ND campus reflects on fall dances
Assistant News Editor
Just one semester after the University instituted sweeping changes in an effort to curb drinking among Notre Dame students, 19 dorms have held their fall dances under the new policies that require dorms to hold their SYRs outside of the residence halls. Despite the new regulations, students and staff say it seems too early to tell what the final result will be.
"I think the jury's still out," said Jeff Shoup, director of Residence Life.
Last March, Student Affairs announced the new policies, ending a long time tradition of in-hall SYRs. University officials felt that many students were leaving the dances to drink in their rooms. In attempt to ease concerns about increased costs, Student Affairs offered each dorm a $1,000 subsidy for this year only to help with funding problems. Student Activities also identified about 20 off-campus locations, ranging from Alumni-Senior Club to the basement of the Knights of Columbus building, where dorm dances could be held.
One of the major players in last year's decision to end in-hall dances, Father Mark Poorman, the University's vice-president for Student Affairs, said he felt the new requirements had been a good policy.
"It's early to say," Poorman said. "But overall we have received a lot of positive feedback about the dances this year, especially from students."
Representatives from Student Government worked with Poorman's office over the summer to ensure that the new policies would be implemented smoothly. "Our office worked all summer with Student Body President Libby Bishop and her staff. The input of al these folks was invaluable," Poorman said.
Bishop's office said student feedback about this year's dances has been both positive and negative. "I've heard such mixed reactions and mixed emotions," said Bishop. Bishop said student government's future plans regarding the issue of dorm dances included further discussion on the Campus Life Council and developing a focus with the Hall Presidents' Council about SYRs. "I think there's still a lot of room for dialogue," said Bishop. "I really think that Student Affairs will talk to us if we can nail down specific improvements."
Residence Life officials said they have seen a slight decrease in safety and alcohol issues at dances held this year so far. "I would say we've had a bit fewer cases of discipline afterwards,"
said Shoup. "Any kind of damage whether intentional or unintentional is way down."
Overall, Shoup think the new dance policies will make a positive change to Notre Dame. " I do think [the changes] have made an impact. The focus is back to actually having a dance than having a big party," he said.
Peggy Hnutusko, assistant director of Student Activities for programming, said she agrees that the impact of the new policies on dorm dances cannot be judged as of yet.
"It's way too early for any reliable statistics," she said. "As the semester goes on we'll be able to tell more about the dances."
Student Activities has collaborated with student planners to make alternate locations work well, said Hnutusko, including one dance held off-campus at Beacon Bowl. Hnutusko said the unusually limited number of weekends available for dances this year might have played a role in any decreased popularity.
Residence hall rectors felt that the new policies have brought positive changes overall for the campus. "There were some disciplinary matter which were a direct result of off-campus pre-dance gatherings," said Father James Lewis, rector of Carroll Hall. Despite some incidents, Lewis and other rectors said their halls' dances were well-planed and well-attended. "Our students were more enthusiastic about and present at this dance," Lewis said.
Brother Jerome Meyer, rector of Knott Hall, agreed that his hall's dance had not been negatively affected by the new SYR policies. "We had a tent dance and it went very well," said Meyer. "It was well-received and those who attended had a good time."
Dorm commissioners and hall presidents said that some dances have been successful but not without many budget and planning issues. "It ended up being really expensive — a lot more expensive than having it in our dorm," said Jessie Stamm, Walsh Hall dance commissioner.
Jen DeWitt, one of Lyons Hall's dance commissioners, said the Lyons Luau, held at the Knights of Columbus building, went off well this fall but that budget constraints in the spring would pose a problem for the dorm. "I would say that we had over 60 percent attendance. That's pretty good," said DeWitt. "But [the new policies] are really making everything worse," she said.
Abhishek Goyal, co-president of O'Neill Hall, said concerns among students about he new policies forced the dorm to cancel its planned SYR. "People didn't want to get in trouble," he said. "The rules were not clear."
The fall dance at Lewis Hall was also cancelled due to low student turnout.
Fisher Hall was the first dorm to hold its fall dance off-campus at Beacon Bowl. "The turnout was actually pretty good. People liked the whole idea," said Ryan Bui, one of Fisher's co-presidents.
However, Bui said funding would be a concern for the dorm. "We're trying to slowly use the money [that Student Affairs allotted], said Bui. "It would definitely be cheaper [to hold the dance in the hall]."
Patrick Hertzke, dance commissioner at Siegfried Hall, said his dorm had problems getting any of the $1,000 supposedly allocated to Siegfried. The dorm eventually hosted its dance at the Warren Golf Clubhouse, but had to limit tickets sales to 60-70 tickets because of space constraints, Hertzke said.
Students also reported problems with the requirement that dorms use the company Catering by Design to provide meals for the dances. "They tend to overcharge," said Ryan Greenberg, co-president of Carroll Hall.
All News Stories for Monday, November 18, 2002