — a newspaper covering the Chicago suburbs — as a sports columnist for 20 years. 

Skrabacz got involved with the project when he was at Dell’s South Bend house on one Friday night before a football game. 

“Debi is a very brilliant woman, but you can put in a thimble what she knew about sports,” he joked. “She knew it was critical that sports be covered.”

Skrabacz explained that he wrote about the general atmosphere of sports during his time at the University and specifically what the women went through to start their varsity sports. 

Luckily, Skrabacz said his work would not have been possible without the research of Anne Dilenschneider and Jane Lammers. 

The two women were at a 30-year reunion of coeducation when they were shown a video about women’s athletics. Skrabacz explained that Dilenschneider and Lammers were upset that the video did not show the early years or how the women made the programs that today yield national championships.

Lammers and Dilenschneider then started researching. They made posters and sought out connections. The women complied “a boatload” of material, which they turned over to Skrabacz.

“All I did was the easy part. I took all their information, summarized it and turned it into a story,” he said. 

Other than their inclusion in the book, over 250 women who participated in the early building stages of each varsity sport will be memorialized with honorary monograms during a home football game the weekend of Oct. 21 to 23. 

Looking back and looking forward

“Objects” came out Sept. 1 and is now available for order at Barnes & Noble. There are two versions: a paperback and a special edition hardcover.

“We’re limiting the hardcover edition to 365 copies to commemorate and honor the 365 first female undergraduates,” Dell said. “The first 365 hardcover books will have a special cover that commemorates that number.”

The Hammes Bookstore is hosting two book signing events for the new release Friday, Sept. 9 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

A labor of love of over 20 years, Dell said she hopes the book is a tribute to the strength of the Notre Dame family through good times and bad. 

“It was a time when men and women came together and there were struggles, but we found each other. We had the ability to get through some pretty weird tough times, and that’s the value of the Notre Dame family,” she said. “[The book is] a balanced picture: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Bella Laufenberg

Contact Bella at