Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Look Inside Keenan Hall

Before arriving as a freshman at ND in '07, I knew very little about the University's dorm tradition. Over the summer, I logged onto the "Home Under the Dome" site through Residence Life & Housing to find out which of 14 male residence halls I would be calling home. This system reminded me of The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter. While Harry was destined to Gryffindor, I soon found that I would be spending much of my time in Keenan Hall.

Keenan Hall was constructed in 1957. Some would say it lacks the history of Alumni, Morrissey and Zahm, while others would argue it's missing the luxuries of Duncan, Keough, and O'Neill. What Keenan lacks in beauty and stories of yesteryear, it makes up for in its incredible dorm spirit.

One of the first things I noticed about Keenan was the unbelievable sense of brotherhood that existed among the Knights. The dorm slogan "Fratres in Christo" ("Brothers in Christ") becomes evident from the minute you arrive on campus and the Frosh-O staff helps assure you, an apprehensive 18-year old, and your worried parents, that Keenan Hall is a place you will be able to forever call home. As you begin to settle into your dorm room, upperclassmen pass by to introduce themselves and other freshmen stop by to discuss the most efficient ways of fitting everything into a 16' x 11' room. You quickly realize that this place is going to become your home for 8 months out of the year, and that when you and your family come back to ND 20 years from now, these are the guys you'll be meeting up with at a tailgate.

Keenan is one of the largest male residence halls on campus, with a capacity of 291 over 4 floors. One of the nicest things about the interior of Keenan is the basement. Here, there are several study locations, a workout room, a big-screen HDTV and a projection HDTV, and Zaland - Keenan's pizza shop.

For the most part, each of Keenan's four floors is configured the same way. Each is divided into two sections, West and North. For the last three years, I've lived in 3West (more information to come about 3W in a later post!). With the exception of a few singles, and senior doubles, most of the rooms are identical. After freshman year, you can set up quads and six-man room configurations. This year, I have a six-man. We build lofts, saving space on the ground and allowing us to efficiently use the three rooms alloted to us. Two of the rooms are for sleeping and studying, with three beds and desks in each, and the third is a common room shared among the six of us. When all is said and done after a few days of building and organizing at the beginning of the year, you've built yourself a place you can call home.

What really makes Keenan special however, is the tradition of events that we host each year.

  • Sine 1976, the Knights have hosted the Keenan Revue, a variety show and the dorm's signature event. Each year, the Revue is held in the O'Laughlin Auditorium on the campus of St. Mary's College. Over the years, the Revue has been the subject of much controversy, due to the often off-color humor. But at the end of the day, the Revue is all in good fun. It's not meant to offend anyone, only to poke fun at pop culture and the lives of Notre Dame students. Revue Week is without question one of the most exciting and enjoyable weeks of the year. The Revue is held for three nights each January, and the weekend culminates with a formal SYR in NDH.
  • Another event that Keenan is known for is Muddy Sunday. Since 2005, Muddy Sunday has been held just before the last week of classes during the spring semester. The mud volleyball tournament draws a huge turnout, and the money raised is donated to Habitat for Humanity.
  • Each fall, the Keenan Hall SYR is held at USA Skate in Mishawaka. The dance is known as Disco Roll, a night featuring eccentric clothing, some old-school tunes (as well as chart-toppers from today) and college kids attempting to rollerskate. The 70's theme gives us a taste of what it was like for our parents growing up.
  • The first weekend back after Thanksgiving, Keenan hosts the Reindeer Roast. For many people, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas season. Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby are added to the iPod, and Home Alone and Christmas Vacation take a spot right next to the DVD player. The Reindeer Roast is another great way to get into the spirit. Highlights of the Reindeer Roast include mass in the Keenan-Stanford Chapel presided by Father Poorman, a cookout, and the lighting of Keenan's Christmas display (The slogan reads "Twas the Knight Before Christmas").
  • Later this week, we will be hosting The Great Pumpkin. For this event, we work with local Boys & Girls Clubs to provide children in the South Bend area with a fun afternoon on ND's campus. We set up a haunted house in the Keenan basement and then take the children trick-or-treating around to many of the other dorms. It's great to see the excitement on the faces of the children as they get to hang around us "cool college kids." Not to mention, I think the haunted house brings us back to our youth.
Though Keenan doesn't have the air conditioning, wide hallways, or super-quads that some of the other dorms are lucky to enjoy, I wouldn't trade it for any other hall on ND's campus. When I graduate from ND in 2011, Keenan is certain to be one of the places I'll miss most, and one of the places I'll always come back to visit whenever I return to campus as an alum.