Should we have a statue of a groundhog on campus?

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Senior Bree Adsit argues in favor of putting a statue of a groundhog on campus.

This year’s celebration marks the 50th anniversary of the origin of the Groundhog Day celebration at the University of Dallas. The university has several documents in the archives that record the origins of the celebration and the enthusiasm of the early student body to create and maintain this tradition. Even through the ‘80s and ‘90s, many of the student memoirs in the archives talk about how the Groundhog celebration provided some of the students’ best memories of the University of Dallas. It did not matter what year you were, this celebration brought the entire student body together: past, present and future students.

This animal, cast in bronze and made larger-than-life, is slated to occupy a “prominent” place on the university’s campus. Is such a statue an icon of unity and friendship, an exclusionary and irrelevant waste, or something else altogether? –Photo courtesy of alagraham.com

This statue is not meant to degrade the Core curriculum. But I believe that a senior gift should say something about what made our four years of studying late and writing hundreds of pages of papers worth it to us in the end. Whether or not you have been an avid participator in the Groundhog festivities over the past three years, I don’t think anyone can deny that this celebration is unique to our school and binds students together with each other and with alumni, in the same way that everyone who has ever been to UD can relate to the dreaded “Lit Trad II annotated essay.” This common bond helps to make UD what UD is beyond graduation – a family of supporters that you can call on to help you, hang out with you or even get you a job, no matter where in the country or the world you end up after graduation.

The groundhog is more than just a reason to drink in the snow in February. It is the mascot of our rugby team. Students bring a stuffed groundhog to Rome each semester to help document their travels. Outside of athletics, the groundhog appears to be more our school mascot than the Crusader. In a way, the groundhog represents student life at UD. It is not a reminder of all of our academic achievements, but rather it is the embodiment of everything we did outside of the classroom, which arguably has done more to form us as young adults than any West Civ II lecture or Phil of Being paper ever could.

This statue is not meant to be a representation of who we are as a whole university. It is meant to add to the university a reminder of another side of our students – the side of us that does things outside of the library and the classroom. We are a unique school with a unique student body with some very unique traditions… like throwing professors in jail. But all in all, we are well-rounded people seeking a well-rounded education in balance with social activities that form us to be ready for life outside the Bubble. Groundhog celebrations all over the country provide opportunities to bring alumni together to reminisce about all UD gave them – academically, socially and spiritually. The groundhog brings them together. That is the spirit this statue embodies.

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Senior Daniel Orazio argues against putting a statue of a groundhog on campus.

 

The decision to build a groundhog statue having already been made, this article serves little constructive purpose. Indeed, I have been assured that the intemperate words that follow form a singularly unpersuasive case, one that will likely turn many people away from my “side” in this schoolyard squabble. Really, my only reason for writing is to incite the fires already raging within Joe Giallombardo’s patriotic heart. So, knowing full well that what I’m about to write will probably enhance my reputation as an unreasonable, incorrigible hack, I nevertheless intrepidly begin.

To start with, a lifelike statue of a groundhog actually misses the point of Groundhog Day. The party isn’t about an animal; it’s about beer, food, music and camaraderie – about celebrating life’s legitimate pleasures and not feeling guilty about it. Groundhog Day is simply the occasion. We don’t drink to a groundhog; we drink to life. The message is: We’re Catholics, not Puritans. To build a statue of a groundhog is to confuse things, and weirdly put the emphasis on the animal whose “day” simply provides a humorous justification for throwing a party. (At any rate, the groundhog pseudo-mascot we see each Charity Week looks more like a bear than a marmot.)

For another thing, the statue will have a narrower appeal than assumed. Groundhog Day is marked by frosty weather, cheap beer, huge crowds, interminable lines and live music. For people who don’t care for such things, or don’t like the particular combination of them, Groundhog Day is not a favorite time of the year; it’s a dreadful bore. I went to Groundhog once, didn’t much enjoy it, and haven’t been back. There are numerous students like me in this regard, even a few seniors who have never been to Groundhog. Why build a monument to a social event that excludes entire personality types?

Finally and most importantly, to spend time and money on a groundhog statue is to miss an opportunity to address one of the school’s most glaring problems: a near-total lack of overt Catholicity. Walk down the Mall, enter Braniff or meander by the dormitories, and what won’t you see? Evidence that this is a Catholic college. You could spend an hour here and not realize we had a church. If we’re going to convince prospective students who could attend established Catholic schools with beautiful campuses – places like Notre Dame, Georgetown or Santa Clara – to choose UD, then we ought to show them that the Catholic intellectual and spiritual life is what animates this institution.

Because without that intellectual and spiritual life, there’d be no reason to come here. The University of Dallas is not blessed with a scenic location or enthralling Gothic architecture, and it has no national name-recognition. Seriously academic and seriously Catholic students consign themselves to four years at an unsightly campus in Irving (the city known as “the armpit of Dallas”) because they sense that here resides a spiritual and intellectual life they won’t find anywhere else. This thing will be a slap in the face to that trust.

The groundhog statue will be our campus’s fourth statue, joining two Virgin Marys and oft-urinated-upon Aslan that is often used as a urinal. While I am grateful for the two statues of the Mother of God, neither has a general campus presence, the one effectively a part of the church, the other hid away in the woods. In the collective consciousness of UD, Aslan holds the pre-eminent place. Putting a groundhog along the Mall would further divert our gaze from meaningful statues to animal statues. What sort of school erects statues to a lion and a groundhog rather than to Saints Peter and Paul, Saint Thomas Aquinas or Blessed Pope John Paul II? At a time when the president of the United States is waging active war on Catholic religious liberty, a fearful answer suggests itself: a school that won’t remain Catholic for long.

Class of 2014, when your representatives ask you for ideas for your senior gift, don’t ignore them: Get involved.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Daniel Orazio, well delivered and reasoned. Too bad most people that make the final decisions (or the majority of students) do not care about the identity of the University or its history but rather something else entirely.

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