Wednesday, July 14, 2010

#90: Looking down on locals

Notre Dame Students hail from all regions of the country, but most of them come from similar suburban areas.  When they first arrive at Notre Dame, students don’t really notice the major differences between their hometowns and South Bend because as freshmen they don’t have many reasons or avenues to stray too far outside the Notre Dame Bubble.  As they get older and bring cars to school, have more meals away from the dining halls (see #53), go to local bars, get jobs or volunteer positions, and move out of the dorms, Notre Dame Students spend a lot more of their time off-campus.  As a result, they also spend more time interacting with the local residents of South Bend, and usually formulate negative opinions of the residents they not so flatteringly refer to as “townies.”

The relationship between Notre Dame Students and local residents is a tense one that goes back a lifetime for the locals, and less than four years for the students.  Local residents often become upset with students for a variety of reasons usually related to collegiate debauchery.  Residents complain about loud noise at parties, they complain when students urinate on their property, and they complain that students take up too much space at their favorite bars like The View. 

However, the biggest complaint that locals have of students is the Notre Dame Students’ immense sense of self-importance.  Notre Dame Students take one look at the city of South Bend and immediately think they are better than everybody who lives there.  The students come from wealthier families, they wear nicer clothing (see #5), and they drive more expensive cars.  Students see the quality of their expensive education (see #3) and believe that they already have more success than the majority of South Bend residents will ever have.

These opinions of the students are somewhat justified.  South Bend is a dying rust-belt city that is rampant with crime and poverty.  Students rarely feel safe walking home at night from bars, and off-campus students become accustomed to hearing sirens in their neighborhood.  With the University and its football weekends serving as the singular force behind the local economy, Notre Dame Students believe they are more important than the typical South Bend resident and this gives them a sense of entitlement.

Because of this attitude, South Bend residents sometimes go out of their way to be hostile towards Notre Dame Students.  They report the loud parties that are simply collections of Notre Dame Students trying to be SO College (see #11), they strictly enforce drinking laws in the area, and a few residents even get dangerous and violent towards students.

For their part, the students do try to use the dire economic situation in South Bend as a way to quench their thirst for helping people and making themselves feel like better people.  Notre Dame Students take it upon themselves to seek out service opportunities throughout the city by volunteering to tutor and mentor local youth and constantly raising money for the Center for the Homeless (among other institutions).  While these certainly are noble causes, these volunteer opportunities simply do more to show at least some South Bend residents that Notre Dame Students are arrogant, and confirm Notre Dame Students’ beliefs that they are better than the townies of South Bend.


  1. Interesting blog. I'm going to throw some thoughts at you, even though maybe you don't want them. These are just some observations from an ND grad / townie...

    First, let me say that there's no love lost between myself and the city of South Bend. I have no desire to live there, and I have no argument with the assessment of strained town-gown relations.

    However, I have to say that one of the driving forces behind the arrogance of Notre Dame students is the continued perception that "the University and its football weekends are the singular force behind the local economy." I know it seems that way when you're living in the Notre Dame bubble, but it really isn't true.

    The University may be the largest employer in the area, but South Bend isn't a college town. It's not like West Lafayette (home of Purdue's main campus), where the 40,000-member student body really is the bulk of the local population.

    South Bend has a population of over 100,000 and the metropolitan area (Granger, Mishawaka, etc.) has a population of over 300,000. Notre Dame only employs 5,000 of these people (according to ND's LinkedIn profile: That's only 5% of the city's population and less than 2% of the greater local population. If you took Notre Dame away, there'd be a definite hole, but not an insurmountable one. There are other forces behind the local economy, like Bayer, Honeywell, IUSB, and the two large regional medical centers that service South Bend and the surrounding area.

    And as for the football weekends? Yes, Notre Dame provides a draw, and I can't deny the madness of Game Day -- but last time I checked, hotels don't stay in business because they fill to capacity 14 days out of the year. And clearly Notre Dame doesn't provide enough of a football draw to SB, or the College Football Hall of Fame wouldn't be moving to Atlanta (

    Hm. Now that I've made myself sound kind of like an uptight prick with an agenda...

    As I said, I'm not a fan of South Bend, but I'm not a fan of arrogance, either. Notre Dame provides a definite boon to the area, but it's not the only thing holding the city together. Maybe if Notre Dame students could get this through their heads, more of the volunteer work they do would be felt as something good FOR the community, as opposed to something they're trying to do TO the community.

    I'm just sayin'....

  2. Aww, my comment just got eaten. :-( But apparently I feel like doing a little grousing & procrastinating today, so I'm going to take the time to retype this. Here are some thoughts from an ND grad / townie, even though probably nobody cares:

    I'm not a fan of South Bend, but I'm also not a fan of student arrogance stemming from the continued misconception that Notre Dame is "the singular force behind the local economy." This really isn't true. South Bend isn't a college town, like West Lafayette (home of Purdue's main campus), where the 40,000-member student body really does make up the bulk of the population.

    The city of South Bend has a population of 100,000 and the metropolitan area (Granger, Mishawaka, etc.) is around 300,000; Notre Dame only employs 5,000 of those people -- less than 5% of the city's population and 2% of the local. And as for the football weekends? I love the madness of Game Day as much as anyone, but hotels don't stay in business based on 14 days of capacity per year. Also, if the football draw to South Bend is so great, why is the College Football Hall of Fame moving to Atlanta?

    I can't argue with the assessment of the strained town-gown relations, but I think the efforts students make to do volunteer work in the area would come off a little better if the student body perceived more clearly that they aren't the only thing holding the city together. There are other major local employers like Bayer, Honeywell, IUSB, and the two large regional medical centers that service the surrounding area. The city of South Bend exists independently of Notre Dame, not because of shocking as that may be to comprehend.

