Break Some Rules

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Scott Drotar Fisher Rigatta
Building the best boat, or worst anchor, for the annual Fisher Rigatta is one of the many ways that ND students show their dorm pride.

At the University of Notre Dame there are no fraternity or sororities allowed, so as a result of this the dorms take on a lot of the characteristics that are commonly associated with Greek life on other campuses. For example, every residence hall adopts a charity, has its own mascot, and has a rival dorm to rally against, and these types of activities cause students to take a large amount of pride in the hall they live in. One of the main ways this dorm loyalty becomes important is through interhall competitions between rival dorms. Whether it is playing interhall sports, building the best boat for the annual “Fisher Rigatta,” or just being the loudest cheering dorm at pep rallies, you always want to beat your rival residence hall. While it is always in good fun (at least, usually…), most students want nothing more than to dominate and embarrass their rival dorm in any way possible. This drive to show dorm superiority, coupled with copious amounts of alcohol, can cause lapses in judgment in overzealous students that sometimes leads to misguided, but well-intentioned and often hilarious, dorm hijinks. These harmless, college pranks are not only a great source for entertaining stories, but they are also wonderful examples of the importance of breaking some rules every now and then.

This story may or may not have allegedly taken place on the University of Notre Dame campus during the Winter of 2009. I will let you decide as to the validity of this epic tale. Just like on “Dragnet” though, “Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to hear is [possibly] true. Only the names have been changed [or omitted completely] to protect the [mostly] innocent.”

While I was at Notre Dame, I spent all four years living in the best dorm on campus, Keough Hall (Go ‘Roos!). Our rival dorm was the inferior, second-rate dorm, O’Neill Hall. One of the things that these lesser mortals do every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is hang a giant wreath (symbolic of the “O” in O’Neill) that is covered in lights and probably 10 feet across from the third floor of the building. This heavy-handed, tacky display of Christmas cheer is sort of their trademark, along with being all around worse than Keough. After four years of staring up at that precocious ring for a month every Holiday Season, one courageous student had had enough. It took many days of careful planning, but eventually he came up with a plan to rid campus of this Seasonal eyesore. He took it upon himself to put this plan into action and assert his dorm’s dominance once and for all.

Scott Drotar O'Neill Wreath
Ridding campus of the O’Neill wreath that taints South Quad every year was the goal of our mission.

The mastermind of this daring endeavor knew that he would not be able to execute a plan of this magnitude alone, so he put together a crack team of fearless, loyal dorm brothers who possessed the skills necessary to pull off this feat of hall pride. In total, it was a four man crew, two men to infiltrate O’Neill Hall and discretely lower the wreath and two outside on the ground to quickly carry it away. The first step of this master plan was a week of both real-world and online reconnaissance to gather the necessary details to determine when to put this plan into action. After memorizing the path taken by Notre Dame security every night and looking through the O’Neill Hall website to find a time when a dorm function would be going on (so most of the residents would be occupied), we found the perfect time to strike. O’Neill was having a talk from a hall alumnus that was being catered by Pizza Hut and Buffalo Wild Wings, and if there is anything more certain than Keough being superior to O’Neill, it is that college guys never miss pizza and wings. That was the perfect hour long window to execute our Holiday heist.

It was a cold, windy night with a foot of snow on the ground when the time came to put our plan into action. It was myself, as a lookout/mastermind, and “Matt” on the ground, to whisk away the wreath once it was lowered. Heading deep into enemy territory under the ruse of joining a study group were “Don,” who was the inside lookout, and “Rick,” who was going to release and lower the wreath. Once the security guard made his nightly pass, we started to move in. The security guard was 15 minutes later than usual, which only left us 30 minutes before the dorm function was over, but that should have been more than enough time. Everything looked good as the cold weather left the snow covered ground deserted, and the majority of O’Neill’s residents were busy feeding their faces with free food. “Rick” had unplugged the wreath and started working on releasing it from the building, and we started thinking we were going to pull this off, when we hear “Don” say quickly over the com, “Enemies coming! Abort! Abort!” I look up at “Rick” through the third floor window, and I see he and “Don” hurriedly getting things plugged back in, as I hear “Oh, #@$?!” come over the airwaves. Then I hear a muddled, barely discernable conversation between “Rick” and a gang of O’Neill guys asking what they were doing there. “Matt” and I high-tailed it back to Keough, thinking our comrades were at best captured, and at worst getting pounded by a throng of angry, stuffed O’Neill guys. Thanks to some quick thinking and an even quicker tongue however, “Rick” and “Don” joined us back at Keough later that night, unharmed.

Scott Drotar Break Some Rules
Two alleged members of the team of loyal Keough brothers who were willing to break some rules to do what they believed in.

We may not have been successful in ridding campus of this circular eyesore and striking a winning blow for Keough over its rival, but this mission was by no means a failure. Through our efforts to hack the O’Neill website, infiltrate another dorm under false pretenses, vandalize a residence hall, and break a ton of other campus rules, we may not have accomplished our goal, but wewere successful in so many other ways. We successfully came together as dorm brothers and formed a bond that connects us to this day. We successfully managed to protect each other and not get our asses kicked or arrested (a minor miracle). Most importantly, we created memories that we will always remember fondly and recount with a smile. If we had not had the courage and willingness to break some rules for what we believed in (even if it was just dorm superiority), we would have missed out on this adventure that is one of my most cherished college memories.

I am not saying you should be this rebel that ignores all rules, but I do think it is important to break a few rules from time to time. By taking this risk for a common cause, despite the fact that it was “forbidden,” my dorm brothers and I ended up with a bond and experience that we will carry forever. The next time you feel yourself pulled to break a rule or two to do something you believe in, have the fortitude and strength to go for it. Remember, it is often easier to ask forgiveness than permission, and if you are fighting for what is right and you really believe in, you can never fail. Even if you do not successfully complete your mission, like me and my loyal compadres, you will be successful in forging friendships and creating cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Isn’t that worth a possible slap on the wrist?

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