A whale of a tale: debating the senior gift

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By Patricia Brennan

Staff Writer

 

 

 

 

The Senior Committee has not even officially formed, but some seniors are already planning the senior gift for the class of 2015. Gifts in the past have ranged from a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Rome scholarships for students in financial need. However, some of the potential gifts proposed this year have been more unusual.

An initial survey given last year placed a running track at the top of the list, but due to the lack of space and funding the proposal was deemed unfeasible.

The next most popular idea began as a joke. Last spring, an article by then-sophomore Emma Polefko appeared in The University News for April Fools’ Day. In the article, Polefko proposed a whale-shaped fountain in honor of Moby Dick, the whale from the Core novel of the same name. While the article was intended as a joke, the idea soon gained traction.

“There is a small, determined group of students trying to get this whale fountain as the class gift,” senior class representative Dominic Dougherty said.

Though the idea was the second most popular, it has been the object of some controversy. Some students say the whale is supported by a small collection of impassioned students campaigning for this gift, rather than a general consensus among the student body.

“The money might better be used elsewhere,” senior Rebecca Espinosa said.

Senior Killian Beeler shared a different opinion. “I think it fits in well with the playfulness of U.D.,” said Beeler. “We’re both very serious here of our academic studies, but able to make fun of ourselves.”

One of the main concerns regarding the whale fountain is the lack of connection to the university. Dougherty maintains that, while unique and humorous, a replica of a whale may still represent the University of Dallas and its most important aspects: the Core, the Rome program, and our Catholic faith.

After starting as the subject of an April Fools’ story last year, a whale-shaped fountain in Braniff Foyer has become a real possibility.  -Photo by Rebecca Rosen
After starting as the subject of an April Fools’ story last year, a whale-shaped fountain in Braniff Foyer has become a real possibility.
-Photo by Rebecca Rosen

The whale’s representation of the Core is evident to all students reading Melville’s “Moby Dick” in Lit Trad IV. Dougherty also had the idea to incorporate Catholicism and the Rome program. He proposed that if the Moby Dick fountain eventually becomes the gift, it could be dedicated to Dr. Eugene Curtsinger, a former professor of the university. A war hero and beloved professor, Curtsinger was a two-time director of the university’s Rome program. He was also a lover of “Moby Dick,” even once giving a presentation on the work and its relation to Catholicism — drawing parallels to the story of Jonah and the whale. This connection would give the prospective fountain a direct link to the Old Testament.

The projected idea has been deemed feasible by vice president of enrollment and student affairs Dr. John Plotts, but many students are hesitant to let the senior gift become the “golden groundhog” — a proposed gift by the class of 2012 that was eventually turned down.

“I hope the gift that wins is supported by the majority of seniors rather than a polarity of 20 percent of students who got their choice,” Dougherty stated.

Even supporters of the fountain agree with Dougherty’s statement.

“If people in our grade really, really don’t want it, we shouldn’t do it at all,” said Beeler.

Other ideas include various suggestions for statues, such as a crusader located by the sports fields, a statue of Athena to represent the Greek and Roman aspect of our core and serve as a parallel to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and an outdoor classroom such as the one located on the Due Santi campus.

The senior gift is organized by the Senior Committee, and while the chairs are chosen through democratic election, any senior is welcomed and encouraged to join the Senior Committee. The vote for the class gift will likely be held in October with fundraising beginning soon after. The goal for the class of 2015 is to have the gift in place by commencement, an idea motivated by troubles with the execution of senior gifts in the past few years.

Seniors are encouraged to make their opinions on the class gift known, and to provide new suggestions or ideas.

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