Notre Dame at a Crossroads: Misplaced Priorities and a Flawed Vision

The recent announcement of the Campus Crossroads Project has been met mainly with a certain air of resignation as to the inevitability of the Project, despite a good deal of private criticism over aspects of the proposed building scheme. Such acquiescence is unfortunate. This Project must be opposed forcefully. Not only is it poorly conceived and designed, but it damages the true mission of the university. It is a grossly wasteful expenditure of money that reveals in telling fashion the misplaced priorities of the Jenkins administration. Furthermore, the building mania it manifests gives the illusion of movement and progress at the university while distracting from Notre Dame’s essential mission.

In attempting to explain and justify the Crossroads Project, Notre Dame’s Director of Athletics, Jack Swarbrick, has argued that the three enormous buildings bolted on to the football stadium offer evidence of the “integration of athletics into the academic mission of the university.” This is Orwellian doublespeak. What the Project instead reveals is the subjection of the academic mission of the university to the needs of the all-powerful axis of athletics and development. It represents a definite retreat from the Hesburgh vision of keeping our fabled football program in an important but supportive role at the university. It clearly demonstrates that the tail of the athletics juggernaut wags the supine dog of the academic enterprise of the university. The academic administrators who signed off on this proposal typically highlight the “goodies” in it that come to their ‘divisions’ in an effort to placate and pacify, but they are unconvincing.

Let us be clear on the ultimate purpose of this massive construction proposal. It is to gain 4,000 luxury or premium seats in the stadium. These seats are already being crassly marketed to potential donors, as in: “We need to talk about getting you access to the new luxury seats.” Of course, such seats are especially attractive to the new “corporate friends” Notre Dame is working so hard to make—those who will use the seats to ‘entertain’ clients while incidentally taking in a Notre Dame football game, and so forth. Eliminate the luxury seating, and there is no way that Notre Dame would pursue such an ill-considered scheme. It is easy to appreciate the reasons why, as the present plans are damaging to the beauty and ethos of the campus and an enormous misuse of money.

The proposed three buildings appear to have been influenced in their design by the Fascist architectural style. They look like something Albert Speer might have worked on in his early period. I suppose such buildings are erected as statements of wealth and power and are meant to overwhelm. However, they serve mainly as a demonstration of institutional self-aggrandizement that carries an unmistakable message of nouveau riche excess. It is a bad message for Notre Dame to convey to its students. And, the suggestion that the stadium will be the center and crossroads of campus is similarly ill-chosen. The Basilica and Our Lady atop the Dome must always remain at the heart of Notre Dame, and the campus must radiate out from them. There is already a crossroad in the present design of Notre Dame’s campus but it would appear that our administrators have forgotten about it.

The wastefulness of the proposed scheme is easily appreciated when alternative proposals to it are considered. A beautiful academic building in a less disruptive setting and which would accommodate anthropology, psychology, music and sacred music, could be constructed for $40-50 million. A wonderful and more expansive student center with Rec Sports facilities and space for career services could be constructed for $70-80 million—and this assumes that the present Rolfs Center really is needed as a practice facility for the basketball programs, which is a matter that surely deserves further investigation. (Do 30 varsity athletes really need the whole building 24/7? One of those teams performs splendidly under the existing arrangements. Besides, what actually goes on in Purcell Pavilion all day, anyway?) Such buildings could be built in a more measured way and in a manner that interfered less with the educational endeavor on campus than the present disastrous construction plans. Furthermore, the renovated Haggar and Crowley Halls and space vacated by the exit of social science departments from Flanner Hall provide significant additional space for various uses going forward.

Perhaps some scaled-back variation of the proposed East building might also be constructed to match the present press box accommodations. This would allow space for the digital media center (which assuredly is mainly to serve athletics), some entertainment/hospitality space and some premium seating. Surely $60-70 million could finance such a building which would blend well into the present stadium and leave the area around it less congested on game days. Admittedly, there would not be as many luxury seats, but some additional entertaining of our corporate friends could be done in Club Naimoli in the Purcell Pavilion and in O’Brien’s of the Compton Center, which are within easy distance of the stadium. Those who wished could wander over to the present ‘fields of marigold’ seats to take in as much of the game as they liked. (I gather these seats are being reclaimed at present from long-time season ticket-holders to facilitate just this.)

Before the university sets off down the path of spending $400 million (and with the inevitable cost of over-runs, probably $450 million) on this poorly planned Crossroads effort, serious consideration should be given to a more modest proposal that costs half as much and brings a better and more attractive result. Does Notre Dame really need this enormous, wasteful expenditure to provide luxury seating for its corporate friends? Does it need its campus dominated by three ugly behemoths?

Reconsideration assuredly will not come easily to the Notre Dame administration that regrettably has adopted some of the worst features of contemporary corporate style in its crass commercialization of the university. The talk now is of branding and marketing and education is increasingly thought of as a product. Nonetheless, serious faculty along with dedicated students who truly love the best of Notre Dame, and our wonderful committed alumni, should raise their voices in opposition. Independent members of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees should raise some serious questions of this proposal. Might even some of the generous donors who are undoubtedly already lined up to put their names on these ugly structures demand something better?

Much more is at stake here than a debate over buildings. This is about what kind of university Notre Dame will be. The building mania at Notre Dame is meant to show a university on the move and to reveal a “boldness of vision,” to quote Father Jenkins. This is but more of the public relations doublespeak that regularly emanates from the Notre Dame administration. It is essentially empty.

In the end a bold vision for Notre Dame will be forged more by what goes on within its buildings than by the buildings themselves. A bold vision for Notre Dame would be shaping our students to be true missionary disciples who understand well what truly matters in life and who can keep the pursuit of wealth and corporate power in proper perspective. Yet, buildings still matter. They tell us much about the kind of institution we are and might become. The Campus Crossroads Project is the wrong path for Notre Dame.

Fr. Bill Miscamble is a Holy Cross priest and professor of history at Notre Dame and a member of the Rover’s board of faculty advisors. He serves as the Paluch Professor of Theology at Mundelein Seminary during this academic year, after which he will return to his teaching at Notre Dame.


