New policies intended to encourage more seniors to live on campus inspired an April 11 protest that attracted over 1,000 students, including about 100 who filled a Main Building hallway outside the locked doors of the Division of Student Affairs.
The target of their ire was a single edict among eight policy changes that the administration has planned to accompany the six-semester on-campus residency requirement announced in 2017. Starting in the fall semester of the 2021-22 academic year, an email from student affairs read, “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).”
Protesting students dubbed it “the senior exclusion policy,” denouncing it as antithetical to the notion of campus and dorm communities.
“It feels like they’re already kicking Notre Dame seniors out of the family before they’ve even graduated, going against pretty much all of their propaganda that they have for everyone looking to come to Notre Dame,” freshman Brian Donahoe told The Observer.
The University’s six-semester mandate began with the class that enrolled last August. Seniors will continue to have the option to live off campus, which more than 60 percent have done in recent years. Incentives such as financial benefits for staying on campus, a new senior leadership program, meal-plan flexibility and dorm kitchen enhancements are meant to make a fourth year on campus more appealing.
Some students argued that the money offered to seniors does not outweigh the potential savings from living in local housing. For students moving off campus to save money, the forced separation from residence hall communities “feels like less of an enhancement and more of a punishment,” junior Jessica D’Souza wrote in The Observer. “The message being sent is that if you cannot afford to live on campus for four years, or you have extenuating circumstances that exempt you from the six-semester policy, you are not as valuable a member of your hall community.”
At a special meeting with the student senate, associate vice president for residential affairs Heather Rakoczy Russell ’93 said that “conversation with students over the course of the next academic year” will shape the policies that differentiate the off-campus experience, The Observer reported.
The goal of all changes, Vice President for Student Affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding ’97 told the senate, is to preserve and enhance a distinguishing feature of student life: “We believe deeply that this residential experience matters — it’s part of the undergraduate education. We think it’s something that makes us different; we hope it’s something that makes us special. We hope ultimately that it’s a place where each student feels as if they belong.”