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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 skelly25@nd.edu

Avery Polking at apolking@nd.edu

Lilyann Gardner at lgardne2@nd.edu

Cade Czarnecki at cczarne3@nd.edu

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From the Archives: 50 years of women at Notre Dame

Spencer Kelly, Lilyann

Gardner and Maggie

Eastland


Contact Spencer at skelly25@nd.edu. Contact Lilyann at lgardne@nd.edu. Contact Maggie at meastlan@nd.edu.

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Fr. Edward ‘Monk’ Malloy looks back on 50 years of coeducation

Former University President Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy remembers a time when Notre Dame used to bus in women from Catholic women’s colleges in the Chicagoland area to help create a more balanced social scene. A bus would be welcomed onto campus by male students who knew none of the women. After the awkward introduction, the students would go to a dance, Malloy recalled.

“That was not what you would call a prime opportunity for meeting people,” he said.

Malloy, who graduated from Notre Dame in 1963 before entering the seminary and eventually returning to the University as faculty in 1974, has witnessed almost all 50 years of coeducation at the University.

Sixty-three years ago, he experienced life as a basketball player at an all-male Notre Dame. Forty-eight years ago, he started teaching theology at a Notre Dame that had admitted its third undergraduate female class. Thirty-five years ago, he began his tenure as University president, during which he oversaw the University becoming about evenly split between male and female students. Three months ago, he delivered the homily at the “Golden is Thy Fame” Mass honoring the 50 years of coeducation at Notre Dame.

During Malloy’s time as a student, the presence of Saint Mary’s created a de facto coeducational scene. However, with typical enrollment at Saint Mary’s hovering around 1,400 to 1,600 students, this was not an adequate alternative to coeducation for Malloy.

 “There weren’t enough women,” he said. “But I mean, it was the best we could do at the time. We didn’t even know any better.”

In 1969, Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame began talks to potentially merge the two schools. The deal eventually fell through in 1971. Malloy said he believes Notre Dame’s transition to coeducation was a result of the merger failing.

“My opinion is that both schools do well, despite the fact they didn’t come together,” Malloy, who was on the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees for nine years, said.

When Notre Dame admitted its first undergraduate female class a year later in 1972, 325 women enrolled. The vast difference between male students and female students presented its fair share of social and administrative challenges, Malloy said. With single-sex housing, he said there was no choice but to gradually increase the number of women and reduce the number of men.

Whenever a men’s dorm was switched to a women’s dorm, the men would often protest. These protests were usually somewhat humorous, Malloy remembers, because the men knew they were not changing the administration’s mind.

Beyond the difficulty of pushing the male students out of the dorms in which they had developed traditions and a sense of loyalty, Malloy said classes often only had one female student.

 “The classic wrong thing to ask one woman in a big class is ‘what do women think about this,’” he said.

Malloy said his female students never let the challenge hinder them from participating.

“They used to say that if a class was less than 50 percent women, they wouldn’t talk much. I never saw that, never,” he said. “Right from the time I started teaching, women were highly participative.”

The University also struggled to find female faculty members in some disciplines, who administrators hoped would help the female students navigate college.

Having women faculty members, especially in student affairs, was important so new female students could connect with adults on campus, Malloy explained. Incorporating women into all the colleges across the University proved difficult, Malloy said.

“That’s a recognition that as we move to be more coeducational, we were in a sense catching up with the world because they were way ahead of us,” he said.

As the University began to hire more female faculty and enroll more female students, women entered more prominent roles on campus. The amount of female deans and administrators and vice presidents grew. During Malloy’s time as president from 1987 to 2005, the male-to-female student ratio became about even. Visible student groups like the band and the Junior Parents’ Weekend planning committee followed.

Malloy credits the amount of Notre Dame women who have gone on to prominent roles in the public sphere after college with improving the reputation of the University.

“We’ve had women government leaders. We’ve had All-American athletes and national champions. We’ve had people go on to successful careers in almost every area you can think of,” he said. “So it isn’t just filling holes or trying to just be diverse in census categories. It’s also the people that we’ve attracted have been quite good at what they do.”

During his homily at the “Golden is Thy Fame” Mass, three of the six Notre Dame women Malloy highlighted for representing the University well were athletes. Two of the women he included were national champion and All-American basketball player Ruth Riley and her teammate and fellow All-American Niele Ivey, who now serves as the head coach of the women’s basketball team

“They got a lot of publicity, they represented Notre Dame very effectively,” Malloy said.

The final athlete Malloy highlighted was Haley Scott DeMaria. DeMaria was a member of the 1992 swim team, which suffered a tragic accident when the team bus flipped over during a snowstorm while returning from a meet at Northwestern. DeMaria survived but was paralyzed from the waist down.

Malloy credits his predecessor, Fr. Ted Hesburgh, who launched the transition to coeducation, for putting Notre Dame in the position where women such as Ivey, Riley and DeMaria could come and launch their careers and legacies.

“I think that Notre Dame is now able to educate women and men at the greatest Catholic university in the world,” he said. “I think that’s good for Notre Dame and it’s good for those who come here to study.”