Residential Community Enhancements
At Notre Dame, residential hall communities have long been central to an undergraduate education. These communities are designed to be inclusive of all members; dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of each individual; and characterized by a collective sense of care and concern for the common good and service to others. In September 2017, the University announced strategies to strengthen undergraduate residential communities, including incentives for seniors to live on campus and a six-semester on-campus requirement.
Following the 2017 announcement, a variety of enhancements and incentives related to residential life were generated or improved based on student input; engagement with hall staff; and discussions with Campus Life Council, Diversity Council, Hall Presidents’ Council, Student Senate, the Advisory Committee for Student Climate Related to Race & Ethnicity, the Advisory Committee for Student Climate Related to LGBTQ Students, and the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention.
The following outlines three types of planned improvements: incentives for attracting seniors to remain on campus, residential benefits for all students, and efforts targeted to the quality of hall life. The University will launch these items over the next few years, with implementation completed by the time the Class of 2022 enters its senior year.
Details on Residential Enhancements
Incentives for On-Campus Seniors
1. Expand compensated leadership roles for seniors. RAs are incredibly important senior hall leaders, called to help form community, provide pastoral outreach to their residents, and serve as role models consistent with our Catholic, Holy Cross mission. The University deeply values other mentor relationships, and the number of students who want to serve in leadership positions across campus continually inspires us. We will therefore create more opportunities for seniors to serve, with the addition of five new types of leadership roles (“Senior Fellows”) across campus. Students in these roles will be paid $3,000 annually, which exceeds standard work-study compensation, enabling students to choose on-campus leadership regardless of their financial aid package.
The new Senior Fellow roles will reinforce other important University priorities or community needs. Four types of on-campus Senior Fellow leadership opportunities will be supported by relevant University departments, with about 10-12 roles each: (a) internationalization, (b) diversity and inclusion, (c) GreeNDot/Bystander Intervention, and (d) health and wellness. A fifth type of Senior Fellow role (at least 30 students) will work to serve the specific needs of a student’s hall community. Some residence halls began piloting this type of senior role in 2018-2019, with hall-based opportunities ranging from academic prefects to retreat coordinators to health and wellness programmers. These roles have allowed for hall-based leadership that meets the unique needs of each community as well as the talents of individual students.
Timing: Residential Life and relevant University departments will offer information sessions about Senior Fellow roles in fall 2019, with applications and hiring occurring in spring 2020. Hall-specific pilot roles will continue in some halls in 2019-2020. The first full cohort of new Senior Fellows will be in place for the 2020-2021 academic year.
2. Offer a $2,000 senior year credit to sophomore students who commit to live on campus as seniors. Recognizing that many students choose senior year off-campus housing as early as sophomore year, the University will offer a $2,000 senior year incentive credit to students who commit in the fall of their sophomore year to remain on campus as seniors. This offering underscores our belief in the need for senior leaders in residence halls, while better aligning this discernment process with the current practices of local property owners who often market senior year housing to students during their sophomore year. These commitments will also help the University more effectively plan for future residential capacity as we seek to attract more seniors back to campus.
Sophomore students who commit by November 1, 2019 to remain on campus during the 2021-2022 year will receive an incentive credit of $2,000 during the 2021-2022 year (credit not to exceed total cost of attendance). The senior year housing renewal process will still occur in spring of junior year, and will be open to all students, including those who do not commit early.
Two important safeguards will be implemented with this offering to ensure fairness for all participants: First, there will be a cap on the first 250 students who commit. Second, there will be a $1,000 fine assessed on any broken commitment.
Timing: The Office of Residential Life will offer sophomores the option to commit in early fall 2019. Senior incentive credits for these students will be applied during the 2021-2022 academic year.
Residential Benefits for All Students
1. Introduce more flexible on-campus meal plans. Our listening sessions revealed that students seek more variety and flexibility in meal plans as they progress at Notre Dame – having already established points of connection with other students in academic programs, residence hall communities, or extracurricular endeavors. Some students also expressed a desire to cook more of their own meals or eat at a wider variety of local restaurants. At the same time, communal dining remains a critical component of our aspiration to build strong residence hall communities, particularly for newer students and during the dinner meal.
