On-campus Fischer Graduate Residences make room for 80 undergraduate men and women

The Notre Dame Office of Residential Life (ResLife) announced a new option for undergraduate housing: the Undergraduate Community at Fischer (UCF). Beginning in the fall 2023 semester, approximately 80 undergraduate men and women will reside in two-bedroom apartments located in buildings one through eight of the Fischer Graduate Residences alongside approximately 320 graduate students.

Dan Rohmiller, the Director of Housing in ResLife, told the Rover that the UCF “offers another residential community to our undergraduate students. As an extension of the university’s residential model, the UCF remains committed to student formation and community, and its residents will continue to experience the hallmarks of Residential Life: a Rector and hall staff, students from multiple class years, and intentional community building in a unique setting.”

According to the ResLife website, the apartments will “feature a private bedroom for each student, one shared bathroom for the unit, and a furnished living and kitchen space.” Additionally, “Undergraduate students living in this community are eligible to change their campus meal plan to any available option, regardless of the student’s class.”

ResLife encourages rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors to apply to live in this new community, which will count toward their six-semester, on-campus residency requirement.

For the past 50 years, all on-campus undergraduate housing has been single-sex. In an interview with the Rover, a current assistant rector (AR) explained his appreciation for single-sex dorms: “The social dynamic for men is different when women are present, and vice-versa. The reason students are in college is to be formed. College is not yet the ‘real world.’ Single-sex dorms are a fantastic, healthy, and natural way to integrate this formation beyond the four walls of a classroom.”

Despite the similarities to ND dorm life, this residence sets a new precedent for undergraduate living: co-ed housing. Though each individual apartment will be single-sex, the website intimates that the hall staff will assist male and female residents who will participate in community events together.

The AR continued, “While co-ed dorms allow men and women to commingle, it seems that opportunities for scandal would be greater in such settings. Further, such dorms lack the formation described earlier.” In all 31 single-sex residential halls, residents must comply with parietals, which prohibit members of the opposite sex from being in the hall (except for in a limited number of public 24-hour visitation spaces) from midnight to 9:00 am on weeknights and 2:00 am to 9:00 am on weekends. ResLife did not answer whether or not parietals will be in effect at UCF.

ResLife has also not specified whether the rector and assistant rector(s) will be male or female. According to Director of Housing Rohmiller, “additional details regarding the staffing and community life at Fischer will be shared with selected residents in the coming weeks.”

According to the website, students will be selected based on “various factors, prioritizing seniority and a variety of student backgrounds.” Additionally, “students will also be able to indicate up to five other undergraduate students with whom they would like to live in community” to ensure that “students will have existing relationships with other students in this new community.”

Though ResLife declined to comment about the reasoning behind starting the community, some students and hall staff proposed potential explanations to the Rover; the two most prominent speculations are that it resulted from a shortage of housing or it is a provision for transgender students.

Sarah Ryan is a sophomore who participated in the Gateway Program, in which students attend Holy Cross College their freshman year and transfer to Notre Dame their sophomore year. Ryan told the Rover her Gateway cohort was originally denied on-campus housing because of a housing shortage, but Notre Dame was “thankfully” able to find space for all of them eventually. This year, Notre Dame guaranteed on-campus housing to the Gateway cohort.

Ryan wrote, “Fisher Undergraduate Residences are probably being offered because of an over-enrollment in the university as a whole.” She added, “I hope the future Gateways do not end up being randomly put in Fisher Graduate housing, which will separate them from the main undergraduate experience at ND for another year of college.”

Senior resident assistant Blake Perry said he only heard of the new housing option “via the Observer’s recent article and headline, which noted that Fischer Grad would be opening units for ‘students of all genders.’” He continued, “From this wording, I inferred that the new Fischer Undergraduate Residences might attract residents who are uncomfortable with the University’s two-gender housing policy.” 

Another sophomore told the Rover, “It seems to me that Fischer undergrad housing is a practical solution for Notre Dame to house transgender students. However, there is a balance that Notre Dame will have to find between compassionate care of all students while upholding Catholic social teaching … I worry that Notre Dame might be using a short-term solution to fix a longer-term question.”

The aforementioned AR expressed a similar view: “We need to meet people where they are, but sequestering people does not strike me as the answer. It seems that this would be a good place to stand firm in the truth of Catholic teaching, always with charity. I don’t think it’s charitable to basically corner people off, nor do I think the trans-crazed push of our time will be satisfied with 80 apartments on the corner of campus. It probably won’t be big enough, and people will soon come for the rest of campus housing.”

ResLife did not respond to any questions that the Rover posed regarding transgender students. Students will be notified if they have been selected to join this unprecedented, co-ed housing community by Thursday, March 2.  

Madeline Murphy is a sophomore from Davenport, IA majoring in vocal performance and theology with a minor in constitutional studies. Though currently a resident of Lyons Hall, she finds the private bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens in UCF quite appealing. Please contact her at mmurph64@nd.edu with any questions or qualms.

Photo Credit: Matt Cashore