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  • Ryan Dominguez

    Dear Father Miscamble,

    with all due respect I would care to disagree with your assessment. I shall take the time to try to respond to each of your points.

    You claim that Mr. Swarbrick’s words are double-speak, that they represent a subjugation of academia to athletics. I however, reached a decidedly different conclusion. As it currently stands, the stadium possesses a privileged status on campus. The foreboding iron gates prevent ordinary students from accessing the house that Rockne built. The stadium is for the football team. A huge plot of land dedicated solely to athletes (one team mind you), that normal students benefit from fewer than 10 days of the year. Furthermore, we have to pay over $200 merely for the pleasure of stepping foot into the structure. That is a waste of space, and represents the exclusivity of football at this University. This project adds space to the stadium that now benefits everyone. No longer does the stadium stand as a divisive place, separating football players from non football players, all are welcome to use this building. The rec center will be brand new and improved, helping to ensure that faculty, staff, and students have access to state of the art exercise equipment, minimizing injury and maximizing wellness for the campus. Psychology and anthropology shall receive state of the art building space. Office space shall be freed from other buildings so that we can continue to grow our faculty and learning community. Sacred music and the music department shall receive brand new practice spaces so that our students can produce music glorifying God. A very small part of this project benefits the football environment of the University. I fail to see the proportion as heavily weighted towards football as you do.

    You say that the ultimate purpose of this proposal is to add 4,000 luxury seats. Where is your argument? The fact that this project can be supplemented with 4,000 luxury seats does not prove that as the sole goal of it. If that was really the purpose then the University could have simply built just those for a much smaller price as you suggest. Adding seats to the building project will help the university recoup some of the financial cost of such a large University building project. The fact that the University is marketing these seats is simply good business practice. It is not a flaw of of this campus’ administration to exhibit rationality. The “corporate friends” you so deridingly refer to are probably Notre Dame alumni like Philip Purcell, whom have given millions to this University so that it could grow and flourish and so that you could have a job doing what you love. Anyone that fails to see the importance of courting alumni at Notre Dame clearly fails to understand the history of Notre Dame’s dramatic academic rise in the 20th century. If you don’t believe me, talk to Father Hesburgh. I have repeatedly heard him speak of one of his most important accomplishments being his extraordinary ability to enlarge the endowment of this University. That enlarged endowment allowed Father Hesburgh to create dozens of endowed Professorships. The task of growing the endowment is accomplished by ensuring the campus remains devoted to the students that will, are, and have received degrees from Notre Dame.

    On the aesthetic side of critique, you deride the decision to design the buildings the way they are. This is a rather severe historical mistake to make. First off, the buildings are designed in the neo-classical style, which originated in the mid 17th century and continued in frequent implementation until the early 20th century. Yes, the Nazis utilized neo-classical style in their own architecture, but so did many others. For an example of this on Notre Dame’s campus, look at Bond Hall, built in 1917, or LaFortune student center. Both buildings were constructed before the Nazis came to power in Germany. I recommend that you talk to administration about their decision to utilize the neo-classical style. It is utilized to represent the blend and fusion of the old and new at Notre Dame. We embark upon the new day while honoring the past, and this style is a perfect encapsulation of this.

    It is foolish to maintain the main building and basilica as the geographic crossroads of campus, there is the nearby presence of two lakes that prevent effective development northward, therefore the campus was forced to grow southward historically. You equate geographic importance with philosophical or ideological importance, and I don’t believe that is justified. The Basilica will always be the center of campus for those with God in their hearts. No building will ever be taller than the cross atop the Basilica, and that should mean far more than whatever building is most convenient to walk to. It would be a waste of money to try to develop radiating outward from the main building, there just simply isn’t the land. Building across the lakes from the main building would fundamentally change the nature of our campus, from a contemplative walking campus to a distant bike centered environment. No longer would students be able to easily walk to class, having meaningful conversations along the way.

    Perhaps there are in fact possibilities for alternative construction locations that would cheaper and also be able to fit all four departments. I am not sure where they could be though. Space in the center of campus is at a premium. Convenience costs extra, and when students have to walk outside in negative 10 degree weather convenience is necessary.

    It appears the main thrust of your argument depends upon your assertion that the purpose of this building project is merely to accommodate 4,000 luxury seats. I believe that this is improbable, and have attempted to argue why I think so. Nevertheless, even if I grant your assertion, the history of our University in the 20th century, especially in the Hesburgh era, shows that our University’s large academic growth has occurred as a result of generous alumni, and that this project will serve to court those generous alumni in addition to many other benefits for everyone else currently at the University. Such courting will result in greater donations which will further enhance the academic reputation and ability of Notre Dame. Father Hesburgh understood this.

    I believe that the Crossroads project is a good idea. Perhaps not ideal, but very few things are. This project will enhance the prestige of our anthropology and psychology departments, two fields of study that are growing increasingly more important every day. It will enhance the well-being of faculty, staff, and students through introduction of a state of the art fitness facility. It will continue the convenient pedestrian character of our campus, which is necessary given the weather of northern Indiana. It will begin to demolish the structural separation between football and academia at Notre Dame, and give all students the ability to utilize this huge building. And it will benefit the alumni of this University, who have proven critical in the 20th century towards developing the academic reputation of Notre Dame.

    All in all, this project continues on the great academic mission of Father Hesburgh and will benefit the University for decades to come.

    Ryan Dominguez
    Class of 2014

    • Matthew Greene

      I agree with the vast majority of your points and thank you for speaking out. However, I must take exception to the fact that you claim the building is neoclassical. There are no orders anywhere on the building. There are no pediments. There is no dome. There is an extremely emphasized verticality with the ribs running from the bottom to the top of the building. The arches are clearly not Roman or Greek.

      To me, the new stadium buildings look like a post-modern take on Art Deco. Here is an example of Art Deco:

      It looks almost exactly like our stadium buildings.

      While Bond Hall is certainly neoclassical, LaFortune is not. LaFortune is a sort of Victorian architecture, just like Washington Hall, Sorin, and the Main Building. Victorian architecture is known for being eclectic, which is why you see classical elements such as the pediments on the roof and small orders on the porch, but the building certainly isn’t neoclassical.

