Grace Urankar, Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: This article is the second of a two-part series on the SYR dance, the first part of which gathered comments from rectors on the evolution of the SYR.
An often-touted factor of the Notre Dame experience is the unique residence life system, particularly the lack of Greek life. Without such social organizations, the residence halls arguably take on their own form of pseudo-Greek life.
This alternative is especially evident considering the prevalence of dorm spirit jerseys and Alumni Hall’s proud display of Greek letters. In any case, the residence hall becomes the student’s family away from home.
With this aspect of socialization comes a decent helping of school-sanctioned fun, and the most notable is the SYR. An outdated term for a longstanding tradition, most residents no longer “screw their roommates,” but invite anyone of their choosing to a night of food, dance and frivolity.
Many clubs and student organizations host their own dances throughout the year with varying degrees of formality and equally varying titles and themes. This adds further confusion to the persistent acronym outside of the residence hall context. Despite attempts to eliminate the term, “SYR” remains prevalent and familiar among students.
“I think the term SYR is still used by students as a way to connect current dorm traditions with those of our parents’ generation,” shared Elizabeth Argue, a senior Resident Advisor in Breen-Phillips Hall (BP). “In reality, however, very few students actually fix their roommates up with bad dates, for obvious reasons.”
Traditions associated with the SYR vary between halls. Often, these traditions, such as particular themes or styles of dress, cause the event to take on a life of its own among residents. “Especially because they’re themed, it’s a fun way to spend a night dancing with your friends,” said Katie Mattie, a senior in Pasquerilla West.
Such themes may result from current trends, such as the recent Duncan-Ryan Hall “Thrift Shop”-themed SYR. Other themes relate to holidays or dorm events. For instance, Argue noted that BP holds “a Christmas formal in December and a more casual Beach Dance in the spring to end BP Beach Week.”
Another variable for SYRs is the location. While most are held on campus, some might find an alternate location. One such example is Knott Hall’s Americana Dance, held at the RV Hall of Fame in nearby Elkhart. Such locations determine the mood and expectations for a hall dance.
Senior Resident Advisor Vincent Burns described Dillon Hall’s signature event as the “Stache Bash,” where “facial hair, especially poorly grown or uniquely trimmed, is the staple.”
“The Stache Bash is held in a local bowling alley every year, so it’s not a dance in the traditional sense, but more of a fun night out for which it is encouraged to bring a date,” said Burns. Regarding the name, he added, “It’s rarely, if ever, referred to as an SYR, probably because the Stache Bash is such a superior event that it is simply inappropriate to group it with the other dances on campus.”
Most students acknowledged that SYRs are well-attended: “Although students often shy away from university-sponsored events, it is impressive how many go to their dorm dances,” said Argue. “It is definitely the case that if more people go, the dance will be more fun.”
The SYR culture encourages students to become active in their residential experience.
“The Stache Bash event is far more relaxed than a formal dance, which I think encourages wider student participation,” shared Burns. “The Stache Bash is an event to which the majority of the dorm looks forward, and the anticipation picks up especially as guys begin growing out their facial hair. Because of the wider participation, it’s a great way for the guys in the dorm to bond and compete for best stache. And Dillon men can grow some fantastic facial hair!”
Students had few negative things to say about the hall dance culture. Most of all, they reiterated the sense of unity that comes from dorm events.
“The people are great, and the RAs, ARs, and [rector] Sister MJ [Hahner] really try to build a strong sense of community,” said Mattie.
Argue agreed. “Since we pray, eat, study and live together, it’s good to dance and celebrate, too.”
Grace Urankar is a senior Religious Studies major at Saint Mary’s College. To discuss favorites on NDtv’s flawless new creation The Irish Bachelorette, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.