Jim Amidon — It’s Bell Week.
That’s how Wabash students refer to the week leading up to the Monon Bell Classic football game. It’s a circle-it-on-your-calendar kind of week, filled with all kinds of events and activities — some of which are actually related to the storied gridiron football rivalry.
Generally, though, it’s just a week jam-packed with activities that brings the entire campus to life.
There really is a tangible change in the emotion and attitudes of students, faculty, staff, and — especially — alumni. You can just feel that it’s a very different week.
One of the great student traditions is the campus guard. Beginning last night and continuing through Friday night, freshman students will take turns guarding the campus. It is, of course, highly unlikely that rival students will make their way to the Wabash campus, but just in case, 40-50 freshmen will be on guard through the night.
You’ll see them huddled over steel barrels filled with burning wood, though with warm weather expected to continue for a few more days, the fires are likely to burn out.
While the guard itself is largely unnecessary, it is a rite of passage. I’m always surprised to hear graduating seniors reflect and say that campus guard in their freshman year was one of the great experiences they had at Wabash. A lot of that has more to do with class bonding and a unifying “us vs. them” mentality than actual campus security.
And it is a really cool tradition.
This is also a week of friendly competitions. Wabash will host a blood drive this week in the annual “Bleed for the Bell” campaign (Thursday, November 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Knowling Fieldhouse). Wabash tries to get a higher percentage of blood donors than DePauw — with the Central Indiana Regional Blood Center being the beneficiary of the bloody, but friendly rivalry.
Students, faculty, staff, and alumni from both schools are also raising money for the Co-Motion project, which generates a lot of cash for the Montgomery County Family Crisis Shelter and the Julian Center in Indianapolis. The two schools use the occasion of the rivalry to raise awareness of the horrors of domestic violence, while generating much-needed cash just before the holidays.
(Anyone can donate to Co-Motion. Just send a check made out to Wabash College with “Co-Motion” in the memo line, and send it to the Wabash College Business Office.)
The Wabash and DePauw rugby clubs will clash on Friday afternoon in what has become an incredible display of a sport I still don’t fully understand. Typically the rosters are filled with upperclassman students who have studied abroad and took part in European rugby scrums. Then they bring that spirit and enthusiasm back to campus with the “Monon Keg” trophy up for grabs.
On the intellectual side, it’s a big week as well. One of America’s brightest young authors, Jonathan Lethem, will come to campus Monday evening at 8 p.m. as the Will Hays Visiting Writer. Lethem, who will read from his new novel Chronic City, has written nine novels, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
It’s also a week dedicated to the arts. On Wednesday evening at 8 p.m., Wabash’s Music Department will present a concert by the Brass and Woodwind Ensembles, as well as the Jazz Band.
On Wednesday and Thursday nights, Wabash’s theater students will stage a remarkable selection of scenes from the best of American playwrights. Students taking the directing class will direct other students involved in acting courses. The result is tremendous theater on a small scale.
All of this leads up to the big game between the Little Giants and Tigers in the 116th battle for the Monon Bell. The game, set for 1 p.m. in Greencastle, is a sell-out. The high definition network HDNet will televise the game to an international audience, and the two schools’ alumni offices have arranged joint alumni telecast events in 64 cities across the country.
So it’s Bell Week, and I think it’s pretty neat that Wabash tries to make it a special, memorable week for the entire community.
Bell week is seven days of activities and events leading up to kickoff of the best small college rivalry in the country. It’s a week of Campus Guard, exciting visiting lecturers, concerts, plays, competitions, and fund-raisers that celebrate all the remarkable opportunities available at good, small undergraduate liberal arts colleges like Wabash and DePauw.
Go Wabash. Beat DePauw!