Bridget Weisenburger, Contributing Writer
This semester, the total amount raised during Charity Week was $18,010.16. One of the University of Dallas’ earliest Charity Weeks raised only $1,300, and since then, the tradition has developed significantly. The main goal has remained the same, however: to build a strong sense of community among students, faculty and alumni. Together with other UD traditions, Charity Week embodies the foundations of UD’s beliefs.
Out of all of UD’s traditions, Charity Week has the most power to unite all classes, from freshmen to seniors, from fall and spring Romers to non-Romers, from current students to alumni.
Charity Week was launched in 1961 with the purpose of raising money for charity and building school unity. Over the years, Charity Week has taken on a larger role in forming the school’s identity by building a bridge between faculty and students that allows them to interact on a unifying level outside of the classroom.
This year, the senior class’ dedication to jailing raised $7,439.44. With the competition and amusement that the jail provides, it is no surprise that it was this semester’s highest-grossing event. The Thursday and Friday of Charity Week provide the highest level of entertainment, when professors allow their students to put them in jail instead of having classes.
The jail has created many favorite memories over the years, such as the famous escape by Dr. Susan Hanssen, professor of history, who defiantly recited Shakespeare’s “Henry V” speech atop the jail this year.
Senior Alex Lemke points to the role professors play during Charity Week.
“I really love it when the professors get involved in Charity Week; [in] Groundhog they can’t … because of its nature. Charity Week hinges a lot on the professors, more than other events,” said Lemke.
It is not just studentswho have fond memories of the week-long event. Although safety concerns have made it necessary to tone down the struggles that accompanied the arrest of professors and students, it remains a great source of entertainment.
Dr. Gregory Roper, UD class of 1984 and current associate professor of English said, “as a faculty member I love it; I love getting arrested. It’s not as much fun as it used to be, because they aren’t supposed to chase us anymore.”
“Charity week is what you make of it. If you attempt to be active during Charity Week, you will have a blast; freshmen can throw seniors in jail, a senior can throw a freshman in jail,” Lemke said.
Roper reflects on his own Charity Week experiences as a student, when even the president would be involved. He recalled, “One of the things they would auction off was the president’s parking space. Mark Grayson [a student] had the president’s parking space … he moved everything from his door room out there. He slept there and had an extension cord and powered everything up.”
Roper said that as a freshman, “I was unaware of Charity Week … I remember being in a chemistry lab on Tuesday and these guys dressed in black fedoras, black suit and tie, coming in and squirting our lab assistants with water guns. That was my introduction to Charity Week.”
Throughout the years there seems to be one treasured and enduring tradition of Charity Week: a Houdini priest.
“The big thing when we were students was Fr. Chis Rabay. He was the Fr. Maguire before Fr. Maguire. Five guys would have to tackle him and drag him in,” said Roper. “The jail was in Hagger. He arranged somehow for two seniors to start a fight, someone lowered a rope over the breezeway and he climbed up and ran down the stairs before anyone noticed.”
Lemke noticed a new Houdini priest this year. “Fr. Thomas definitely picked up the slack from Fr. Maguire in being the new feisty priest,” he said.
Roper also recalled a particular Charity Week memory of his own, when he and some fellow classmates, one of whom was Dr. John Norris (now associate provost and professor of theology at UD), “had the idea that eight of us would dress in drag for a day and we did. A week later we all dressed in drag and went to classes that way. Fr. Gilbert Hardy would not look at me all class.”
Every fall, the juniors, who have been separated by Rome, find themselves together as a class once again. After a year apart, there is often a great divide between the two Rome classes. Thus, the objective has been for the junior class to plan Charity Week, and in the process, bring the groups back together. The results have varied over the years.
Bill Moser, co-chair of the Charity Week of 1980, described the effect the division had on his class. “When kids came back from Rome there was a split between the classes,” said Moser. Worsening the division, spring and fall Romers were in dorms on opposite side of campus. Moser recalled that as leader of his spring class, and Carl Lumley as leader of the fall class, they decided to hijack the election and proclaim themselves the chairs. Their goal was to unite the Rome classes.
As a current student, Lemke views UD traditions as vital. “They create a sense of continuity among the classes of UD. When I work in the call center, I can talk to the alumni and mention how we are having Charity Week and talk about male auction and events.”
Roper summed up the value of Charity Week and the role it plays in UD’s communal chemistry. “When people come from the outside of UD it takes them a while to learn our culture,” he said. “I refer to it as our goofy side. I love it about the students. They are very serious about their studies, but because of that, you sometimes have to blow off some steam. You take your studies seriously, but not yourselves.”