“The rumors are true,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley with a playful emphasis on “rumors.”
Following a series of meetings with West College (WestCo) presidents for the past several years and members of the administration and Residential Life (ResLife), the administration has approved the rechristening of Zonker Harris Day, the arts and music festival that takes place in the WestCo courtyard during WesFest each year. Current WestCo presidents Tennesse Mowrey ’14, Isaac Silk ’14, Spencer Burnham ’14, Faith Harding ’14, and Ryan Dias-Toppin ’14 received the okay to return to the festival’s original title this past Tuesday. In its rebirth, the festival will include a community service element.
“The administration wanted us to change some of the preconceptions about the festival,” Silk said. “The plan is to enhance the festival’s image and reach out to all members of the Wesleyan community.
Whaley has met with ResLife and the student leadership of WestCo several times over the past several months.
“I have come to a better understanding of their position with respect to the name of the event,” he wrote in an email to The Argus. “I think that they have also better understood my concerns about some of the very problematic behavior associated with past festivals (when the ZHD moniker was last used). When I met with them this week, we agreed that they would be able to call the event ‘Zonker Harris Day’ this year and that we would all work to prevent unwanted behavior that would jeopardize the future of the event. We will give it a try and hopefully have a successful event!”
The administration’s decision to change the name of the annual music and arts festival in 2008 was met with much controversy from the student body. For the past several years the festival has occurred under the moniker of Ze Who Will Not Be Named Day. Started in the 1970s, the festival was named after a Doonesbury comic character who is a pot-smoking hippy. Although many students continued to refer to the event as Zonker Harris Day over the years, because some of the event’s funding comes from the administration, the event was officially deemed Ze Who Will Not Be Named Day following the administration’s mandate.
Past WestCo presidents have contacted Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, first in the late seventies, to inform him of the festival’s existence, and again in 2008 to notify him of the administration’s decision to change the festival’s name.
Last November, Trudeau satirized the administration’s decision to change the name in an effort to rid the festival of its perceived “hippie-drug” image. In the last leg of the themed string of comics, character Zonker Harris decides to “break the ol’fourth wall” and call Roth to ask whether the administration’s issues with the lifestyle Uncle Z espouses can be resolved.
Leading up to this year’s event, which will be on Saturday, April 16 during WesFest, WestCo will be holding bake sales to raise money for some local organizations, potentially Amazing Grace or Green Street.