    • Keb

      We can’t downvote via Disquis anymore? Well I guess I’ll express my down vote here in writing.

  • Stasera

    Ryan has some great points. The only question that I would ask people who deride this project for moving the center of the campus is this, Where would you put 750000 square feet of student and faculty space? Because you’d need to build half of DeBartolo quad to get that. In terms of space utilisation this is brilliant regardless of what anyone says. It may not be cheap, it may not be beautiful, but it’s brilliant.

    • Keb

      You are asking the wrong question. The question should be why does the university need to add 750000 sq ft of student and faculty space to begin with? There has not been a large increase in the student population since I went there from 88-92 and yet there has been a huge expansion of buildings across campus. Why this? Why now? Why ever? It is a ploy to add cushy seating to the royal donors for football games. Everything else is like the pork attached to spending bills in Congress, added to stinky bills to appease others so that they vote their approval. It’s funny that many of those that would ideologically oppose pork-barrel spending in Congress are giving thumbs up to this monstrosity and huge waste of money. No way. This is a BAD idea.

      • Stasera

        Well, you’re not the first person from this era to say something similar. I have to tell you, because I’m not sure that people of your era understand, that when it comes to student activity space and student recreation space, Notre Dame looks worse than every other college that I’ve visited. My brother went to St Louis University, which is a fine Catholic university but I think we wouldn’t equate it with Notre Dame in terms of importance or prestige, but SLU has much better recreational and student activity space. Most second-tier state universities have better facilities. You might complain that these things are ancillary to a college experience, but I think not. What message does it send to prospective students if Notre Dame doesn’t invest in facilities that improve the quality of life? I think it’s probably even more important that Notre Dame have high quality student life facilities since it can’t sell prospective students on the location. And indeed for more than a generation the amount of student space at Notre Dame proportional to its enrollment has lagged behind almost all peers. This is why they wanted to replace Stepan Center. But do we really want to put a student center where Stepan Center is? Additionally, what message does it send to faculty if their space needs are ameliorated? The University wants to add 80 professors in the next few years, that’s going to take a lot of space that they don’t have now. One way to make the education better (and keep up with peer schools who have more professors) is to add professors. The Crossroads project does that too. And hell if there are more luxury seats in a bigger more intimidating stadium, gosh that’s terrible. You know what I don’t want for the football team? A bigger, more intimidating atmosphere. That just never works to anyone’s advantage.

        • DaGeek

          If student activity space, or even sky-high academics, is why you choose a university, the by all means go someplace else. If an authentically Roman Catholic university, which exhibits discipleship in Jesus Christ is what you’re seeking, the Notre Dame should be the right choice. Sadly, it’s not that at all.

          • Stasera

            I think we’re well past the point where fringe elements of the Church have given up on Notre Dame as a Catholic institution and nothing will change that, adequate space for extracurricular and academic activities or not.

          • Colin F.

            Stasera, so your argument is based on aesthetics for the University? People of “your/our era”. We get it. A potshot at Alums that arent 20-29. You are kidding me? I graduated from that campus in 1992, same # of student as today, and the building boom and space and country-club feel to that campus is beyond measure. You need another slant on this debate

          • Stasera

            I get that you guys are all in “Kids these days” mode. And that’s fine. I’ll probably be like that too one day. I’m trying to tell you that every other university is like this today. Take your kids on some campus visits soon and you’ll see. I don’t think the whole, well back in my day we got by on nothing, argument is a good one either. My grandfather talks about growing up in a log cabin in North Carolina. Should I not spend money on a nicer house than that because it will make me soft or something?

          • Colin F.

            Stasera. For one, I don’t care about other universities, You imply I do. And I know for sure, that the University of Notre Dame does not require a $450mil faciliity, with that rock climbing wall and indoor track, and extra classrooms and a practice facility to get a good education or attract good earnest students. . If you feel you are at an inferior institution and without those things, and are a student, I would suggest you transfer and take your dollars and debt elsewhere.

          • Stasera

            Nah, we both made beds with Notre Dame. We have to sleep in them. I just don’t get the outright anger that some people have about this. You’re right that all of those things may not be necessary, but why be upset if there’s a rock wall (like every other college)? Why be upset if there are luxury seats (like every other college)? Why be upset if there is enough space for faculty (like many colleges)? If people are so passionate about the cost of attendance, why don’t they object to every capital project? New building for architecture? New building for social sciences? New dorm? New hotel? I haven’t heard anyone raise one concern about any of those projects. But this one project is a lightening rod. I can understand if the price tag is daunting. I can understand if it’s ugly. I can understand if it’s all a ruse to build luxury seats. But I really don’t understand objections to investing in the built environment of the University (especially when those objections are not raised for the above-mentioned single-use projects).

          • Colin F.

            Stasera, you make quite a few assumptions. How do you you know if I have/have, or anybody else for that matter, has not been against excessive expenditures regarding any other project or new project/building. You assume I have not, or no others have objected.

            My own particular concern, is that my alma mater is becoming more exclusive by the year. Not a Catholic trait or teaching by our current Pope, Francic. My grandfather went there in the 30’s, 3 uncles, 3 cousins, and my mother to Saint Mary’. It was an affordable, Catholic college. And increasingly, Notre Dame is becoming an inaccessible institution, in large part because of these wasteful capital projects. Elitiist. money wasting, football-obsessed and incorporated.

          • Stasera

            I don’t know that you as an individual haven’t spoken out against those things (nor do I accuse you as an individual of not speaking out in my previous post). I do know that articles like this one haven’t appeared. I do know that comments like the ones here haven’t appeared. I do know that the general negative reaction to this is wholely unprecedented. I also doubt that Notre Dame is less accessible now than it was a generation ago. I think they could always do a better job (just like I think they could always build better facilities) but I doubt if for instance, there are fewer Pell Grant students now than 20 years ago. The sticker price goes up but so do the funding mechanisms. I don’t see what’s wrong with charging 60k to a family who can afford it and then subsidizing that cost for one that can’t. Rather than say charging half of that and thus subsidizing the rich family.

        • Dan Collins

          Stasera-your argument suggests that the number of people wishing to attend ND is in stark decline because of the facilities. Yet, we all know that isn’t true.

