I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing.
I am a proud Notre Dame student who tries to embrace every bit of Notre Dame culture: I have slapped the “Play like a Champion” sign. I have done hundreds of Irish pushups. I haven’t yet walked up the steps of the Main Building. I have participated in a campus-wide snowball fight. I’ve jumped in the lake. I have been to Duck Island. I have met Father Hesburgh. I have prayed/cried/laughed/been supported at the Grotto. I buy “the shirt.”
Despite my Notre Dame binge, I’m wounded by the disappointment of alums as they bemoan the changing campus and the traditions that have faded away.
I know they mean well and are merely caught up in the nostalgia that returning to campus tends to bring, but as alumni remind me that I missed the Glory Days and that the traditions of the University have died out, I can’t help but wonder if they’re right. Today though, we are operating under a different system.
The dorms no longer provide a keg at dorm dances — in fact kegs are illegal on campus. We no longer sign in for morning chapel, nor are we ever required to visit a chapel. Senior bar is no more. Instead, Legends, a facility built for retuning alumni more than actual students, has stolen the prime location on campus. In place of the Five Corners bars now sit five empty lots — very telling of the University’s current stance on alcohol.
Many of the changes are a result of just that — the University has taken a stance and pushed student traditions to the wayside because of it. The Keenan Revue, for example, one of the remaining shreds of rowdiness and vulgarity, was finally censored this year after decades of free rein. In essence, political correctness overran, and continues to overrun tradition.
Likewise, safety restrictions, along with a grand push to please alumni, have stifled the pep rallies of generations past. Once rowdy gatherings that promised to have boys building 20-foot-high pyramids, flying toilet paper and enough sweat to fill the Rock’s swimming pool, have become the family fun hour. More alumni than students attend, and for good reason. The speakers are invited for alumni. The location is geared toward alumni. And the security and rules in place at these gatherings promise that no one will be there except alumni. The pep rallies don’t mean anything to us because they’re no longer meant for us.
Don’t confuse our disinterest there for apathy. Most students are still living and breathing Notre Dame tradition, but for us, our dorm traditions may be more prominent. With a growing and widespread student body, we don’t have the proximity the old campus had so we use our dorms as a way to foster community. From the Fisher Regatta, to touching Sorin’s toe, to Milkshake Mass in Dillon, each dorm has tradition that unites its residents.
Regardless of its form, tradition is essential to Notre Dame’s being. Perhaps it’s the deep Catholic roots and the sacramental regimen of the Church that provide a certain amount of organization we have adapted to our academic year. Traditions offer the commonality that links us to our classmates, our predecessors and our University.
In their most basic form, traditions give us each something to look forward to as we slog through class work, long winters and exams. These needs ensure that while some traditions are bound to evolve or die, when one goes out, a new one is destined to take its place. But they are unavoidably destined to change.
Today, we proudly boast an all-campus Opening Mass held in the Joyce Center. We have a thriving Junior Parents’ Weekend. We have Drummer’s Circle every Friday before home games. We have returned to having commencement in the stadium.
We may not have the same traditions, but ours are important nonetheless. Fear not, remnants of the old days remain. The Zahm boys still run naked through campus during finals week. The seniors still make their unified last retreat to the Grotto. And we still all do and will bleed blue and gold. Our traditions may be different, but our love for this University is timeless.
Tara Hunt is a senior at Notre Dame and the Notre Dame Magazine summer 2011 intern. She will be writing a series of blogs detailing various aspects of student life at Notre Dame.