Thursday, November 18, 2010

#100: Notre Dame

Notre Dame Students like a lot of things.  They like things that are related to their religion and how they are always using Catholicism to guide their actions (even if just for the sake of appearing to be more Catholic than they really are).  They like things that pertain to their academic plight and how they firmly believe that Notre Dame is one of the most prestigious schools in the world (and how each of them is personally the smartest and most clever person one could ever meet).  They like things that have to do with their dorms and the crazy things that happen when a random collection of individuals is brought together to create a long-lasting community.  Notre Dame Students like things that are related to drinking and how, no matter how hard they work, they still know how to party hard.  And they like football.  Notre Dame Students like their football and the tradition-filled Saturdays that made the school what it is today.  Most of all, and this might seem a bit obvious, but they like what happens when all of these things come together: they like Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Students like the feeling they get when they walk to class across South Quad on a sunny day, when the shining Golden Dome catches their eye.  They like the feeling they get when they’re driving back to campus after a break and see that billboard for The Bookstore on I-80 coming from Chicago, and know they are almost there.  They like the feeling they get when they’re recognized as a Notre Dame Student because they’re wearing a monogrammed hat in a bar far from campus.  They love how it feels when they’re standing in a crowd of their peers, trying to enter the Notre Dame Stadium before kickoff and yelling at the top of their lungs:

Goooooooooooo IRISH, Beeeeeeeeeeeat TROJANS!!
Goooooooooooo IRISH, Beeeeeeeeeeeat TROJANS!!

Notre Dame Students like all of these things and more, but most of all they like knowing that of all the colleges they could have chosen at which to spend their four years, they came to a place with a tradition of excellence where the past meets the present, and the future isn’t too far behind.  They love the fact that they wound up at a place that truly is unique, where every day presents an opportunity for them to be a part of something special, and they love the fact that of all the students that still dream of going there, they were chosen by the University to make Notre Dame their home.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#99: Long-term relationships

The problem of gender relations at Notre Dame is one of the biggest complaints people have about student life at the school.  Students complain that the combination of single-sex dorms and parietals is a system of the past that discourages friendship between the sexes (see #63).  The continuance of dorm parties being informally restricted to men’s halls (see #98) even further separates the genders on a day-to-day basis and leads to awkwardness at all turns. 

The result of these things is that men and women at Notre Dame do not often foster actual friendships with each other or even really go on informal dates with one another.  Instead, men and women at Notre Dame consistently find their sole interaction in long-term relationships.

Notre Dame does not have a significant dating culture.  One day, Notre Dame Students are hooking up together, and the next day sees them turning around Claddagh rings (see #6) and changing Facebook statuses to show and tell the world that they have entered into a relationship.  The lack of dating at Notre Dame stems not only from the complete lack of avenues to develop rich friendships between the sexes, but it also is caused by the lack of nearby dating options.  Although this could be changing with the recently opened Eddy Street Commons, the fact that Notre Dame exists in its own little bubble, distinctly separated from the outside, leaves students with few places to go on dates beyond the dining halls.  While “dining hall dates” are certainly popular, their awkwardness is a further detractor from a dating culture in general.

However, the lack of a dating culture does not mean a lack of relationships.  Notre Dame Students love entering into long-term relationships primarily because they love the idea of marriage (see #91), but also because they love all of the things that go along with long-term relationships. 

Notre Dame men like long-term relationships because they sometimes grant them an opportunity to go beyond the Notre Dame Hook-Up and into a new territory of intimacy (see #21).  These men have a person to consistently break parietals with, and this gives them an opportunity to show their friends and hallmates how awesome they are (even if they are not awesome at all).

Notre Dame women like long-term relationships for reasons beyond the direction of their Claddagh rings.  For women, a long-term relationship gives them a strong group of friends to hang out with that they might not have if they only hang out with other girls.  It’s no secret that Notre Dame men form stronger groups and have a more intense level of brotherhood between them than Notre Dame women, and so they are happy to allow girls into their groups when their friends begin a relationship.  Because of this, many Notre Dame women end up being better friends with their boyfriends’ hallmates than they ever were with their own hallmates.  The relationship, therefore, allows a Notre Dame woman to become a part of all the things that make men’s halls great, like room pick drama (see #80), playing video games, and the weekly hugfest known as the Rite of Peace during Sunday night dorm Mass (see #10).

