Residential Life announces program to keep seniors on campus
Last week the administration handed down yet another authoritarian “Residential Life Enhancement”, this time a housing policy which they are advertising as a “senior incentive program”–demonstrating a lack of understanding of the term ‘incentive’. Its most egregious element (cowering at the very bottom of the email) does none other than punish an eighth of the student body for an ‘offense’ the evil of which has yet to be explained.
Effective in the fall of 2021, the policy does, in fact, issue a few incentives such as $3,000 stipend to new “senior fellows”, and a $2,000 housing credit to sophomores who commit to living on campus senior year. Additionally, the policy does include genuine enhancements to residential life, such as free laundry for on-campus residents, block meal plan options for on-campus students, the elimination of the upcharge for singles, and ensuring proper kitchen facilities in the dorms. But, of course, there’s a catch. “Students who choose to move off-campus will no longer enjoy all of the rights and privileges of residents (e.g., including participation on hall sports teams and presence at hall dances).”
The administration announced these changes in an email which was sent to the student body on April 11. Ironically it opens by affirming, “At Notre Dame, residential hall communities have long been central to undergraduate education. These communities are designed to be inclusive of all members; dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of each individual; and characterized by a collective sense of care and concern for the common good and service to others.” (emphasis added)
From the moment students set foot on campus we are told that the University of Notre Dame is not simply an academic institution, but seeks to shape both the hearts and minds of her students. Purportedly, the dorm communities are a large part of the culture of Notre Dame which sets it apart from other institutions of similar caliber and the close-knit, family-like environment which they foster plays a large part in shaping students. In fact, I chose Notre Dame in large part because of the rich and formative dorm communities which are unique only to Notre Dame. To treat over half of the population of the senior class as second class citizens on this campus and deprive them of full inclusion in the communities which they called home for three years is unwarranted, and completely out of step with Notre Dame’s mission.
The joy of dorm communities was already incentive enough to keep the vast majority of juniors and approximately half of all seniors on campus. Now students will do so begrudgingly and rather than staying on campus for fear of exclusion, seniors will no longer be welcome to contribute leadership, mentorship, and fellowship to their dorms and the vibrant and formative communities they house.
If they are not welcome at dorm events, students will seek entertainment elsewhere. With rigid and now cruel housing policies, students may choose to pick another school in the first place. Whereas residential life used to be one of Notre Dame’s greatest assets, it is quickly turning into a strike against Notre Dame as the administration seeks to increasingly bear down on students, especially upperclassmen.
If the administration is going to continue making policies which punish students who chose to move off campus for their final year at Notre Dame, they must explain to the student body why they are taking such active steps towards discouraging, disincentivizing and now punishing those who choose to move off campus.
It is beyond disheartening to watch the university I love cramming down policy after policy all the while seemingly overlooking the negative externalities which will erode the vibrant dorm communities which contribute to making the University of Notre Dame a great force for good in the world.
I am not alone. Last Friday the student body staged a sit-in which attracted approximately 600 students to protest the new housing policy. A group of about 50 students made it inside of the Main Building and assembled directly outside of the Office of Student Affairs. Despite protest and pushback, the administration has not acknowledged student discontent or released a statement.
I, myself, emailed Erin Hoffman Harding the day that the policy was released asking her to think twice before alienating over half of the senior class. The content of my email was much the same as the content of this piece and expressed the same argument. Ms. Hoffman Harding has yet to respond to my email.
Experiencing the joy and edification of sharing my life with 100 plus Badin women over the last four years–and importantly, benefitting from the mentorship of upperclassmen–has been one of the most wonderful and memorable aspects of my college experience.
This is a horrendous mistake by the University which must be revisited. It is my great fear and solemn prediction that by the time my children are old enough to attend the University of Notre Dame the policies of this administration will have destroyed the beauty of dorm life and the relationships which develop out of the inclusive communities they already forge.
Keenan is a senior studying political science with minors in history and Constitutional Studies. She is a staunch, albeit hypocritical, advocate of living on campus all four years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.