On Monday, October 23rd, there was a meeting with Village residents and many officials at Notre Dame who are in charge of the closing of the Village and transitioning the families that live there. Rachele Gardner, a current Village resident shares her thoughts and feelings about the meeting below in the form of a letter to said officials.
I left the meeting with this overall takeaway:
My family, as well as so many others, has thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from our experience here at Notre Dame, particularly our experience living on campus at the village. I’ve felt very appreciated, valued, and respected as a minority group (married or parenting) within the larger graduate student universe with unique needs and vulnerabilities. Since the announcement to close the village, I’ve always trusted that the university cares about us and wants us to feel appreciated, valued, and respected. I trusted that real, concrete options would be provided before we were asked to vacate our beloved home. I trusted that we wouldn’t be abandoned or forced to fend for ourselves at the time of the village closing. This trust came from my experience with this wonderful university, staff, reputation, etc. and was solidified by the option for grandfathered rates at FOG.
However, this year, with the pending and apparently hard deadline of “you need to be out by June 30,” coupled with no apparent or concrete options for any of the village’s many residents who don’t qualify for grandfathered rates, I’ve started to lose that trust. I feel so saddened by the tail end of our experience here at Notre Dame. Though my family qualifies for grandfathered rates, as a married, parenting family with unique needs, and particularly as a neighbor and friend to so many international families with even greater needs and barriers, I feel unappreciated, undervalued, and disrespected. To hear so many families, particularly the most vulnerable international ones ask with obvious concern, “where do we live?” and be told simply, “we’re talking about that” is baffling to me. It’s October and you are kicking these people out of their homes in June. How is there not any concrete, realistic options to offer in place of the village? How is $1,260 monthly rent the only viable option? Caring, appreciating, valuing, and respecting a minority community with unique, vulnerable needs does not look like this. It looks like having real, reassuring options to offer before forcing people to leave their safe, comfortable, affordable homes.
Yes, you have made your plans to close the village very clear, but you have grossly misled these families to believe they would still be thought of, taken care of, and given realistic alternative options for housing. You haven’t been fought or passionately approached with issues until this year because you had the trust of these families. The village closing is tragic. It’s meant so much to so many people. For example, an alumni family dropped by last year to deliver our neighbors a card with $500 cash in it just to show their appreciation for the village and empathy for the vulnerable financial state of grad students living here. The village is an amazing place full of amazing memories for so many families, past and present, but we understand and empathize with the decision to close it. Nothing lasts forever. I accepted this sad decision, but trusted that grad student families would still be valued and efforts would be made on our behalf to ensure we have viable, alternative housing and community options moving forward.
This school year began with no correspondence, no options, and a huge breakdown of trust. Village families felt abandoned and tried to act to save their home because no alternatives were given. No reassurance, no empathy, no word from anyone about what comes after June 2018. No answers to the worrisome questions of “where do we live?” No open communication has ever been established with your office and our rector, our GSU rep, no one seemed to have any reassuring answers (except the rumor of grandfathered rates, but even those details were incredibly unclear). This lack of trust, communication, and reassurance led to panic. Panic led to action. Action led to answers, but the main answer I heard last night was “we’re talking about options.” Talking is not going to help these families being asked to leave in June. They just want to know where they can realistically afford to live, and be allowed to live for international families. They know the village is closing. We’ve all known for three years. What we don’t know is where we are going to live after the closing. That’s our main concern, and that concern was definitely not addressed in a comforting way last night.
Thank you for all your efforts. I believe that you are trying, but can you please empathize with these families that trying without fruition, without results, without options, doesn’t really help them come June? All we need is one viable option for the majority of families, especially international families, who don’t qualify for grandfathered rates at FOG. One option. That’s all we ask for. I really hope you can empathize with the real fear and worry these families are experiencing. The emotion in their voices and faces speaks so loudly. You said you are doing what’s best for the greater grad student population, but these grad student families need you now. Other students have housing and are apparently satisfied with it. Please help. Please come up with something reassuring to help us feel valued, to help us feel hopeful, and to help us feel confident that when June arrives, we will all have a safe, affordable place to live. Please do not abandon us.
University Village resident