Kylee Kazenski ’24 can fire up a crowd, brandish a shillelagh and do pushups after touchdowns with the best of them. She made history on the sidelines at the October 28 Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh contest when she became the first female student to appear as the Leprechaun at a Fighting Irish football game.
“This is yet another milestone showing that the role of the Leprechaun is versatile,” Kazenski, a computer science major, told The Observer. “To me, portraying the Leprechaun is spreading the spirit of Notre Dame deeper than just the joy of sport, but also in community and respect.”
Four women have served as the Notre Dame Leprechaun for a variety of varsity sports. The first was Lynnette Wukie ’21 — who emceed at football games because of COVID-19 restrictions during her senior year — as well as Sophie Bouldoukian ’23 and another current Leprechaun, McKenna Englhardt, a sophomore.
Due to campus safety concerns for riders and pedestrians, e-scooters and other personal electric vehicles (PEVs) are no longer permitted on campus. The ban took effect December 17. Notre Dame police compiled PEV-related accident reports from fall 2021 through fall 2023 and tallied 104 PEV-involved accidents or crashes, with 89 percent of those cases requiring attention at a medical facility for at least one person. In October, the battery in an e-skateboard caught fire in the Mendoza College of Business.
For students unable to take their e-vehicles home at Christmas break, campus police offered storage through the spring semester. Other institutions that have banned PEVs include Boston College, Fordham and Yale.
During an October 17 visit to Capitol Hill, athletic director Jack Swarbrick ’76 advocated for student-athletes’ right to collectively bargain with “the conferences in which they compete” at a congressional hearing on the ability of college athletes to control and profit from uses of their name, image and likeness.
Swarbrick told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he opposes the classification of student-athletes as university employees. He suggested instead giving athletes a special status that would maintain their positions as full-time students at a university, but still allow them to collectively bargain with a larger entity.
“It’s a fairly radical notion, but if we could find a way to reach binding agreements with our student-athletes, most of this goes away,” Swarbrick told a Yahoo! Sports reporter after the hearing adjourned. “We don’t have the mechanism to [collectively bargain] without them becoming employees. It would require a new mechanism that would recognize the rights of student-athletes to negotiate for the terms and conditions of their participation as athletes without being employees. I think it’s worth considering.”
Swarbrick, who has been AD since 2008, is set to retire in early 2024. He will be succeeded by NBC Sports chairman Pete Bevacqua ’93.
The second floor of LaFortune Student Center is now a popular spot for studying, socializing and student gatherings. After a major renovation, the University celebrated the opening of its Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on September 21.
Natural light, colorful furniture and plentiful gathering areas make the new center an attractive draw. The former Montgomery Auditorium on the first floor was transformed into an atrium staircase leading to the center, which is home to three University offices: the Gender Relations Center, Multicultural Student Programs and Services and the Office of Student Enrichment. PrismND, the LGBTQ+ undergraduate student organization, and the student-led Diversity Council also have offices there.
The new space has increased membership and participation, says Jo’Vette Hawkins ’24, the council’s president. “The space is a melting pot for everyone. It’s helping to propel us forward.”
Monks from the Tashi Kyil monastery in India spent five days in November carefully crafting a colorful, intricate Medicine Buddha sand mandala in the Jordan Hall of Science reading room. Continuing the interfaith monastic tradition begun between the Trappist monk Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama, Notre Dame’s Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine invited the monks to create the geometric configuration of symbols to recognize the common principle of compassion in response to suffering shared by all religious traditions. Those on campus were encouraged to stop by and quietly observe the monks at their work, which was also livestreamed. After it was finished, the mandala sands were swept away to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists in the world.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane . . . it’s a drone? In the fall, the Notre Dame Police Department began using drones to monitor traffic on home football Saturdays and deemed the experiment a success. Video from these remotely piloted aircraft is livestreamed to the stadium’s command center.
NDPD has long relied on a helicopter to keep an eye on traffic and continues to use it for postgame tracking.
“Drones allow us to check areas that are difficult to see or access, so we can maintain a safe campus from the ground and air,” says Austin Galletti, the department’s lead drone pilot. The added tool helps officers make decisions about how to handle congestion on local roads in real time.
The University now has four drones and nine certified operators between the NDPD and the Notre Dame Fire Department.
In October, the University evacuated six students who were studying in Jerusalem and relocated them to its London Global Gateway. The move happened shortly after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Notre Dame suspended its study abroad program at Tantur, home of the Jerusalem Global Gateway and the Tantur Ecumenical Institute.
At Tantur — located on a 40-acre hilltop campus on the road south from Jerusalem to Bethlehem — students and staff members spent more than seven hours sheltering when the attacks began, OSV News reported. “Violence only perpetuates more violence,” Father John Paul, a Jesuit priest who serves as rector of Tantur, told a reporter. “War traumatizes everybody. And war only deepens fear. It deepens suspicions. It deepens hatred.”
Paul expressed hope for “a deep-seated peace,” not simply a cessation of hostilities but an examination of the “deeper issues that have not been dealt with over the years.”
Fisher and Pangborn halls will soon fade into Notre Dame history. Both dorms will close at the end of this academic year and be demolished — to be replaced by two new residence halls that will house more residents and offer enhanced community spaces. The names of the new halls have not been announced.
Fisher and Pangborn were built on South Quad during a campus construction boom after World War II. Fisher opened in 1952 and Pangborn in 1955. Both were men’s dorms on the then-all-male campus. Pangborn housed female students from 1992 until 2016, then served as a “swing hall” — providing housing for students whose home halls were being renovated — until it again became a men’s hall in 2021.
Next fall, Pangborn residents will move to an as-yet-unnamed men’s residence hall under construction on East Quad. Fisher residents will relocate to the current swing dorm, Zahm Hall, for two years.
The new dorms will be designed in Notre Dame’s signature collegiate gothic style and are expected to open in fall 2026. Construction of three new dorms is part of the University’s efforts to expand capacity and improve amenities in light of the six-semester residency requirement for undergraduates that Notre Dame announced in 2017.
The last Notre Dame residence hall to be closed and demolished was Holy Cross Hall in 1990.
Notre Dame is No. 3 in the nation — when it comes to robot food deliveries. The University placed just behind Ohio State University and the University of Arizona for “Schools with the Most Robot Deliveries” during the 2022-23 school year, according to the food-ordering firm Grubhub Inc. The company announced the results in a report on dining trends among its 270-plus partner schools across the United States. At Notre Dame, robots delivered more than 14,000 food orders between February, when the service launched, and the end of April 2023.