          • Stasera

            But we do know that the number of applicants to Notre Dame hasn’t increased at the same rate as peer institutions. Having more applicants (to reject) isn’t automatically a good thing (and I don’t think that it should be a ranking metric), but it does allow the University to be more selective in creating a freshman class. I think that our lack of sybaritic student life features (and dorms) probably deters some applicants who think that Cal Poly looks like a lot more fun and they have reputable engineering as well.

          • Matthew Greene

            I agree with Stasera on this point. We need to be encouraging the brightest Catholic students to choose Notre Dame.

  • Fr. Bill,
    I appreciate your comments and concerns about this project. I’m not sure if you remember me, but I lived in Zahm during some of your time there (for me: 1987 – 1991). I’m glad to see that you speak as passionately about Notre Dame now as you did when I was there.
    For me, I like the Crossroads Project for one simple reason: it is a football stadium renovation that will actually benefit more than the football team. As someone who spends way too much money and time worrying about Irish athletics, I am happy to see that the football team will get an upgraded stadium. I am happy to see that fans, faculty, students, and alumni will have a (hopefully) better experience when attending games. But I am also thrilled that the students will get more use out of the stadium. I love the idea of the student non-varsity athletics being held in the stadium. (For me, I got a thrill out of playing floor hockey and volleyball in the ACC. I can only imagine how much fun doing that in the House that Rockne built/Monk renovated/Fr. Jenkins renovated again will be.)
    You are right about one point – the Golden Dome is the spiritual center of the campus, and will remain ever so. One look at Our Lady while walking the campus on a snowy, northern Indiana night is enough for spiritual renewal for many of us. The Grotto, the Basilica, and the Dome remain must-visits for alumni like me, and serve as much importance to me now when I visit as they did when I was a student. No matter how we progress, this will always remain the case.
    But, the geographic axis of campus has been pointing southward (and eastward) since I was a student, with the building of the first building in the DeBartolo quad. Now, the preponderance of classroom space has been relocated south of South Quad, and it shall remain that way as the campus grows. This, despite the apparent negative image it portrays, means that the football stadium becomes the near-geographic center on the campus.
    Notre Dame has, for the 25+ years that I have been associated with it, blended the old and the new, and not just architecturally. Every year I visit and see a new structure, be it a new law school building, a new dorm, a renovated Morris Inn, etc. Yet, the old chestnuts mellow with age and still bring back wonderful memories. History and progress should not be mutually exclusive; they remain forever symbiotically connected on Our Lady’s campus.
    I support the Crossroads project because students benefit from a plan to improve the football stadium. It would be far easier to expand to 90,000 seats, install a video board that would obscure the view of the Way of Life mural, install field turf, and make luxury seating for donors that will pay large dollars for premium seating. This would also be cheaper than the proposed project, and it meets the goal of improving the football facilities in the hope that it helps Coach Kelly build a National Championship team. But, aside from the football players, it yields little to no benefit to other students. The Crossroads project does, and as such, I support it.
    The road to progress is littered with potholes; all new building projects will have their supporters and detractors. This unique and novel concept should be supported as it will improve student life on campus.

    • Keb

      You wrote: “It would be far easier to expand to 90,000 seats, install a video board that would obscure the view of the Way of Life mural, install field turf, and make luxury seating for donors that will pay large dollars for premium seating”
      This IS precisely what they want. They just had to throw in the other pork into this project to appease everybody else, and unfortunately, reading your post, it seems to be working.

      • Stasera

        I’m confused about why that even matters?

        A bunch of people get more space awesome!

        • Colin F.

          To future enrollees and their ability to afford to attend the University. That matters.

          • Stasera

            If I believed that a campaign to raise $400mil just for scholarships would work then I would take such concerns more seriously. If I believed that financial aid at universities today were as simple as just giving out htat $400mil I’d take such concerns more seriously. But then, that’s not how it works, and in the last capital campaign, Spirit of Notre Dame, they only managed to raise $251mil for scholarships in four years. But I would encourage all alums who don’t like this to earmark their donations to the general scholarship fund. Maybe even start a campaign of indignation and get $400mil donated to the scholarship fund instead. (Seriously, I would only make restricted donations, that provides some level of competition for varioius interests to appeal to you rather than letting administrators divvy it up based on internal politics)

          • Matthew Greene

            The university pays 100% of student need. We have an endowment of 7 Billion dollars. Much of that money is tied up in scholarships for economically disadvantaged students. We have the financial ability to continue paying for students on the capital gains of our endowment alone.

          • Colin F.

            Not so Matthew G.

            And much of that assistance comes at the Federal level in the form of student loans, not the University’s generosity.

          • Matthew Greene

            I looked at that chart. All I could pull from it is that the University pays, on average, half of every needy student’s tuition and that the average debt at graduation was about 1 semester’s worth of tuition.

            Where is your information on Federal student loans?

            If you go here:

            You can see that federal scholarships and grants are 7 million dollars per year.
            External scholarships are 3.5 million dollars per year.
            All student loans (regardless of source) are 19 million dollars per year.
            University Scholarships are 110 million dollars a year.

          • Colin F.

            Look at sections H1 and H2 more closely.” Number of Enrolled Students Awarded Aid: List the number of degree-seeking full-time and less-than-full-time undergraduates who applied for and were awarded financial aid from ANY SOURCE”….Thats Fed Loans.

            Colin F

          • Matthew Greene

            Right. And that number is 19 million, compared to the universities 110 million. And that 19 million is fed loans and other loans. I think your assumption that the vast majority of the loans are federal is probably correct, but I’d like to see the data first.

          • Colin F.

            Good find Matthew ( Wish this data set was in a spreadsheet) $110-120mil is a much better figure, but it still is vague on its qualifiers. Approx 1/4th of the bill on average basis/per student. Do you have this in spreadsheet format to crunch #’s with?

          • Colin F.

            Mathhew, good find. Find the # that breaks out Notre Dame need-based aid provided BY Notre Dame, and we can break down the arithmetic against the endowment etc.
            Thanks for finding

    • Colin F.

