To explain Charity Week to a non-UDer seems simple enough. Students come together and raise money for charity through an odd collection of traditions that take place over one week. But these traditions themselves are not as easy to explain; one has to live them.
In what other time or place would it be normal to chase your friends into a wooden jail, shoot them with water guns or show up to their dorm late at night dressed as an oompa loompa? Normalcy is thrown out the window and students campus-wide embrace the hilarity of this ridiculous week.
While Charity Week is always successful in its primary monetary gain, there is another, deeper and perhaps invaluable gain acquired by its participants. Though most students would not enter into its traditions of their own accord, the week seems to celebrate something higher and more fundamental than simply raising money. Though it’s all done “for charity,” there is an energy in the air which bonds students to one another, and their surroundings, in a priceless way.
“Jail” seems to be a good example of this palpable atmosphere. The jail is often built by the members of The Society of Saint Joseph, and constructed of wooden beams. Seniors sign up to guard the jail all week, and for a smooth $1, students can lock up their friends, classmates and even professors. Sounds like a perfectly normal sight, right?
This past Friday, the forecast predicted heavy downpours all afternoon. Mother Nature delivered and yet, in the name of charity, the mall was full of students. Some had umbrellas, some were soaking wet and others, somehow, were both.
Inside the jail, water dripped from cracks in the ceiling, and a disco ball swung back and forth. A speaker had materialized, and when it died, students led their jail mates in song. A professor compared our environment to an Old Mill party, with its music, leaking pipes and slap happy college students. The term “club jail,” coined by a senior last year, seemed more than fitting.
Looking out through graffiti covered beams that had been nailed back in many times, one could see students dancing on the mall, running to their friends inside and singing along to the music. The energy of club jail was overflowing and spilling outside of it, and proving to be stronger than the damp weather.
When one envisions an ideal Friday afternoon, it is dubious that they dream of being soaking wet and crammed into a wooden structure threatening to fall apart at any moment. Yet for the members of club jail, there was no better place to be.
UD is certainly unique in its culture, people and traditions. But without them, its students would gain so much less from their four years spent here. The normalcy so easily embraced by other schools and other students may perhaps be easier to explain, but it certainly could never foster a place like club jail.