We write to you today to let you know about new proposals to enhance our on-campus undergraduate residential communities. While these strategies will not affect any current students, many of our plans have benefitted significantly from student input, and we wanted to share them with you directly and thank you for your help.
Since our University’s founding 175 years ago, the cultivation of a community where students can grow and learn has been central to Notre Dame’s educational vision, a vision shaped by our Catholic mission and Holy Cross tradition. For the past 50 years, residential halls of mixed classes—from first-year students to seniors—have helped create such communities and have become a critical part of the undergraduate experience. When Notre Dame graduates meet, just after the question, “What year did you graduate?” each inquires, “In what hall did you live?” The question is prominent not because it is about a place of residence, but because the answer is a reflection of the community that shaped a person’s experience.
Notre Dame is dedicated to doing all we can to help residential life flourish for many years to come. In 2016, we opened Dunne and Flaherty Halls to relieve overcrowding. In August, Walsh Hall reopened to residents after a yearlong transformation that included both physical improvements as well as the creation of more common space for residents to gather and interact. In coming years, we will renovate an older hall, a major project that will take a full year, and a newer hall, a project that can be completed over the summer. Our goal is to make these buildings the best they can be for the communities they serve.
We have seen a trend in recent years for upper-classmen/women—especially seniors—to move off-campus. While we understand the decision to move off-campus is motivated by a number of good reasons, we believe a critical strength of our residence hall communities is upper-classmen serving as models and mentors to underclassmen. Thus, we undertook a one-year study to better understand the reasons for students moving off-campus, and explored strategies for attracting more seniors back to campus. The Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Research and Student Affairs staff facilitated more than a dozen student focus groups, visited off-campus complexes, and actively engaged with Campus Life Council, Student Government, and Diversity Council. We also sought the input of rectors, parents, and the Holy Cross community.
We learned a lot. We learned, among other things, that while students overwhelmingly valued the community formed in their halls, they were attracted by off-campus amenities and the greater independence of off-campus living. Some found off-campus housing more economical, others were unhappy with the inflexibility of meal plan options on campus, and some were put off by a lack of consistency in procedures and rules across residence halls.
Based on what we learned, we will look for ways to retain seniors on campus. We are considering increased flexibility in meal plans, more autonomy in room picks, and additional leadership roles for seniors in the halls. We are reviewing how we can offer a more consistent experience in halls while retaining important traditions and distinctiveness among them. We will continue to solicit student feedback as we develop and implement senior incentives over the next two to three years.
Because we believe the residential experience is an essential component of a Notre Dame undergraduate education, beginning with the matriculating class of 2018 (graduating class of 2022) the University will require first-year students, sophomores, and juniors to live on campus for six semesters (with study abroad counting toward those six semesters). This change will not affect any students currently enrolled at Notre Dame.
To accommodate more students, we will seek funding for two new residence halls, which will also allow us to provide additional on-campus housing to transfer students.
Should you wish to further discuss what we learned and our plans, we invite you to join us for a presentation and questions on Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in DeBartolo Hall, Room 101. If you are unable to attend and want to provide feedback, please email CampusResidency@nd.edu.
On behalf of Notre Dame, thank you for your valuable input as we develop our plans, and for your commitment to Notre Dame.
In Notre Dame,
Rev. John I Jenkins, C.S.C.
President, University of Notre Dame
Erin Hoffmann Harding
Vice President for Student Affairs
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