      John, I respect that you have an opinion, but above, you wrote ” This, despite the apparent negative image it portrays, means that the
      football stadium becomes the near-geographic center on the campus.”

      What is your goal here? To actually endorse a football stadium, towarsds becoming the center-point of the most visible Catholic institution in the world ( besides The Vatican)? I love our ( I am an alum from ’92) football program, and hope it succeeds, does well, but I do not see how “students benefit from a plan to improve the football stadium. It would
      be far easier to expand to 90,000 seats, install a video board that
      would obscure the view of the Way of Life mural, install field turf, and
      make luxury seating for donors that will pay large dollars for premium

      You could be at the wrong university, for the wrong reasons, for $250k.

      Colin F.
      Dallas, TX

  • NDForever

    The good Father does not appear to be an architect since, whatever he refers to a the Fascist architectural style really doesn’t exist as a style in architecture. It sounds simply like the buildings outward look do not appeal to him. Perhaps, he believes he can demonize the proponents of this large project as something akin to a murderous and fanatical lot.

    But here’s an alternative suggestion. Just build the new luxury seating and jettison the other buildings as unnecessary. Modestly increase the budgets of the other educational components and get on with revising the stadium. In an important way and sense, ND football and it’s historic success on the national scene has “made” or certainly shaped what the university is today. One wonders whether it would be what it is without that history. It is the touchstone for generation after generation of graduates. We need not ignore its importance, but take pride in its meaning. Don’t kid yourself, Father, it is a wonderful fundraiser and helps make ND the place it is.

  • Woodstock

    Notre Dame is constructing three Hanging Gardens of Babylon so that one of the most iconic structures on campus can be used for something more than athletics 10 Saturdays a year.
    It’s beautiful, brilliant, and integrative.

  • Dan Collins

    With much of the discussion centered on the need for new buildings and more space, I reckoned that enrollment must have swelled at ND since I graduated in 1991. To my quizzical surprise, the student body population remains largely the same. Are the students of today simply bigger in size to mandate the need for more space?

    The question I have for ND arose after ND signed its first football contract with NBC. Does ND make the student or do the students make ND? This is not a chicken or the egg question. The fact remains that long before ND set out on its quest to become the Harvard of the Midwest, its students graduated from ND and dominated life. They became leaders of business and engineering, poets and missionaries. How, pray tell, was all of this accomplished without the enormous budgets, endowments and buildings that now seem to dominate the discussion?

    • Stasera

      Because all of the other colleges and universities didn’t have enormous budgets, endowments and buildings back then either.

  • Jon French

    Dear Fr. Miscamble – thank you for having the courage to write this letter. Thank you for actually asking yourself what Jesus or even Fr. Sorin would think if he saw ND today.

    Something is indeed rotten under the Dome. And it is this administration buddying up with big money, following the example of exactly *no* worthy follower of Christ in history. I started at ND in 1996 and have in the time since watched much of the campus morph into a grandiose caricature of itself that feels somehow puffy in its newness and extravagance. Fr. Miscamble’s “nouveau riche” comment is spot on. It’s not hard to imagine that that if Jesus appeared in person on campus the members of the administration would suddenly scatter – only to reappear moments later in sackcloth, handing out alms and pretending not to know how they found themselves inside this Catholic Disneyland that had suddenly sprung up around them. I wholeheartedly wish Jesus would turn over the tables of the money changers inside our beloved university. And I’m both the biggest ND football fan ever and a non-liberal. It’s just that I see Notre Dame differently than do our present administrators, who feel entitled to set a course for our beloved university that is neither Catholic nor, really, ours anymore. And it’s very worrisome.

    Because it’s starting to affect the students, some of whom, like Mr. Dominguez, below, appear to miss the point entirely in Fr. Miscamble’s critique, in part because they’ve never known a different Notre Dame. That’s not their fault. We owe that to our current administration and Fr. Malloy’s before them.

    Let’s get something straight: Fr. Hesburgh is not necessarily for or against this particular project, but his view of Notre Dame was never just about buildings or even just about academics. We know better. His ND is really about about the Spirit moving among our students, faculty, staff and alumni, both inside of our community and outward to the world. The Notre Dame of the present is off the mark in spending half a billion dollars on a stadium renovation, no matter how bloody much money it may bring in.

    For a reality check, as yourself what Pope Francis might have to say about this project. I think you alraedy know.

    But the altered reality we live in – that some people believe turning the already palatial football stadium into something resembling an original design by Emperior Hadrian is a good idea, on the spurious notion that it will make the stadium more usable and tear down some intangible veil between athletics and academics, is beyond the Pale. Cant’ you see it? The people who are selling this preposterous idea are actually offering bread so you won’t notice the circuses. They’re putting a *ballroom* in the stadium, for crying out in the night. There might be the occasional SYR there, but that ain’t why they’re putting it in. Is anyone paying attention? These people know that there are numerous others on campus and among the ND family who think that university development has jumped the shark at ND and who find the conspicuous consumption we see there to be wretched excess that is not in any way in keeping with Catholic social teaching.

    Respectfully, Fr. Jenkins, I admit that I’m biased – I still owe $70,000 for my education (not all ND, but to ND and another conspicuously growing Catholic university), fourteen years after I graduated. That leads me to ask you: how does spending more money than the annual budget of the city of Indianapolis on this unnecessary stadium project help the alumni who are still saddled with debt from a time when ND didn’t support its students with the kind of financial aid that a Christian university should – particularly when we all just went through a major recession? Shameful, really. I love ND more than anyone I know. But not like this.

    We could have put half a billon into economic development in South Bend and fixed a nearly dead city. We could have gone a long way toward curing cancer. We could have at least paid off the ludicrous hockey arena first. How much is the debt service on that thing?

    Something just isn’t right at ND. I feel my spirit moved to say it. I’m disappointed in our university leaders for failing to see that Jesus would have no part of such a silly boondoggle as this massive altar to the glory that is Notr…oh my goodness.

    Jon French ’00

    • Keb

      Well said.

