To the current students, alumni, and friends of the University of Notre Dame,
On March 15th, the University of Notre Dame administration made the decision to turn Zahm House into a transitional dorm, reversing an earlier decision that had done the same to Pangborn Hall. This means that Zahm will be the new “swing dorm” to be occupied by other ND students as their halls are renovated. But while Pangborn residents were allowed to transplant their community to the brand new Flaherty Hall, current Zahm residents will not only be kicked out of their home but will be forced to make a heart-wrenching decision: either transfer to an entirely new dorm community with a maximum of just three friends, or remove themselves from the on-campus experience altogether by moving off-campus (something facilitated by the administration, as they have waived the new 3 year on campus housing requirement). Meanwhile, other dorms’ residents will rotate through Zahm on a yearly basis. This change will be in effect for the 2021-2022 school year and was given an “indefinite” timeline.
While this decision pains us greatly as current and former members of Zahm House government, we know that one dorm has to bite the bullet and house the residents of dorms under construction — and maybe it is time to build a permanent community in Pangborn once again.
But this was not the justification given to Zahm residents. Rather, the stated goal of this effort is to once and for all snuff out the “troubling culture” that is present in Zahm House — a culture that apparently could not be allayed by any other means. While we fail to understand how an administration that randomly assigns students to residence halls can claim one in particular has become such a beacon of trouble that it must be permanently extinguished, we know that our personal experience of Zahm’s culture is one that is intimately rooted in our love for our community — both within the dorm and especially within the greater Notre Dame family.
The Notre Dame Administration singles out Zahm as being independent from the University despite the fact that they promote (and advertise) the adoption of a unique identity for each residence. This is not a fraternity that exists merely as a party house, with an ostensible philanthropic mission to cover up the community’s misdeeds. We are a community built on inclusion. There is no application process to gain entry into Zahm, nor is there a group of brainwashed leaders that fight tooth and nail to preserve problematic environments. Whether you enjoy traditions such as Zahm Zoo or the hug lines that take the place of handshakes during Mass, or both, or neither, you will find a home in Zahm. Moreover, our House has aimed to serve as a model Notre Dame community in many aspects. We retain more upperclassmen than any other residence, and through concrete and concerted efforts strive to be one of the safest dorms on campus — exemplified by Zahm having the highest GreeNDot certification rate of all dorms as recently as 2019. Zahm has also fostered an incredibly strong relationship with the South Bend Robinson Center, helping to give back to and improve the surrounding South Bend community — something Notre Dame has itself struggled to do over the years.
No one is saying Zahm has been, or will be, perfect. But through the collective actions of hundreds of alumni that have passed through its walls, Zahm became more than a place — it was a community that left its members stronger in body and spirit than when they arrived.
The same can be said of Notre Dame as an institution.
It deeply saddens us that the administration feels differently.
Of course, while we are particularly proud of the community we have endeavored to build in Zahm, we understand we are not empirically different from other dorms on campus. And so while starting with Zahm is an obvious first choice from the perspective of the administration, there is no telling where or when this strategy will find its conclusion. Every dorm on campus has their own unique identity — while Zahm's has long drawn the ire of the administration, we believe this is just the beginning of the University's mission to rid each dorm of its personality, should they find any problems with it.
When we matriculated, we were taught how to “build community the Notre Dame way.” It is our belief that Notre Dame’s community is not built upon punitive measures, nor the threat of them that now hangs over other dorms. Rather, it is built by people that love each other deeply, who strive to create something bigger and better than themselves — and do so in a way that supports and empowers each and every individual in the community. We struggle to find that intrinsic love and respect in this decision.
We ask that you sign this petition to voice your disapproval of these changes made at the expense of current students.
Regardless of the final decision by the University, we reflect on how our House — and because of it, the University — has come to encompass so much more than the simple brick walls of a campus home. While we are saddened that the administration feels we did not receive a positive Notre Dame experience as Zahm residents and alums, and as we grieve the loss of a community so strong and so often misunderstood, we also take the time to thank God that we were so blessed to share in it.
As is written on our shirts and etched into our minds: Notre Dame by choice, Zahm by the Grace of God.
Zahm House Leadership of 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Please note the following regarding change.org's prompts to donate to support this cause (a prompt we cannot remove nor did we know was automatically created). While we appreciate your willingness to donate in our aid, if you would like to show your support with your wallets, we hope that you choose to donate to the South Bend Robinson Community Center, as they will no longer be supported by Zahm. If you have already donated and would like a refund, please request it from Change.org, otherwise all proceeds that we accrue from this petition will be donated to the Robinson Center minus the fees Change.org charges.