As you read this article, you are certainly engulfed by the sights and sounds of Charity Week at the University of Dallas. This phenomenon of shouting, spraying, sprinting, shaving, (fake) singing, showing off and soliciting specie (money) is something perhaps unique to our school.
If you happen to be reading this while walking along the Mall, it is all but certain that right now someone is shoving another person into that large structure at the middle of the Mall. Yes, the Charity Week jail.
Filled with history and tradition, the jail has been with us as long as Charity Week. Rumor even has it that back in the day (before the drinking age was raised) Friday in jail was keg day, with one in each corner.
This history is also filled with daring escapes, marvelous speeches and epic battles that have involved Fr. Robert Maguire, Dr. Susan Hanssen and Dr. Andrew Moran, just to name a few. No doubt that as a prospective student you heard of these fantastic feats performed by our professors and have anxiously awaited their repetition.
However, in stark juxtaposition to this grand history stand some of the jail’s lesser moments. Shirts torn off students as they fight for their freedom, homework assignments sitting undone in their rooms as students wait to be released, broken glasses, bruised ribs, six on one fights – these are also parts of the history of the jail.
For many the jail is the most fun part of Charity Week. Running from jailers, wrestling, trying to break out – all exciting parts of their experience of the week’s festivities.
But for others the jail is the worst part of the week. To them it signifies fights, damaged property, wasted time and the unnecessary stress of having to avoid their own school’s Mall.
I fall into the latter camp. The jail is a source of stress and annoyance in my Charity Week. Its end is good, as no one can argue with charity, but its means are questionable. Put bluntly, the act of jailing someone unwillingly in order to obtain his or her money is extortion (Merriam-Webster definition: to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power).
In no way am I asking that the jail be tempered or tampered with, since it truly is a part of the history of the university. I do, however, appeal for an amendment of our approach to the jail.
I ask for an Opt-Out list – a list that sits at the Charity Week tables the preceding week allowing whoever wishes to withdraw from the wrangling of the wardens. It should be free and available to all those who do not wish to participate in the jail. Once on the list, a student would be free to walk the Mall without fear. But if not on the list, he would be fair game, unable to sign up as the strongmen put him away since he would have had plenty of time to do so before hand.
The jail has a tradition unlike any other, and I hope that it continues. Let it continue to bring adventure and legend to Charity Week. But for those who simply wish to walk on the Mall and not run from torn clothes and hours of wasted time, let’s be charitable and allow them to do as they will.