    • Bill Shephard

      jesus don’t care bout no stadium nigga

    • Bill Shephard

      What do you think of the amount of money spent by the Vatican? Pope Benedict XVI had three custom cars, I don’t see you criticizing the Pope or the Catholic Church? And if you think that cancer can be cured with $400 million then obviously you have no idea, how the world works. It is not Notre Dame’s responsibility to cure cancer but to provide its students with the best available Catholic education possible. If you don’t like the idea, then I expect you will not be using any of the facilities, once it is built.

      • Matthew Greene

        I agree with your cancer comment, but why should he be using this space to criticize the Vatican? He is comment on an article about a stadium. You can’t reasonably expect him to have addressed that too.

      • Jon French

        I think you may have taken the cancer comment a bit too literally. Try for a moment to comprehend hyperbole and its uses in debate. But try not to throw around a hateful word like that one you used. What makes you think using that word is okay?

    • Tim Sullivan

      If what you say is true, that “buddying up with big money” follows “the example of exactly *no* worthy follower of Christ in history,” how do you explain the presence of St. Peter’s Basilica or any other Church structure for that matter?
      Also I disagree that this project represents a “buddying up” with big money. The project adds 750,000 square feet of what have been deemed necessary upgrades to the campus, with the 4,000 luxury suites representing a tiny fraction of the project space/expense that will likely help finance the project with no adverse affect to anyone’s gameday experience. How is this “buddying up?” It just seems practical to me.

      • Jon French

        Haha. I know the details of the project, sir. The fact that I didn’t list them all in an opinion letter isn’t evidence of what you say. Give me a break. And I don’t think the existence of St. Peter’s does what you think it does to invalidate my point. Would Jesus have built it? Doubt it. Lastly, it is by definition a stadium renovation. Your entire reply adds nothing to the discussion about whether this project is of merit. You’ve obviously drunk the kool-aid, so go enjoy your new ballroom. And donate a few bucks so your ass can be in one of the new luxury seats. Money is corrupting ND and with all due respect your letter provides a case in point. You’ve lost all perspective.

        • Tim Sullivan

          I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds as if you would extend your previous mention of something being “indeed rotten under the Dome” to a large percentage of Catholic infrastructure? If that’s the case, why pick on N D specifically? Where exactly are the true Catholics supposed to worship? What would Jesus have built?

          I’m not going to suppose that any evidence would likely alter your opinion, but I thought I’d share the following anyway- quoting from the Kansas City Star:
          “Nate Appleman, the 360 Architecture principal in charge, is a Penn State Nittany Lion by training…(he said) ‘Working at Notre Dame is so different from other collegiate experiences I’ve had…When they think about premium seating, they don’t want to create anything elitist.. They’re very sensitive about keeping the ‘Notre Dame family’ atmosphere. It’s been a breath of fresh air to work there.”

          And oh my goodness, a ballroom! How extravagant! If I’ve drunk the kool-aid, I don’t want to know what you’ve had to drink.

          a non-critically thinking sheep

  • Keb

    Thank you Fr. Miscamble for articulating so well many of our concerns about this ill-conceived project. I wholeheartedly agree with you that it is a gigantic waste of money, a symbol of the corporatization of Notre Dame, an excuse to build luxury seating for the royal ones among us, and changes the visual landscape of the university from one that centered architecturally on the Golden Dome and Sacred Hearth to the football stadium. Spending so much money on Jenkins’ “audacious” plan to build this unnecessary edifice for the simple pleasure of saying “my stadium is bigger than your stadium” is shameful and should be forcefully opposed. “Audacity” is right. What “audacity” to blow money on this when it could be used to provide financial aid to students faced year after year with astronomical rises in tuition. To an alum and donor such as myself, I look at this project and think it better that I contribute my measly dollars and cents elsewhere. Thank you again for your commentary. Let’s oppose this thing before it’s too late.

    • Stasera

      And again, I’d say the same things that I’ve said to others from a generation ago. I hope that you all donate specifically to the general scholarship fund out of concern for millennials. That being said $400mil in financial aid would be enough for what, a few years? Then you’d have to start over and raise that all again. At least the Crossroads will last longer.

  • DaGeek

    Thank you, Father Miscamble. Well said! The mission of the university is nothing if it is not about ensuring the eternal salvation of its students and other stakeholders. The current administration, in its pride-filled self-aggrandizement, has completely lost touch with why Notre Dame was founded, or the mission of her patroness, who points the way to her Divine Son. Pointing the way to her Divine Son is the benchmark mission against which everything Notre Dame does and says should be measured.

  • Colin F.

    I would ask “Irish Rover”, if they could defend Crossroads, with the bac- wall being (according to your website) :

    1. Defend the Faith and honorable traditions of this great university;

    2. Articulate conservative principles;

    3. Engage in collegial debate.

    Colin F.
    Dallas, TX ’92

  • Jon Paul Potts

    I don’t want to get caught up in the scrum of great conversation here. I will just add that apart from the architectural commentary (which is way beyond my pay grade!), I agree with Father Miscamble. As a passionate and proud alum, and the father of four young children who I am raising Catholic with my wife, I want my children to attend Our Lady’s University, and I would like them to go to the Notre Dame that made me the person I am today in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

    That place was not about buildings or ballroom space, it was about values and people, and constantly searching for and redefining what it meant to be Catholic in an aggressively secular world. I learned these lessons at Sunday Mass in the basements of dorms, in late-night bull sessions with friends in single-sex dorms, and on long walks across snowy quads late at night. Back then, I thought our facilities were top-notch, even O’Shag (since decommissioned, I think!), where I had 60% of my classes.

    It can be extremely difficult to raise your children today when every conceivable media, the schools, even friends’ parents, push a lifestyle of self-aggrandizement, instant gratification and glorification of the almighty dollar. And these flaws are evident to me in this project. What does it say about our “community” that certain people who have the money require luxury boxes to watch 18 and 19 year olds play football? When NBC does the first pre-game tour of Crossroads in a few years, will I feel proud watching it? Or slightly revolted by the garish, nouveau riche nature of the space as I was when I watched Charlie Weis tour the then-new Guglielmino football palace with NBC cameraman six or seven years ago?

