Should we really Save Sewanee?

by Lacey Oliver

Avery Kelly’s opinion piece about “Save Sewanee” came at an interesting time, as I had just been pondering this issue and considering writing my own article. Indeed, Sewanee’s bubble is not immune to the need for instant gratification and constant entertainment that permeates the rest of our culture (I can admit my own guilt here), but that does not eradicate the unique sense of community found on our Mountain home.

As I make my daily treks to and from Quintard, gaze cast downward as I catch up on email correspondence and nonsense on the “srat wall,” my peripheral catches sight of friends, fellow students, and community members. I move my gaze to make eye contact, flash a smile, and offer at least a “hello” and “how are you?” Biased as I may be, this transgression seems less severe as I sit in class and watch half the freshmen text throughout an entire lecture, or say “hello” on campus and feel embarrassed when the attempt goes unnoticed due to headphones. I would like to take this time to point out the stupidity of “Save Sewanee” even at its beginnings. This originated, presumably, before texting and certainly before social media. Where, if not outside, should we make phone calls?

Take a step inside any building on campus and any semblance of cell service disappears immediately. Even now, with wireless internet allowing me to surf the ‘net and send messages in my room, we are forced to take phone conversations outdoors. I know we like the idea of our bubble, but not being allowed to phone home seems a bit extreme. “Save Sewanee” – to my knowledge – has not been uttered as a “friendly reminder” for quite some time (if ever). It is at best sarcastic, and at worst, just plain rude. Countless friends have recounted with horror, pain, or anger situations in which they have been the receiver of this remark. Many were receiving bad news: a relative’s death,a cancer diagnosis, a divorce,the list goes on. We look upon these situations as a shame, but is it less shameful when a joyful phone call is interrupted by a rude utterance?

Perhaps my own recent example is selfish and a bit trivial, but I’m going to relate it anyway. My boyfriend graduated Sewanee in May and moved to California on an island with no cell service and spotty wireless internet. We have to carefully orchestrate time for phone conversations. One weekend evening I was walking to Quintard from central campus around 11p.m. and was able to call him. I stood near Quintard while we caught up on happenings in each other’s lives. My pleasant conversation was rudely interrupted by an unknown passerby yelling “Save Sewanee.” He did not mean it as a friendly reminder; he was drunk and proceeded to make sexual proposals in less-than-decent language. Thankfully, he kept walking, but I was left outraged, and it really made me reflect on the nature of this tradition.

“Save Sewanee” doesn’t build community. It alienates, angers, hurts, harms. If it really is dead, it’s time to bury it… and move on.