Zonker Harris Day and its fall counterpart, Duke Day, are two of the most unique and cherished modern Wesleyan traditions. The recent news of plans by Admissions, ResLife, Michael Roth and apparently the Student Activities and Leadership Development Board (SALD) (under complete manipulation by ResLife) demanding that the name of Zonker Harris Day be changed has come as a complete and disheartening shock. This is a calculated scheme involving various facets of the administration to change the name of the popular WestCo festival. This is why they are wrong and unjustified:
First, “Zonker Harris Day,” the name and the event, is a plus for Admissions, if anything. One of the highlights of the campus tour that I participated in over two years ago was the tour guide’s enthusiastic description of the student-governed, communal life in WestCo—specifically Duke Day and Zonker Harris Day. The tour guide stated both names and descriptions of these unique events with pride, stating that these events are time-honored, inspired traditions. Has the bureaucratic administration of this school become so oppressive and out-of-touch that it thinks this is no longer the case? Why now, after years of supporting the image that Zonker Harris Day projects onto prospective students, has Admissions entirely betrayed its support and endorsement of this event? The fact is, to most prospective students who learn of Zonker Harris Day at WesFest, the event will be a reason to come to Wesleyan.
Secondly, what is really in this name? “Doonesbury” began as a comic in the Yale Daily News in 1968 and has remained a politically relevant outlet for left wing sentiments. It even won a Pulitzer Prize for a comic strip concerning the Watergate scandal. The characters have become icons symbolizing informed liberalism at its finest. The past three Duke Day celebrations have been the only tributes of their kind to take place since the death of the great Hunter S. Thompson (may his soul rest in peace). I would like to think that there are many other students who take great pride in this tribute to one of our generation’s finest authors and journalists. The character of Zonker Harris himself is a free-spirited but intelligent pacifist who, in recent comic strips, has adamantly opposed the War in Iraq and instead chosen tranquility in rural Connecticut. How ironic. Zonker Harris is no longer welcome in his home state.
Finally, Michael Roth, you should think of a better adjective to describe a student-run arts festival at the University of which you are president. Or you should at least clarify yourself. What exactly, Mr. Roth, are referring to as “stupid?” Is it the festival itself, an event consisting of a wider array of music and art than any other event at Wesleyan? Is it the intelligent political cartoon that the festival’s name is based on? Is it the image that Director of ResLife Fran Koerting called the “hippie-druggie stereotype?” Well, if it is the latter, I have news for you, Mr. Roth: attempting to change the historical name of this festival will not crush the spirit or change the image of this event, it will only disenfranchise a large number of your very own students. Calling our festival “stupid” is quite offensive. Please, think of a more articulate way to express your feelings toward student activities.
What kind of way is this for Wesleyan’s administration to treat its very own students? The administration has demonstrated its unrelenting desire to crush student activities by manipulating the power structure among its own organizations. This is nothing short of tyrannical and a sign of a problem potentially much more serious. ResLife has “promised” WestCo that even if students raise the money themselves, the SALD would not approve an event named Zonker Harris Day. What message does this send to the student community who wants to be involved in entirely student-funded events in the future?
Would prospective students and their families more likely be turned-off by “Zonker Harris Day” or by the fact that the administration has completely abused its power in order to strip the festival of its true name? Anyone who believes the latter (a group which apparently includes Roth, the Office of Admissions and ResLife) is truly “stupid.”