We are grateful for the feedback provided to date, and are excited to announce a variety of changes to Campus Dining. Specific details will be finalized through the assistance of student input during fall 2019. Campus Dining intends to offer block plan options for all on-campus students. Block plans will provide a set number of swipes per semester; and swipes will no longer expire weekly. Moreover, seniors will have the ability to select even more flexible meal plan options, including plans with fewer meals on campus than the current Gold Plan and/or plans that do not require the purchase of flex points. These changes will allow seniors more opportunities for independent cooking or dining at local restaurants.
Timing: Campus Dining will engage students in the design of the new plans during the 2019-2020 academic year. New meal plans will be offered beginning in the 2020-2021 year.
2. Eliminate coin laundry fees in residence halls. Students have expressed discontent with the costs associated with residence hall-based laundry machines, and Student Government recently addressed this issue with the Board of Trustees. These costs disproportionately add a financial burden to students with greater financial need. Benchmarking revealed that about half of Notre Dame’s peer institutions do not charge for on-campus self-service laundry. As a result, the University will continue to engage with student focus groups in the fall of 2019 and discontinue the practice of charging additional fees for laundry machines in residence halls beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Timing: Residence hall-based self-service laundry will be free of cost for all on-campus residents beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year. Additional student focus groups will be held in fall 2019 to create additional full service laundry solutions.
3. Eliminate single room upcharge of $500. The availability of single rooms varies substantially by hall because of differences in building design. Single rooms are particularly attractive to senior students who have already successfully navigated living with another roommate and desire more privacy as they mature. Sophomores and juniors are also increasingly requesting singles for mental health or other conditions as accommodations through Sara Bea Disability Services, though they are unavailable to first-year students. Charging an additional fee for this type of room is not equitable and is a counter-incentive for upperclassmen to remain on campus.
Timing: No additional fee will be charged for single rooms beginning with room picks in spring 2020, applying to room charges for the 2020-2021 academic year.
4. Ensure adequate kitchen facilities in residence halls. Each residence hall now has at least one full kitchen, which allows students the opportunity to prepare a meal together. New halls and major renovations will include at least two full kitchens per hall. The intentional addition of kitchens will ensure that students have the option to prepare their own food as meal plans become more flexible.
Timing: Baumer Hall will offer two full kitchens, and the new women’s hall opening in fall 2020 will have a full kitchen on each floor. Dillon Hall will have two full kitchens installed during its renovation in 2019-2020, and future new halls and renovations will be similarly equipped.
Other Hall Life Efforts
1. Ensure a common set of practices across residence halls. While students deeply value the unique programs or traditions in their communities, they also express a desire for more consistency across halls. For example, students perceive that some halls enforce alcohol violations more strictly. We also learned of some hall-specific practices that students felt were overly procedural, such as mandatory pre-hall dance meetings. Based on student feedback, rectors embarked on a substantial study of hall practices in fall 2017, with 100% rector participation. A committee of rectors and Residential Life Leadership Team members prepared a set of recommendations for universal practices in spring 2018, with Associate Vice President for Residential Life, Heather Rakoczy Russell, making the final decision on these recommendations. A variety of new norms and “universal practices,” including change in language associated with parties and proactive encouragement of socialization in women’s halls, were unveiled to all RAs at the August 2018 hall staff formation.
Timing: We are committed to continuing conversation across residence hall communities about what practices should be universal and what should naturally vary by community. At the launch of each academic year, we will share this information with students in a more transparent way by letter and on our website. Students should also feel free to ask their rectors about universal practices or offer suggestions to a member of the Residential Life Leadership Team.
2. Differentiate on- and off-campus experiences. The residential experience is crucial to a Notre Dame undergraduate education that prepares and forms our students for life. Within the residence halls, students experience the benefits and privileges of community living through shared social, spiritual, developmental, and recreational activities that embody an education that is attentive to the formation of both mind and heart.
After six semesters, however, students may decide to leave their residential community and move off campus for the remainder of their time at the University. Many of the initiatives described above are designed to incent seniors to choose to stay on campus, enabling them to model how to live well in community, mentor underclassmen, and share the wisdom and leadership skills they have developed at Notre Dame. In contrast, choosing to live off campus allows students to have an experience that more closely resembles the independence of post-collegiate life. A choice to live off campus can be healthy and formative for seniors as well. However, this choice also naturally changes their relationship with their former hall community.
Timing: In the coming year, together with its partners in the Division of Student Affairs and across the University, the Office of Residential Life will draw clearer distinctions between residents of hall communities and those who opt to move out of them. Students who choose to leave 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). The new policy will take effect in fall 2021.