Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wesleyan, Zonker Harris, and Uncle Duke

When I was in college, my dorm (WestCo) had two huge festivals every year - Duke Day in October, and Zonker Harris Day in April. The festivals were based on drug experimentation during my time in the late '80s, and the dorm floors were decorated so that everyone coming through, but especially those taking psychedelics, would have an interesting experience. For instance, one floor put in black lights, covered the walls with paper and painted with fluorescent paint, and made highlighters available for drawing on the walls (or on skin). A common area was made into a womb, with mattresses and fabric walls. Tubs of oobleck were available to play with. The night before Duke Day, a group of students would pass out joints in the campus dining hall - an event called a "smoke out". To my knowledge, no action was ever taken by the authorities until my senior year (note that it was a first-year student who got busted - someone who had been told by the older students that nothing ever happened and it was safe to take a joint).

OK - so even *I* will acknowledge that it's difficult from a non-college student perspective to defend these festivals (other than saying that they were a hell of a lot of fun, and I'm glad I got to participate in them), and I'm not sure how it is that Wesleyan was able to stay more or less hands-off for a number of years. Shortly after I graduated in 1990, I heard that the festivals had been redesigned as music festivals, with no trace of the drug focus left - in fact, I remember reading something about the festivals specifically forbidding drug use.

But after reading Doonesbury this morning, and then googling and finding this, I have to wonder if the festivals were really as sanitized as I had thought they were. (The student blog, Wesleying, has put up a few posts, including some comments by alumni who also remember these holidays fondly.)

In any case, they seem to do it a little differently now, holding it on Foss Hill instead of inside West Co and in the courtyard. I'm sentimentally glad, though - and also surprised - to see that Wes is still using the same supplier for their dorm furniture (see the second picture). Despite renovations that supposedly included "better furniture" in 2005 or so, the furniture is exactly the same as it was '86-'90 (see photo 8).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plains Feminist -

I stumbled on a Boon Tan reference on a Wes blog site and thought of you and the days of South Dakota's anti-abortion law immediately. Imagine my surprise when I saw another Boon article posted in your blog.

The site is a Wesleyan history blog, Wesleying 2009, according to the history on my Safari.