Once they come together in their long- term relationships, Notre Dame Couples like all of the things that make a relationship great.  They like spooning on couches where everybody can see them (see #27), wearing each others sweatpants (see #49), and playing footsy while “studying” together in LaFortune (see #68).  They like watching Love, Actually together and arguing about how justified Mark’s actions are (see #69).  They like walking around the lakes, actual dates at Papa Vino’s, and staying in on weekend nights because they no longer need to look for dance-floor makeouts at dorm parties and Finny’s. 

Overall, Notre Dame Students like long-term relationships because they like to love and be loved.  They like the consistency that comes with a relationship, and hate having to resort to the hook- up culture.  They like to think that the person they are dating is the one they will be with for the rest of their life, that they will get married to each other in the Basilica, watch their kids become Notre Dame Students in their own right, and that they will grow old together and live happily ever after.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

#98: Dorm parties

Without a Greek system at Notre Dame (see #79), students have to rely on different ways than the stereotypical frat party to have their fun.  With a relatively small number of students living off-campus, part of this desire for large raging parties is quenched by the occasional house party, and part of it is satisfied by the even rarer multi-house bonanza (like PigTostal or St. Patrick’s Day).  However, the most common form of partying (that is incredibly unique to Notre Dame) are the dorm parties that ring out across campus every Friday and Saturday night.

Dorm parties are made possible by the incredibly relaxed rules on drinking in many of the men’s residence halls.  While underage drinking is technically not allowed by the rules of ResLife and the Notre Dame Administration, many of the rectors and hall staffs usually turn a blind eye to the consumption of beer within the walls of their hall (but do not extend the same courtesy to hard alcohol).  These rectors believe that since the students are going to act like college students no matter what they do, it is best for them to make their “poor” decisions in a somewhat safe environment within the dorms.  Likewise, because rectresses are usually irrational and crazy (see #59), dorm parties are de facto restricted to men’s dorms.

Dorm parties are a unique type of party which involves a lot of planning and teamwork (see #25).  The first hurdle in planning a dorm party is getting the beer in the dorm.  While hall staff will turn a blind eye to an actual party, they will confiscate beer if they see it.  This means that students must get a 21-year-old to purchase the beer, and then meet him at a discreet location such as Main Circle where the students (almost always freshmen) pick up the beer in duffle bags and carry it back to the dorm.  If a student is caught by police during this process, things will probably end up poorly for him and “pourly” for the beer. 

Once students have obtained beer and secured it in their rooms, the next step in planning a party is to publicize it.  While usually achieved by creating incredibly clever themes (even though almost nobody dresses to the theme), Notre Dame dorm parties usually have a corresponding Facebook event so that their organizers can invite all of the girls they know (men are not invited to dorm parties in another dorm). 

On the day of the party, students clear out all of the small furniture from one or two rooms in their section and make sure that any bars in nearby rooms are well-stocked.  After emptying small furniture and valuables from the rooms, plastic is used to wrap any dressers, desks or beds that might be remaining to prevent them from getting spilled or vomited on.  Notre Dame Students then set up sound systems with the perfect Notre Dame Playlist for the occasion.  Finally, beer is put on ice in a plethora of trash cans in any party room so that it can be easily accessible and cold when people arrive.

Once the party begins, Notre Dame Students turn off the lights in the party rooms (aside from some accent lighting like Christmas lights, strobe lights, or blacklights) and watch as the room fills until it is overflowing with people.  Inside the party room, Notre Dame Students “dance” and “drink” in near- complete darkness while things get really hot and people sweat profusely.  Outside the party room, RAs and rectors monitor the halls, but turn a blind eye to the debauchery happening within the party room.  As long as the doors stay closed, people stay out of the hallway, and nobody is found vomiting in the bathroom, hall staffs in most of the men’s dorms don’t care about what is occurring..  Once the clock strikes 2 A.M., dorm parties are promptly brought to a close by parietals and students drunkenly spill out of the parties and into the friendly confines of Reckers or LaFortune (see #14).

