Underlying tension in Groundhog

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Evan Hierholzer, Managing Editor

 

While perhaps the greatest UD social gathering, Groundhog has always kept beer at the center of the event.  –UD photo
While perhaps the greatest UD social gathering, Groundhog has always kept beer at the center of the event.
–UD photo

Recently the Office of Student Life (OSL) has made an understandable and necessary effort to inform the student populace about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and the importance of making wise decisions. I could not be more supportive of this endeavor.

When discussing the topic of Groundhog with Joe Aziz, a Resident Coordinator here at the University of Dallas, I was impressed by the amount of effort exerted by RA’s and other UD staff in order to ensure an enjoyable and safe Groundhog experience for everyone.

There is something even more impressive about Groundhog, however. What is interesting to me, and to Joe as well, about Groundhog, as with many other events at UD, is that there seems to be a fundamental tension at work. There is on the one hand the call to celebrate in a responsible and religiously endorsed fashion (i.e. drinking moderately, eschewing vice in all its forms and living up to the high calling of Catholic university students). On the other hand, there is the undeniable, and arguably, founding principle of Groundhog which enshrines alcohol consumption and all its concomitant, amusing effects.

In no way am I condemning OSL or the University of Dallas for this tension. I think that these kinds of paradoxical phenomena lie at the heart of any institution; it seems to me a far cry from hypocrisy. Groundhog, I am sure, developed organically, likely a process of largely unconscious impulses toward collective celebration. Students exercised their creativity and conceived of previously unimagined ways and locations to drink.

Perhaps I am too quick in identify drinking as the central activity of Groundhog, for better or for worse, to which live music and food consumption are clearly subordinate. Fellowship and collective celebration may also be considered as Groundhog foci, and I would agree, but not without the accompaniment of alcohol, and typically in amounts which exceed the amount strictly “needed” to act as a modest social lubricant.

Then again, in my almost four years at UD, my initial conception of Groundhog as an event primarily involving drinking for most of the day has not been seriously shaken since freshman year. There are even some codified events, such as the Champagne Breakfast, which reaffirm the centrality, not only of drinking, but of getting an early start.

For me it is not disturbing that a Catholic university promotes, either officially or unofficially, Groundhog as its distinctive and largest school event. It is amusing, and it is entertaining to think about the internal paradoxes which inhere in virtually every UD event, but these considerations do not impel me toward judgment.

Neither am I claiming that a serious moral assessment of the Groundhog phenomenon is inappropriate or out of place; it is simply an endeavor that I leave to others more invested and deeply entrenched in UD culture and identity than I.

I am appreciative of OSL and Campus Safety and every other university entity that does its best to promote a safe and fun event, and I am thankful for their work in promulgating such awareness.

I am also appreciative of that irrational, Dionysian element embodied in Groundhog and related events.

I am also appreciative of University of Dallas’ unabashed embrace of the Catholic Faith.

How these threads all ply together to form a cohesive, logically sustainable whole, or if they do synthesize into such, is, I believe an unresolved and often unexamined question. Happy Groundhog!

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