    Notre Dame is not “just another school,” as I have increasingly learned the longer I am out (22 years now). Therefore, we should not be judging our worth based on false comparisons to the student space at other universities, or whether our rich alums have a private gallery to entertain clients on fall Saturdays. That $400 million could do a lot of good in South Bend, it could allow a lower middle class kid (like me 26 years ago) to receive a truly Catholic education, or it could be reinvested in some endowed professorships.

    I fear ND’s current leadership is forgetting what “We Are ND” really means as it pursues a higher U.S. News ranking and bigger and bigger “gifts” from wealthy alums. And for me, this project is just the latest physical manifestation of how we have lost our way.

    • Stasera

      Notre Dame already meets the financial aid obligations of lower middle class kids, including quite a few from South Bend. If there isnt enough office space, they can’t hire more endowed professors and lure them here. This project alone will support 100s of union construction jobs in the region; I think that’s pretty good for South Bend.

      • Jon French

        They certainly didn’t meet my financial need as a lower class kid. I’m still paying for the education, though I’m glad I made the choice to attend ND. Your point about construction jobs is fair, though. If they’re going to build it I’m glad a lot of local families will benefit as a result.

    • Matthew Greene

      O’Shag is still here, rest assured! And almost all Arts and Letters courses still happen there.

  • dgc84

    A-friggin-men, Fr. Bill. Simplistic, maybe, but also true…the football program and the administration are a reflection of each other. Neither is very flattering. We’ve been adrift with misplaced priorities for too long.

  • Joseph Scollan

    Dear Father,

    I disagree with your assertions about describing the buildings as Fascist. Albert Speer a brilliant architect and should not only be connected to the Nazi Regime. To do so is trivializing and comes off as an at best awkward and at worst downright insulting connection between the buildings and Nazism to just rile people up. Well it worked. For someone in your position you should know better than to just throw terms around to make an argument. All it does is provide a smokescreen for your argument’s general lack of connection to the modern world.

    Your claims are exactly the type of political doublespeak which you assert Fr. Jenkins is guilty of using.

    Ich hoffe, dass du und alle von deinen hassenden Freunden verstehen, wie rückwärts du bist.

  • Paul Kim

    Father Miscamble, I just wanted to take time to thank you for putting together your viewpoint. I was a bit skeptical of this new project when I had first read it, and your words have affirmed my intuitions. This school needs to stop blindly start building new facilities when old ones are falling apart (example: Morrissey Manor).

  • Colin F.

    Stasera, take out a calculator. ND has the 10th largest endowment of any university (public or private ) in the US. $6 bil + (stated, and likely more, in other funds and vehicles)
    – Take $6bil, multiply by 1.05 ( half the rate/return of a typical balanced mutual fund in the last 5,10,20 year periods) Take that #, which is $6.375bil and substract the original 6bil in principal. You are left with 375mil ( an estimated capita return per year)
    – Take that $375mil, and divide by 8000 (undergrads) and you get in the neighborhood of $37000, PER YEAR, that the Endowment may generate ( approx) on average, per year per student, over time.

    I am sure there are other variables: expenditures, varying rates of return, costs etc. but see here:….ND is way behind in debt upon graduation, average assistance is well below this $37000 gross figure, and that assistance is mostly in non ND-funded loans.

    On top of that, Crossroads is “opportunity costing” each current undergrad $50,000 (12,500 per year). In other words, the $450-500 mil of expected costs for Crossroads, is “crowding” out $50,000 per student in potential fund-raising for tuition costs, scholarships, or academic recruitment etc.

    So, with “back of the napkin” math, ( not actuals of course), the Endowment earns $35,000 per year per undergraduate, and Crossroads crowds out a potential $12,500 per year for four years of one class of undergrads, Thats a almost the entire cost of a 4 year education for the Class of 2018. ( a one time event) But the point is the same. The University is bleeding money, which is being poorly misdirected into a wasteful, confusing, monument-building “vision” for the future of Notre Dame. (Personally, I think its Fr. Jenkins attempt at leaving a legacy to himself and to get his and donor’s name in mortar on buildings before his time is over)

    When I think of the “value” of Notre Dame, it is in: the Grotto, the Basilica, walks around the lakes. Mostly Catholic but not all, friends and life-long friends for the rest of my life from every single walk of life, a competitive and historic football program, Masses in the dorms, older buildings filled with history, WWII ( the legacy ROTC program that continues to this day as one of the largest by any institution) and many more intangibles that excess and tangibles cannot and will never replace. I am not against progress, I am for it of course. But for it, in a humble way, a practical and sensible way, a frugal and wise and obedient way, and a socially just way.


    Colin F. ’92

    • Matthew Greene

      My major is financial economics and I seem to be having trouble following your logic.

      The student debt on the chart you sent is not a per year figure. If you want the per year figure, you need to divide by four.

      1. Where did you get this 2.1% return figure for the past 20 years? That would be an unfathomably small return. Also, why did you arbitrarily divide it by 2? Why not just assumer the average rate, not half the average rate?

      What is a “capita return per year?” You seem to be making up terms here.

      The average assistance is most certainly *not* mostly funded by sources other that Notre Dame. As per my other comment:

      If you go here:

      You can see that federal scholarships and grants are 7 million dollars per year.
      External scholarships are 3.5 million dollars per year.
      All student loans (regardless of source) are 19 million dollars per year.
      University Scholarships are 110 million dollars a year.

      375 million / 8000 = 47,000 not 37,000

      While I agree with what you think brings value to your education, you can’t forget that Notre Dame has the 10th highest return on investment of any university in the country. In other words, it is worth the average 37,000 debt you graduate with.

      • Colin F.

        Matthew, I am not copping out on you, but its late and I have to be up in a few hours for work,

        Not sure where you got the 2.1% figure on rate of return. I used a 5% average annual basis for return ,just quickly with a calculator. Not sure where the 2.1% is coming from. I ……”Capita return” was a typo. Meant “capital return”, or return on capital. Send on the dataset and I’d be glad to iron out disparities/errors, Again, I was using napkin math, not deep anyalytics for the purposes of my arguments against the wasteful Campus Crossroad project.

