As noted a few days ago, Wesleying’s A-Batte wrote a plea for prefrosh to stay for Zonker Harris Day and 4/20 and posted it on the Admissions’ “Voices” blog. It was subsequently removed by Admissions staffers, who felt it would be more appropriate for Wesleying. It’s no longer timely for prefrosh, but it is a fun and informative read, so we’re posting it here for posterity.
Hey there, prefrosh! If you’re reading this, there is a greater-than-zero chance that you either are on campus right now or will be in the next couple days, potentially for the first time ever. If you’re a potential member of the Class of 2017, congratulations on your acceptance! Along with the rest of the Wesleyan community, I’m delighted to welcome you here, and hope that you find the various activities of WesFest this year eclectic and appealing enough to seriously consider attending next year. In the way of resources for the next few days, you may want to make use of the administration’s official schedule for the weekend or the WesAdmits 2017 facebook page for accepted students. You may also want to check out the “WesFest” tag on Wesleying, a student-run blog that covers student life on and around campus (which I should mention I write for; sorry if this sounds like a cheap plug).
WesFest runs from today, Wednesday, through Friday, April 19th, and you should feel free to do roam campus as you feel best while you’re here. If you don’t mind, though, and you have the time, I think that you should seriously consider staying for Saturday, 4/20, which is Zonker Harris Day, an annual student-organized celebration which typically takes place during WesFest. If you do, you’ll get a better picture of what life at Wesleyan — social, academic, and beyond — is actually like, which will help you make a more informed decision about your future in higher education. Interested? Click past the jump for some more information.
First, it’s useful to have a basic understanding of Zonker Harris Day at Wesleyan. In existence since at least the 1970s, Zonker Harris Day is an all-day festival of music and culture, generally associated with psychedelia, that takes place in the courtyard of the WestCo dorms. Its namesake is a (one-time) stoner from the comic strip Doonesbury, written by Garry Trudeau. The WestCo community organizes the event and typically attends in force, though friends and music fans from other Wesleyan communities also attend, typically in the hundreds over the course of the day. The event usually coincides with WesFest, taking place during the Saturday of the three-day program for prospective students and thus being a significant, if somewhat subversive, staple of Wesleyan culture. In the fall, a similar event, Duke Day – also named after a Doonesbury character – takes place in WestCo.
So, why isn’t Zonker Harris happening during WesFest this year? According to this resolution from the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), the University administration chose to move WesFest up one day, happening Wednesday-through-Friday instead of the usual Thursday-through-Saturday. The decision has been attributed to the administration’s historically rocky relationship to Zonker Harris Day, as well as the fact that ZHD falls on 4/20 this year – it seems that the University would rather avoid a strong association with recreational drug culture.
This is, of course, a pretty reasonable thing for the people in charge of an elite and prestigious school to be concerned about. But despite that, I’m suggesting that you stick around for the day’s events. The reason, I think, is because I want the picture of Wesleyan that you, the prefrosh, end up forming to be fairly honest. If Wesleyan is a school where students put up all-day festivals, and is also a school where some students use recreational drugs when they’re given space to explore and experiment, that’s something that you deserve to know, and if you choose, witness for yourself, in the interest of making the most informed decision about the next four years and beyond that you can. It’s also important that a Saturday is included, especially as opposed to a Wednesday, so that potential freshpeople have a chance to explore the various facets of weekend life on campus, even if it doesn’t involve festivities like Zonker Harris Day. And that last note is crucial — if what I’ve described so far sounds like something you want no part of, then you deserve a chance to see that alternative and substance-free activities abound at Wesleyan on weekdays and weekends alike, and you’ll have opportunities to enjoy yourself both at work and at play in a plethora of different ways.
If WesFest if your chance to see what the Wesleyan experience really is, then you deserve to know about long-standing traditions like Zonker Harris Day—firsthand, if that’s what you think is best. And even if you’re not lucky enough to be able to extend your stay by a day, you should at least know just how you might find yourself in the WestCo Courtyard next year, with a prefrosh or two of your own.
For more information, try the following resources in addition to your student hosts and members of the Wesleyan community at large:
- These articles from The Wesleyan Argus and this Wesleying post covering recent Zonker Harris Days.
- The WSA resolution and minutes (1,2) from their discussion of the rescheduling of WesFest.
- Some coverage from The New York Times, The Hartford Courant, The Wesleyan Argus, and Wesleying of the the controversy that involved Doonesbury author Garry Trudeau in the 2010/2011 school year. (Here are the original comics.)
- The ‘zonker harris‘ and ‘Zonker Harris Day‘ tags on Wesleying.
- Another Wesleying post where alumni reflect fondly on their Zonker Harris Day memories, as well as this reflection in the comments section.