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Notre Dame Campus: After Year One

Final word on the Notre Dame campus, Year One: it’s a picturesque microcosm of good intention, adverse expectations and sub-par execution.

Incorporating the building was laudable, a vision of Emmanuel’s upheld commitment to service and spirit. The Roxbury-based satellite campus is a unique facility with great character and remarkable, underutilized potential.

photo: John Byrne

photo: John Byrne

Notre Dame is not a dorm; that contrast is important. Who are the live-in residents? They do great work, live in hermetic isolation and enjoy the benevolent atmosphere of their home. On the main campus at large, they possess a certain eminence like they’re the new Donner Party, the nineteenth century westbound settlers forsaken by a blistering winter who later resorted to cannibalism. (This portrayal is especially suitable considering the infamous evacuation of Notre Dame ahead of a blizzard last winter.) Notre Dame is not for everyone, and many who don’t find the appeal convey delicate, pragmatic pity for those who did.

Silver lining indeed, this is a story about administrative errors and the complexity of Emmanuel’s identity.

Catherine Temme 15’ wore the biggest grin in the Jean Yawkey Center. She had prepared a sizable list of offenses collected throughout her tenure at Notre Dame and was ready to break her silence. This was a woman looking for justice, and maybe some revenge.

She had praise for the exhaustive work of her building’s Resident Assistant, Akyanna Smith. Her commendations stopped there.

According to Temme, a proposed meeting between fellow residents and the core team responsible for Notre Dame’s operation was denied on the basis that it wouldn’t be productive. Grievances are frequently unheard or neglected and communication is insufficient. Dr. Patricia Rissmeyer, Vice President of Student Affairs, could field her objections, she was told.

“There should be no reason I should have to make an appointment with Dr. Rissmeyer to talk about these things because other people aren’t listening,” said Temme.

Various requests for a copy of the e-mail transcript proved unsuccessful.

Thematic of her account is getting the runaround. E-mails turn into languid conversation starters and diversions, never eliciting change.

Temme feels that she was bamboozled out of adequate dining services, as well.

“We were supposed to have a fully staffed, equipped kitchen,” she said. “They bring one option for dinner each night with sides.”

On evenings at 4:30 PM, the Campus Safety Shuttle delivers buffet-style meals to Notre Dame’s dining hall. Beverages and pastries are included. John Byrne, Associate Director of Resident Life, expects most dining services currently offered to cease there next semester.

So, get a meal plan if you’re moving in.

Campus Safety lieutenant Richard Constantino thinks food delivery to Notre Dame is just fine.

“How else would you do it?” He said. “I hope the food is okay when it gets there.”

Four hours of weekly service in the community are required of all Notre Dame residents. Temme noted that she sincerely appreciated her work, but she had concerns about safety which she believes were improperly addressed.

In the fall of 2014, a series of muggings prompted region-wide discussion about safety in the Fenway. “Them not acknowledging that safety concern was horrifying,” said Temme.

Oh, and related: Notre Dame was abandoned last winter – for safety’s sake – after a major winter storm threatened to cut the building’s power. Constraints on Notre Dame required by the Massachusetts State Board of Building Regulations and Standards prohibit general residents from occupying a space during a blackout without emergency power for more than 90 minutes. Back-up power supplies must “consist of storage batteries, unit equipment or an on-site generator,” as stipulated. Notre Dame was never furnished with a back-up power supply or generator.

“We were forced to leave for two nights. In my opinion I feel like I should get that money back. It’s so embarrassing,” said Temme.

She was irked by a myriad of leaks and unfinished projects. The water was shut off one morning with little prior notice. There was a giant hole in the ceiling for a while, likely because of ice dams, and a moving cart was placed underneath to collect water. Last semester, move in day was postponed because the driveway wasn’t paved on time.

She briefly talked about the experience of a fellow resident who spent a month living at Notre Dame with no heat, except for a space heater provided by facilities.

The student who was given a space heater would not comment on record. The facilities employee who provided the student with a space heater could not be reached for question.

So, that’s that. Frustrating, right?

The contract residents of Notre Dame must sign and abide by. Document provided by Catherine Temme '15.

The contract that residents of Notre Dame must sign and abide by. Document provided by Catherine Temme ’15.

Judyth Lucien 16’ lived at Notre Dame in its debut year as well, and says she didn’t have negative experiences that compared to a frozen room.

She thinks better planning would have made a difference.

“They should have had a protocol for something like that to happen,” she said, discussing the storm evacuation. You should have had this planned already.”

“Had they e-mailed us even the night before, I could’ve just gone home,” she said. Instead, she had to stay with friends for two days.

Lucien also thinks communication between residents and staff at Notre Dame has been erratic at best. “Some of the things they told us about Notre Dame were consistent, but not all,” she said.

When she sought responses to her own inquiries, she said “I would get answers but I wouldn’t get direct answers.”

Both Temme and Lucien cited the parking situation at Notre Dame as an evolving headache. Streets are charmingly narrow but parking is a recurring dispute. According to Lucien, allowance for parking on Notre Dame’s campus depends on the charity of the campus safety lieutenant or sergeant on duty.

“When I had a guest over, I went and checked outside,” she said. “There were one or two spots open. I was told by campus safety that you have to make a request [for a parking spot] 72 hours in advance.”

This was not the standard policy Lucien was familiar with.

She noted a concern about liability, that “it’s not fair to a security guard who gets in trouble for making exceptions” for other students parking at Notre Dame.

“I’m living on [main] campus next semester. I don’t want to go through all that again.”

Lucien believes that Notre Dame can be a wonderful place to live. “The facilities are beautiful. It’s a quiet neighborhood. I can go on a walk. The neighbors are friendly. It’s very pretty,” she said.

Last fall, Emmanuel College reported that the New Balance Foundation had awarded the school a $25,000 grant to support the Boston Urban Food Project, an endeavor of “youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system.” In a press release, the college wrote “The Notre Dame Campus will serve as the hub of The Urban Food Project, though the initiative will be open to all Emmanuel students.”

Privy to the bumps along the way, Emmanuel’s joint garden initiative will be something to watch.

Back in St. Ann Hall, John Byrne answers questions about an extension of the application deadline to live in Notre Dame during the Fall.

“We have some vacant spaces,” he said. “There are quite a few current residents we expect will be returning.”

Byrne has an optimistic forecast of the improving conditions at Notre Dame. By and large, he believes that Year One in such a versatile community was a success.

“Being the first group is kind of daring in that sense,” he said. “Knowing that in its totality, it wasn’t going to be perfect.”

Paul Rowley ’16 is a Staff writer and Columnist for The Hub. E-mail him rowleyp@emmanuel.edu. Follow him on Twitter @everettrowley

Posted by on April 23, 2015. Filed under Around Campus. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.