Zahm Hall Discussion

If you don’t care about your own health how can you expect the students you are responsible for to follow the rules that you set up?

There’s so much truth in your post.

The one thing that I loved about Notre Dame was that it dared to be different, dared to break the mold. I have a top 1% student (both in terms of academics and ECs), and she has absolutely no interest in attending a school like Stanford or any of the Ivies. Notre Dame was a breath of fresh air among the T20 schools. If ND wants to be like the other T20 schools, we are happy to keep moving.

In our opinion, the one thing that made ND stand out was the structure of its residence hall system. It’s a huge selling point and was the primary reason for my daughter’s interest. I firmly believe that their dorm structure is the best in the country. However, if the administration is prepared to steamroll a group of students based on perception (and the actions of a few), the community isn’t really all that strong. It’s all a façade.

For many years, we have had lingering reservations about the direction that Notre Dame was headed (you touched on several of those things upthread), but this may be the last straw for us. We have seen several policies rolled out this year that don’t foster that sense of community but rather encourage kids to turn on their fellow Domers. As we look for a school for our DD, a strong, caring community is at the top of our list… even above strength of academics. And I am just not sure ND still fits the bill. And it saddens me so much.

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Completely get it.

Our daughter views the Ivy schools the same as yours, and quickly decided that ND was “the” school for her and secured a spot applying REA.

I’d give it time.

Even with the issues referenced, ND is still the best private university in the country - I, like most alums (including yourself) have an unyielding affinity when push comes to shove.

Every school has warts, especially given the unprecedented exogenous pressures, however the culture, character, and community are second to none.

Growing pains, my friend.

We look forward to seeing your daughter in attendance the following year.

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ND is an institution but also an Institution, emphasis on the capital I. You can claim to be whatever you want and have the PR machine to enhance that image. But if you don’t follow through you are going to get outed in the end. I see a trend where this is changing and saddens me as someone who loves who ND claims to be. My kids have all said that this is a place where students help each other. Academically they have never felt competitiveness among their peers. It is a place where you can be really smart and love football games and study hard and love community service and and have fun. The dorm structure represents a home and family and belonging without the BS of a Greek life system. This is really really rare. Everyone buys into the vibe on campus and its obvious to anyone who visits. That’s a challenging combination to find in elite higher education. Obviously the past 12 months have been anything but normal and everything is reacting to this. But I am uneasy with the direction things are going. My kids have said the ND of my youngest is not the same ND they attended, and this is not said with a positive spin. They see the shift as selling out to money and status and elitism. If we had wanted Harvard or Stanford or any of the others I would have sent them there. I guess we will see. No white privilege here btw. And no legacy.
I would still send them all here, can’t imagine loving any place more. But I am not naive anymore either after the last 14 years as an ND parent its easier to see the warts. Its a business. So it is a follow the money in that brand and perception is everything. And I get it. Mostly.


But it’s a binary proposition.

Either maintain ranking status or plummet.

Not advocating which avenue to pursue, but it’s one or the other.

Can’t have it both ways.

Agree. I hope they choose wisely. Some younger and some older alumni feel its time for a change in leadership…Though with the admirable size of the current endowment and the increase in the status of the application pool each year who knows if there will be any big changes. Still love it though, warts and all. Not easy answers for sure.

It can be argued persuasively that the size of the endowment has set the University on a dangerous, irreparable path.

When endowments become too large, alumni lose control, essentially ceding control to the trustees.

Alumni aren’t interested in developing and operating a business. Trustees? That’s a completely different story. They’re very much interested in running a business, but only “as they see fit.”

Who are their peers?

Well, the trustees of similarly situated schools. It’s in effect a collective trust or co-op whereby what they perceive to be the appropriate long-term course of action is wholly unchecked except by the co-op of which they are apart, As the co-op always moves in sync, there are effectively no checks and balances.

This movement, one that has gained an extraordinary amount of momentum over the last decade, has been hijacked by the media, big tech, and both political parties, which has created hyper-reflexivity between the universities and Corporate America/government, resulting in the passing and implementation of policies at the university “and” the corporate levels - policies that typically take decades to put in place - that have been switched-on almost overnight.

For decades Corporate America has been at odds with the policies of the top 20 schools. Today? Simpatico.

That’s a machine that’s entirely narrative-based and simply too large to upend.

Large endowments have killed the power of the country’s fragmented alumni base, and recent political movements have created such a powerful, inextricable partnership between Corporate America and the top universities that both are essentially one entity today. That’s a very definable problem to which the solutions are wholly undefinable.

