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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

On the ‘senior exclusion policy’

My freshman year, I served as a representative on the Diversity Council of Notre Dame. During one council meeting, Erin Hoffmann Harding came to listen to the perspectives of the council about how Residential Life and Student Affairs initiatives could best meet the needs of minority students at Notre Dame in order to increase the numbers of these students remaining on campus. After releasing the six-semester on-campus housing mandate, the Student Affairs and Residential Life promised to address the concerns brought up by students — such as those discussed at the Diversity Council meeting — through waivers and incentive plans. Today, the University released their proposed enhancements to Residential Life, and I cannot help but feel like alienating off-students from their campus community ignores every comment and concerned raised by the Diversity Council.

The cost to attend this university increases every year. Yet for me, receiving financial aid remains an uncertainty, despite relying on aid to attend. While the proposed enhancements include financial incentives — the first 250 sophomores who commit to staying on and students selected for non-RA leadership positions would receive financial credit — this remains far too variable for students like me. Even with these credits, cheaper rent in the South Bend community remains much more affordable than living on campus in many circumstances.

So, when the University announcement includes a plan to exclude students who move off campus from intramural sports, hall dances and hall councils, it feels like less of an enhancement and more of a punishment for students for whom living off campus remains the most cost-effective option. 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.

Speaking from personal experience, the network of seniors in the Pasquerilla West community, both on and off campus, have truly shaped my experiences at Notre Dame. Off-campus seniors regularly attend fundraisers, dorm events and dances. They have an integral part in shaping our community. Like many other girls in my dorm, I have loved serving on various committees and playing interhall sports. Even though I will be living off-campus next year, continuing to be involved in these aspects of dorm life is a way that I can continue to serve a community that served me so well over my past three years here. I fear that incoming students who plan to move off campus their senior year will not bother engaging at all in their residence halls because they do not wish to invest their time and effort into a community that will exclude them the minute they move off campus. To suddenly lose strong dorm ties would be incredibly detrimental to residence hall communities.  

I applaud the administration for taking into account the feedback of students through implementation of free laundry and a more diverse offering of meal plans and certain financial incentives. Yet the senior exclusion policy seems contradictory to the vast alumni networks, long lines of family legacies and strong traditions that demonstrate that regardless of where we stay during our time here or where we end up later in life, the Notre Dame family is a lifelong commitment.

Jessica D'Souza
April 11

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.