  3. Crap, I guess my comment didn't get eaten, even though blogspot TOTALLY said that it did.

    Oh well. I guess now I just get to look like three times as much of a tool as I did before. Which is kind of impressive, when you think about it.

  4. Bob Kessler.. Your article and picture is circulating the bars in the area. I hope you graduated because i'm going to do everything in my power to make sure you never get served in this area again.

    Take your "so college" antics out to Jersey with Snookie and the rest of the snobby pricks.

  5. Wow, Loco. You did as much damage to the perception of townies as the writer did, if not more. It makes you look like a moron. I'm not stating that you are one, but when you post a rash and inflammatory statement as you did, it sure makes you look like one. You certainly didn't help the case of the average South Bend resident.

    As a townie and a two-time Notre Dame grad, I can say that there is truth to both sides of the story. Townies like Loco make the rest of us look like an uneducated lot with an inability to get ourselves out of a hole when a ladder is available. The city of South Bend and it's gross mismanagement of it's business and economic interests are a prime reason why so many corporate offices (hmmm, and medical centers) left for Mishawaka or other parts of the country. The city needs better leadership, something it hasn't had in 20-plus years. In addition, it's unfair to assume that all ND/SMC students are wealthy snobs. Many of my classmates worked hard to not only get good grades, but to pay for their schooling via scholarships, loans, part-time jobs and ROTC. Otherwise, these bright students, full of amazing potential, would get a lesser quality education elsewhere and that would be a shame. No student should be turned away from fulfilling their highest potential for economic reasons.

    ND students don't make it easy for townies to respect them. It's mostly a few rotten apples, some off-campus, some on, that spoil the relations for everyone. The parties (such as the recent one involving a number of student-athletes) strain relations greatly and make it near impossible for progress to be made, given a turnover of student-residents every four years. Equally so, students' behavior on-campus can be just as galling. Students who walk right through fencing or a construction area (regardless of clearly marked signs), rudeness to office staff or others make it hard for anyone to respect you. Honestly, why should I? You put your pants on the same way my spouse and I did this morning and you are no better than we are.

    So, people, put your money where your mouth is. Respect each other. Respect the fact that we have to co-exist. Don't just volunteer a little time at the Center for the Homeless - be respectful of every single person you meet, on or off-campus. Say 'please' and 'thank you' to everyone - from the staff at the hotel where you or your family stays on football weekends, to the clerk at the Post Office. Don't go into places that are clearly off limits (or into parts of town that are unfamiliar to you that could lead you into danger). We honestly don't want anything bad to happen to anyone - townie or student. Behave with the same intelligence that got you into ND and use your common sense (yes, that sign that says 'Do Not Enter' really does mean you).

    I am unable to sign my name, given some of the people I'm related to. I don't want a person like Loco to treat my family or husband like he states in his post. I come from a prominent family of Domers and am married to a well-known townie. Please, respect me for this.

  6. Loco, did you even bother to read this post or any of this blog? This is only Bob Kessler's observations of the majority of his fellow Domers. He never insults South Bend residents in his post. In fact, he chastises his schoolmates for acting condescending towards their native neighbors.

  7. You moron. Are you angry that even in a dump like South Bend you still cannot find someone willing to sleep with you? God you are so cool! (said with sarcasm) Way to tell it like it is! (again, sarcasm)You must have been a small fish in a big pond where you came from and now feel the need to make yourself a big fish in a small pond. And yes, while there is a lot of scum in this pond, there are also sharks. ;) MORON!

  8. In colleges where you need at least a 1 pt gpa to enroll, they still call locals townies.My son went to ND with 22 of his his mates, all locals. Go figure. All incoming freshman are bright and intelligent, but still you have the lowest gpa in the class. Thanks for bringing up the rear.

  9. Bob, I am a graduate of Notre Dame and am very proud to have grown up in South Bend. It has its fair share of issues, like any city in this country. I am embarrassed for you after reading this post; I'm guessing you're a decent guy but this just comes off as pompous and rude. I would like to say that not all of us Notre Dame students are so arrogant. Not all ND students are wealthy as you described; maybe you should make some friends who have a different background than you do. I agree with the poster that said we all need to treat each other with respect to co-exist peacefully. So I respectfully suggest that you open your mind to another point of view. Good luck.

  10. I dont see how this article is pompous or rude. These are the stereotyped opinions that notre dame students have in this blog and thats what makes it so funny. Not everyone falls under all or any of these stereotyped opinions but bob does tell it like he hears it on campus. Oh, and it is truthful that Notre Dame students fear walking around off campus. Its not notre dame students beating each other up with baseball bats and mugging them. I wonder who it could be then...

  11. Honestly, I would be more afraid to walk on campus at night. Some Notre Dame students rape and rob just like some of these "townies." Also, it serves you right that you cannot feel safe walking home from a bar. #1 You're probably drunk and shouldn't be. #2 You try to hitch rides from non-drunk people (STRANGERS). Use a little common sense.

    As for the party noise problem, it's not that you are a Notre Dame student. It has to do with respect. Respect your surroundings and realize that even if you are trying to be SO College that the police are called on you, then you were being too damn loud. I would call the police on any group of people if they were too loud.

  12. This post is just asking for controversy.
    "Looking down on Locals" Even if no one is specifically criticized- the title gives it all away before someone reads it. Let's not reverse all the hard work Student Gov't and other clubs have done on campus to improve our relationship with SB. The last thing we need is animosity akin to Duke Vs. Durham.

  13. You guys are all idiots. Kessler is MOCKING the arrogance of ND students, not EMBRACING it.