What can one do? Stop purchasing Coca- Cola products, iPhones, and Amazon products? Not gonna happen. Not in this country.


Obviously you have a beef with the situation. Fr Jenkins was tested prior to the event. He was told all attendees were tested. That turned out to be incorrect. I have many ‘issues’ with some of the administration decisions, like removing Columbus tapestries. I feel like they are bending too much to the cancel culture, while I suspect you would feel they are not doing enough.


@choicetime and @Dis3456 - my DS is in Stanford Hall. They had a pretty bad reputation until they had a rector change. The new rector did a great job of changing culture at the Hall. In his third year, they won Hall of the Year. I feel bad for Zahm students. Based on some comments by my son and his previous rector, there was a great deal of dysfunction in the “community” of Zahm. They referred to it as the brotherhood. They have a reputation for issues. None of us is privy to the decisions in the background that led to this final decision. I personally wish it was handled better. I am still much more satisfied with the administration at ND than what I have seen at it’s peers like USC and UC’s. I would gladly encourage my DS to attend here if he were applying again.


Agree, but this argument again reinforces that in the end its all, or at least too much, about the money. And that’s unfortunate. For all of us.


I believe the Columbus tapestries are not removed but were just covered up. And I may be off base but I seem to remember the last time that I was in Main Bldg earlier in 2020 they were not covered anymore, I agree too much caving into and fear of cancel culture and definite over correct in political correctness. It’s all about perception though lol.


Thank you for sharing your son’s experience at Stanford Hall. What I don’t think most people outside ND realize is the level of control and oversight the rector and RAs have. A change in leadership (and, by extension, expectations) at the dorm level can change the culture relatively quickly. By and large, ND students are truly great kids!

This brings me full circle. I don’t understand why the ND administration ALLOWED the behavior at Zahm for as long as they did. If they really wanted the culture changed, they could have easily implemented rules and and enforced them. They could have hand-picked a rector who would have fostered a different type of community. When you understand the dorm structure, it’s really not that hard or difficult to figure out how to change the culture. Look at the example of Stanford. However, the administration turned a blind eye for years and then decided without warning to take it out on the current residents of Zahm. It makes the decision that much more appalling to me.

For clarity, I am not advocating not holding students accountable for their respective actions. Du Lac is very clear about what is and is not allowed, and ResLife has never been shy about stepping in! But it’s not fair to place 100% of the blame on the students. The administration has looked the other way for years, and they have implicitly given their stamp of approval on much of the behavior that they now blame for Zahm’s closure. It would have been far more merciful for the school to acknowledge (at least internally) the role it played in the culture at Zahm and announce to Zahm and the community that things would be different moving forward. And enforce those new expectations. At ND, it’s not a hard thing to do.


The University should be worried about the Sorin College kids.

When they move back into Sorin College, after having spent a year in transition living together in Zahm, what will the University do when the Zahm culture disease infects the Sorin College kids and that cloud migrates over to and infects the newly renovated Sorin College?

Let’s hope all the Sorin College kids-transferees to Zahm are seniors in-waiting and will never step foot on ND soil, collectively, again.

I do agree, as an outsider, that Zahm’s punishment was abrupt and it seemed like the administration gave up on them. I do feel bad for the guys at some level.

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It’s all subjective today.

Elastic barometers.

No markers, no rules.

Power is consolidated.

One big lottery pick.

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Not really sure what makes these dorms so special. Would much prefer they be class specific so you can meet your peers. Why do freshman want to walk by seniors all day that have no interest in them?

It’s actually the whole strength and uniqueness of ND’s dorm structure. Most students stay in the same dorm all of their time on campus. Transfers to another hall happen but not all that often. Students are now required to live on campus for 3 years, it is all centered on community building and it differentiates them from other universities. Dorm life is integral to the kids experience and their dorm is their home. Kids identify themselves by their dorm in large part. Each hall has its own personality and traditions and events. Intramurals, formals, service, and activities are centered around your dorm community. Not everything obviously but alot. And actually upperclassmen are not disinterested in freshmen at all, as they consider themselves part of the same community. There are plenty of opportunities to meet peers, dorms have sister and brother halls where they get to know classmates. It is very different from most universities, in a good way imo. Students and alumni are typically very loyal to their dorm community, hence the strong reaction to what happened with Zahm.

Totally agree. I have the mirror experience of twins at different schools. The ND experience is definitely the community building vibe. His brother at ASU was in the dorm and even before COIVD was isolated. There is very little effort to build a network of friends, much less a community. He was able to get plugged into band. That really helped. But the halls at ND are not just a dorm.

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