Student Well-being at Risk in West Lake Hall, University of Notre Dame

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The University of Notre Dame offers an unparalleled level of opportunity for its students of all majors, which is reflected in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design.

Although we are a small major, the level of passion and creativity found within the Design program mirrors other departmental powerhouses on campus. We love what we do, and our program’s prominence on the national scene is most decidedly on the rise.

But—with sincere regret and significant frustration, we are compelled to communicate that our Design program is unable to reach its full potential while housed in Westlake Hall.

The current design building, which houses faculty offices, classrooms, and studios, has significant issues which hinder the education and well-being of design students and anyone who takes design courses. The issues include but are not limited to:

· unregulated heat/AC

· significant noise issues from vents and whistling window gaps

· Prevalence of bugs within studios & labs

· cracks in window screens, broken windows

· decrepit exterior

· visible water damage

· remote location, including no access to food/drink, feeling of unsafety at night

· inadequate signage (no sign on the building, or on maps)

· broken women’s bathroom handle

· no air circulation in bathrooms

· only one door has swipe access

· lack of quality space

· prohibitive distance from the academic/art corridor on campus

These issues have a considerable impact on student/faculty quality of life. There are health and safety concerns that cause us to cut short our studies--how can we be expected to be fully productive in a room which is too hot or too cold?  What choices do we have for sustenance when working late hours on critical projects? Could our environment be any LESS INSPIRING?  To design students, this is a serious concern.

In addition, the decrepit conditions of Westlake Hall do not allow Design to have a sufficient level of exposure on campus. Students discover Design too late in the discernment process, prohibiting them from pursuing it as a viable career path because they cannot hope to graduate on time. It’s a genuine disservice to students who could potentially be incredible designers but never even knew it existed as an option.

 In many ways, Notre Dame’s design program does not benefit from an equal playing field when compared to other programs on campus. Our program should have the same opportunity to recruit prospective students as the science programs or our venerated business school. We have incredible professors, but a brief look at the spaces in which they work and reside will cause you to question how such incredible talent can be so sadly marginalized. As a program, we firmly believe that Design could garner national attention, benefitting the University in significant ways. But the program must have access to adequate facilities and quality resources.

It is critical that Notre Dame’s design facilities are brought up to standards immediately.  Westlake Hall is not an acceptable home for any students, least of all those who are meant to be discovering the critical positioning of good design as it adds to productivity, happiness, and quality of life.

In the short term, health and safety issues experienced in West Lake Hall must be addressed while appropriate relocation planning takes place. Suggestions include Campus Crossroads or the new Architecture building.  There are undoubtedly other options as well. 

But doing nothing is unacceptable.

We hope our concerns are delivered to the decision makers of our beloved University in the knowledge that student well-being will be given the immediate attention it deserves.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Emily Olson, Industrial Design BFA '20

Lauren Boutros, Industrial Design BFA '19

Students of the Design Program

 



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