By Lam Ho
On Saturday, January 23, freshman boys and girls woke up to a winter wonderland. Over two inches of snow had accrued over the past day, and flurries still fell from the sky as students shuffled to Mc-Clurg, preparing for the excitement of meeting their new Greek brothers and sisters. Around 10 a.m., the student body received messages from Greek council members informing them that Shake Day would be postponed due to inclement weather.
Fleming Smith (C’19), a freshman girl, says, “It’s kind of nervewracking to go through rush right as you go back to school, hoping that you’re making a good impression on everyone, and when you’re finally supposed to get your bid, you have to wait an entire other day. I completely understand why they postponed Shake Day, and I want everyone to be safe, but it’s really frustrating that we couldn’t even get our bids, especially when all the guys in our year already knew on Friday.”
After the announcement, Interfraternity Council President Willy Wright (C’16) said, “Administrators and staff, including Dean Gentry and Chief Marie, felt very uncomfortable with conditions today. Chief Marie was unable to get police presence up here today. Police, in combination with beers in cans and pizza, come together to create a safe Shake Day. Because we were unable to provide that, we postponed Shake Day until Sunday. It is in the best interest of the whole Sewanee community and for Greek Life to be celebrated, not to serve as a danger to student health.”
The decision, made to recognize the lack of safety on campus due to transportation complications, served as a controversial but carefully executed plan. Numerous factors come together to make Shake Day safe: along with Greek Life staff, Residential Life, the Sewanee Police Department, emergency medical responders, and food services play a role in ensuring the safety of students.
Nasko Apostolov (C’17), Proctor of Courts Hall, says, “As a Proctor, I do have a responsibility for my residents to be safe and make considerate choices when it comes to going out and having fun, so with Shake Day normally happening on a Saturday, it gives us an opportunity to inform them about what’s happening and the fact that if they decide to partake in their respective organizations’ festivities, there is usually a Sunday to recuperate and get ready for the new week… My opinion is that it could impact the ability of many of the first-year students who are not used to the dynamics of a normal week in Sewanee. I think it could preclude some of them from going to class the next day and it may inhibit their academic performance. I don’t think it’s necessarily the right choice, but given the weather conditions and recent storms, I do also understand the stance [of the University] to move it because I know that they are trying to have the best interest of students in mind.”
Shake Day’s revised schedule also had repercussions for non-Greek students. Rachel Rodgers (C’17), resident of Quintard, says, “Normally Shake Day isn’t so bad because everyone’s on central campus, but with it being postponed, people are just partying indoors. It’s harder to study that way.”
“While it’s disappointing that Shake Day is being postponed, the most important element is that Greek organizations have a special time to welcome new members and celebrate their brotherhood or sisterhood. If we keep that in mind, we will be able to make the experience special no matter what day it is. It’s easy to see why Greek members are upset by the change when we are so eager to enjoy this exciting day, but it’s also clear that concern about safety needs to be taken seriously,” Desiree Kamerman (C’16) says.
President of Beta Theta Pi Graff Wilson (C ’18) adds, ”I think that while it was unexpected and upset a large number of people, it was ultimately the right decision. The goal of Shake Day is to be fun without compromising the safety of students and staff. Without the necessary precautions, Shake Day could have been disastrous if not cancelled.”
Dean Hagi Bradley says, “It’s been a long day. With the safety concerns that the weather posed, we needed to help keep students safe. After discussions with Chief Marie, postponing it by a day was what we felt needed to be done. Shake day is the beginning of an amazing journey for students who join fraternities and sororities and we wanted it to start out safely.”
Written with contributing reporting by Hadley Montgomery (C’18) and Robert Beeland (C’18)