Notre Dame Students like dorm parties because they are a uniquely weird and dorky way of drinking that can  be found only at a school like Notre Dame.  They also like dorm parties for other reasons.  The men who host dorm parties like them because they give girls a reason to come to their rooms, and these parties make it so that the men don’t even have to go outside into the harsh South Bend weather (see #43) for a fun and eventful night of drinking.  Students also love dorm parties because their dark and crowded nature leads to plenty of dance floor makeouts (sometimes even accidentally), which always lends itself to the possibility of a Notre Dame Hook-Up only a few doors down in the man’s bedroom (see #21).  Furthermore, Notre Dame Students love dorm parties because underclassmen can host them on their own, and can avoid having to go to house parties hosted by people they don’t even know.  

However, the biggest reason Notre Dame Students like dorm parties is that they give them an opportunity to drink without risking their stellar reputations with ridiculous arrests.  Since police and NDSP don’t normally come in the dorms, the only people that can get a dorm party patron in trouble are the hall staff, and even when hall staff intervene in out-of-control parties, they usually don’t do much more than send people stumbling off to Reckers.  Notre Dame Students like the safety from arrest that dorm parties provide, and this is the primary reason they have such an affinity for dorm parties.          

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#97: Hating the other dining hall

When it comes to eating meals, Notre Dame Students like to do what is fastest and easiest.  Even though plenty of them have cars on campus, they rarely go to off-campus restaurants to eat, and even though there are two dining halls on campus, Notre Dame Students rarely switch between the two. 

Most students typically go to the dining hall that is closest to their dorm because it is most convenient.  They can walk there for lunch on their way to class, and they can get there quickly and without hassle for dinner.  In the winter, Notre Dame Students do this because they also like to walk through the snow from their dorms to the dining hall in athletic shorts, just to show how little the weather affects them (even though it does).

By only going to one dining hall, students grow accustomed to sitting in the same area and seeing the same people.  Students from West Quad and South Quad consistently go to South Dining Hall (referred to by saying “South” or “SDH”).  These students yell out either “right-right” or “right-left” to tell their friends where they will be sitting, and before long groups of friends know exactly what side of what aisle to look to and walk down in order to find their friends.  These groups will instinctively know second and third choice seating areas in case their chosen area is occupied or closed. 

Students from North Quad and Mod Quad consistently go to North Dining Hall (referred to by saying “North” or “NDH”).  These students will determine where to sit before they get their food, and will leave coats, flip up chairs, and place IDs on their chosen table in order to mark their territory.  While both halves of campus have their different customs in their chosen dining hall, the one thing all Notre Dame Students share is a hatred for the dining hall in which they do not regularly eat.

Students who regularly eat at South complain constantly about the “modernism” that exists at North.  They hate the fact that the dining hall has multiple levels almost as much as the televisions that exist inside it.  Furthermore, South regulars hate the fact that they can never find their friends when they eat at North.  Why, they wonder, would you waste time saving a seat with your ID, when long lines are forming in the food distribution areas?  South regulars spend inordinate amounts of time looking for their friends when they eat at North.

The biggest complaint that South regulars have about North, however, is the food distribution system.  Food stations at North are seemingly spread throughout the dining hall in a maze of doorways that is akin to a funhouse.  South patrons are used to the single room in their dining hall where they can quickly make a loop and see what the options are for dinner.  At North, most students know what they are going to get before they enter the building and make a beeline towards the room of their choice.  Because it is impossible for Southies to find food in North, they pretty much only go there when they are looking for two specific menu items unique to North: pasta stir fry and make-your-own-pizza.