        As far as ROI on an ND education, can’t say you are wrong, can’t say you are right. Those “surveys”, at least the ones I have seen, have flaws in a number of ways/variables. Cost of living and indexes, geography, demographics of respondents, lifetime incomes (no dataset available), a bunch of variables. They could be a guideline for sure, but I ( and my niece, considering Notre Dame as a 16 yr old) would not rely on that solely on a magazines determination of ROI. I saw a ranking of private ( non-state funded) universities that had Notre Dame in the 20-30 range, behind regional universities

        But good stuff. Thanks for the input

        Colin ’92

  • Mason Roberts

    This article makes many compelling points, but disregarding the stadium based on its ‘architectural style’ is not one of them.
    The stripped-down detailing and heavy massing of the proposed addition may, in some ways, resemble the architecture that was constructed in Italy and Germany in the 1930s, but does it not also resemble much of what was built in this country in the same era? The additive geometries resemble that of a 30’s art-deco skyscraper in New York or Los Angeles more than than just about anything built under Moussolini/Hitler. Take a look at many of the governmental buildings built in Washington D.C. at the same time by architects such as Paul Cret. The arguments about “wealth and power” could just as easily pertain to these buildings.
    Also, as an ND architecture alumni, it ought to be pointed out that associating particlular aesthetics in architecture to a political movement is a slippery slope to begin with. Should we disregard all Greco-Roman Classical Architecture because of the travesties commited by the Roman Empire? What about many of the beautiful treasured buildings of the Middle Ages. Please don’t tell me that none of them were commissioned by tyranical rulers. Yet these buildings have proven to be well-liked and visited.
    Finally, let us consider many of the buildings that presently exist on campus. Think beloved buildings such as South Dining Hall, the Basilica, and Main Building. Look at how sumptuously detailed and large they are! If the university proposed these buildings today, would you also have the same argument about them expressing “self-aggrandisement” and “Nouvelle Riche excess”?

  • Jake Reilly

    As a current Notre Dame engineering student, I would like to provide some observations for everyone commenting here. However, before I lay such observations out, I’d like to provide a bit of context from which I draw my arguments. I myself have been in contact with the university architect and it seems that he, Mr. Swarbrick, Coach Kelly, Fr. Jenkins, et al have a true desire to live up to this university’s place in the world as a pioneering institution. Now, to explore what this truly means, let’s go back to the 1840s.

    A small band of Holy Cross priests and brothers have arrived after a long journey from France through stormy ocean, dense forest, and biting cold to a strip of land between two small lakes. They decide, despite nature’s strong suggestions to the contrary, that this would be a good place to build a school. Like the travelers on the Oregon Trail and the gold miners in California, the C.S.C. men have no idea what lies ahead of them and no guarantee of any success. Perhaps this is the true definition of the term “pioneering.” The University of Notre Dame du Lac was, from its earliest days, a pioneering institution.

    The year is now 1929. University president Fr. O’Donnell has given Knute Rockne the green light to begin construction of a brand new, 54,000-seat football stadium. After initial concerns about funding for the new stadium, O’Donnell has devised a new type of stadium accommodation: the “reserved box seats.” These consisted of 240 six-person groupings of seats located closer than any others to the field and to the team areas, which were contained in baseball-style dugouts at the time. With this innovation, it was the Notre Dame administration which effectively invented both club seating and the personal seat license all in one move. A particularly germane example of the University’s pioneering role in the worlds of both academia and athletics.

    More generally, Notre Dame Stadium was built at a time and in a place that made it second to none. Although similar in design to Michigan Stadium, our Stadium was more luxurious. Ann Arbor’s stadium was initially completely underground and consequently lacked the restrooms, concessions facilities, and grand facade which shaped and defined Notre Dame Stadium. At a time when now-great football programs had not-great stadiums, (1930 Bryant-Denny Stadium: capacity 18,000; 1930 Kyle Field: 33,000; 1930 LSU Tiger Stadium: 12,000), the small University of Notre Dame made a pioneering investment in its football program and in its campus, a game-changing investment which would help the program on its way to sustained greatness and help place the campus among the ranks of the greatest college campuses.

    80 years have now passed. The academic landscape has changed for the better, thanks in large part to Notre Dame. Our international reputation has vastly improved and the value of a Notre Dame education has soared. However, the once-pioneering Notre Dame Stadium has become for 355 days-a-year a stale building. Furthermore, the expansion of ’97 didn’t do enough to restore the stadium to its former place at the forefront of college football facilities. It is time to continue the work which was begun two decades ago. The Campus Crossroads Project finally proposes to remake Notre Dame Stadium into the pioneering campus venue it used to be.

    There is one distinct thing which proves the new CC Project to be true to the original spirit of Notre Dame and a worthwhile pursuit: no other institutions have done or plan to do anything similar. Just as in 1930 when no other comparable institutions had built a stadium so luxurious and cutting-edge, no other institutions propose to embark on such a cutting-edge stadium project. While many of college football’s greatest stadiums have recently been enlarged, or are or will soon be expanded, no other expansion has had or currently has the same noble objective in mind.

    LSU’s Tiger Stadium is in the midst of receiving an additional 70 luxury boxes, 1,500 regular seats, and 3,000 club seats. No academic or student-life functionality whatsoever is included in this project. Oklahoma’s Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium is slated to be upgraded with new fan amenities, weight and training rooms, and media facilities. Again, no considerations have been included for faculty or students.Texas A&M’s Kyle Field is undergoing the most ambitious expansion in its history, but no academic, student-life, or administrative space is being generated. These three expansion/renovation projects and many others, although impressive, are not pioneering or paradigm-changing. By fusing academic, recreational, and athletic space and making the most of an iconic venue which lies dormant all too often, the Campus Crossroads Project is indeed pioneering and will bring about a positive change for all.

    Notre Dame Stadium was built to be pioneering, to define a new paradigm. Heck, the University itself was founded to be just the same. Anyone with true love for the University cannot deny the fact that Notre Dame has always been a place for pioneering study in the pursuit of a better world. If we truly want to see this mission through, we must recognize where we’ve come from. We must recognize that our once-pioneering stadium can and should be reinvigorated and renewed to assist us in our pursuit and that in doing so, we would be acting in the true pioneering spirit of our academic and athletic forebears.

    Go Irish, beat Owls!