North patrons have similar complaints about SDH.  They find it impossible to find their friends in the large crowded rooms of tables that all look the same (see #36), and since they aren’t regular Southies, they don’t have a proper system in place to find their friends.  Their biggest complaint, however, is the abomination that is the SDH food distribution system.  When Northies enter the center part of SDH (where the food is distributed), they see a crowded and congested mess of confusion.  There are people EVERYWHERE, with lines pushing into other lines, and people waiting in two lines at similar times.  If peppered flank steak is the meat entrĂ©e, the salad bars become engulfed in the line of steak-eaters.  If there is a particularly enticing pasta dish, there will be an impenetrable line preventing hungry eaters from getting to the pizza or waffle-making sections.  Making matters worse are the indecisive Southies who don’t intricately plan their meals ahead of time by checking the menu online.  They add to the congestion by wandering around the food area looking through all of the options before they make a choice.  If NDH is overly organized with rooms for different food, SDH is an underorganized mess of confusion that Northies will never be able to understand.

The ironic thing about dining hall loyalty at Notre Dame is that both dining halls generally serve the same food.  Sure there are some notable differences like make-your-own-pizza, but when push comes to shove, students can pretty much get the same food at either dining hall.  Because of this, while Notre Dame Students will always loathe eating in the dining hall they don’t frequent, eventually all Notre Dame Students will come to hate the repetition at BOTH dining halls, and will begin to have more trips off-campus to places like Rocco’s, Bruno’s, Chili’s, and even Red Lobster.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

#96: Getting indignant

Notre Dame Students spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing issues that impact their campus, country, and world.  In their thoughts and discussions about these issues, Notre Dame Students grow to care deeply about them (or, they at least pretend to care deeply about them).  Not only do they care about these issues, but Notre Dame Students formulate strong opinions about them and usually try to convince their fellow students to share their opinions.  Yet when something happens that goes against a student’s opinion on an issue, they will get indignant.

On campus, Notre Dame Students get indignant about a lot of issues ranging from the comical to the serious.  Many of these issues are based in Catholic social teaching and students' attempts to show they are more Catholic than other students (see #4).  Notre Dame Students get indignant about Barack Obama’s commencement speech and the issue of abortion (2009), they get indignant about the Gay Film Festival (2006-2007), they get indignant about Christopher Hitchins (2010), and they constantly get indignant about the University’s refusal to pay dining hall workers a living wage (1990-2050, and probably longer).

To deal with their indignation, Notre Dame Students do everything that they possibly can do while only minimizing their time investment in such efforts.  Students will write strongly worded Viewpoint letters (see #71) that attack the University or the offending party for doing something they deem to be incredibly offensive and insulting.  To protest, they will join Facebook groups that have no power or influence whatsoever.  If they want to show that they are strongly indignant about something, they might even organize protests or demand to meet with Fr. Jenkins (a demand that is rarely met).

Students also get indignant about campus issues that aren’t as serious as those based in Catholic social teaching, but are rather based in a student’s personal convictions about societal norms and what Notre Dame means to them.  Students get indignant about how The Shirt fits them (see #2), they get indignant about police using horses at tailgates, they get indignant about the lack of $5 footlongs at the campus Subway, and they get indignant about the musical stylings of Freekbass.  While none of these things have their genesis in religion or a moral system, they are still important sources of indignation for Notre Dame Students.

Beyond the Notre Dame Bubble, there are a lot of things that Notre Dame Students have an opportunity to get indignant about.  While many of these things are similar to the campus issues that cause indignation stemming from Catholic social teaching, Notre Dame Students get even more indignant about things that happen on a national or international scale.  By far, the area that creates the most indignation amongst Notre Dame Students is the continent of Africa (see #1).  Notre Dame Students get indignant about the problems in Darfur, they get indignant about the prevalence of AIDS across the continent, and they get indignant about the simple lack of development and infrastructure in various countries.  To soothe their indignation about these issues, Notre Dame Students travel to Africa and do research for their theses.

Overall, Notre Dame Students' indignation shows how much they care about important issues on campus and around the world (or, at the very least, how much they pretend to care about these issues).  These issues will change from year to year, and the students’ methods of response might change, but the indignation will always remain the same.  Even after graduation, Notre Dame Students will continue to get indignant, because the only people who get more indignant than Notre Dame Students are Notre Dame Alumni.