Take Back the Night is an event focused on collectively speaking out against — amongst many other social problems — rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, violence against children, and violence against women. Across the country, Take Back the Night rallies are made up of candlelight vigils, empowerment marches, and sexual assault survivor testimonials, as well as other forms of solidarity and protest.
With more than 100 students crowded around the television, mouths dropping open, eyes fixated on the single small screen, one would imagine we were watching the Super Bowl or the season finale of House or Lost, not two men vying to be the next president of the United States.
Sometimes in college residence halls, there are floors so great their inhabitants are designated by floor name. My first year, there were “those kids from Loose Second.” The next year, it was “those kids from D First.” I was always sort of mystified. How could people who had seemingly nothing but geography in common become so close?
Then, in my senior year, I moved to Read Second.
While most colleges have some sort of mascot, a select few have unofficial ones that are even more popular amongst the student body. Here at Grinnell College, our unofficial mascot is unmistakably the squirrel.
Hang on. A squirrel?
It seems a bit odd at first. Why would we adopt a common, medium-sized rodent as an unofficial icon at a top-notch liberal arts institution? I admit I was a bit puzzled myself when I learned about the importance of squirrels to Grinnell College student life.
I’m a person who is very set in my habits. I get out of bed at the same time every single morning and try to go to bed at the same time every night. I go to the library pretty much every night at pretty much the same time. I have sat at the same desk in the library since the beginning of my first year. That means this relationship has lasted a full five semesters, going on a sixth — a period of time substantially longer than any relationship I’ve ever had with a boy.
My armpits dripped with the stinkiest of all sweats: that of the “I’m-really-stressedout” variety. My heart raced, and I struggled in vain to fight back tears. Here I was, the day before Thanksgiving break during first year, intent on finishing a paper due the next day. My pink and purple folder containing all the meticulously edited drafts of said paper had gone missing.
Prior to my arrival at Grinnell, I was brought up on the basic principles of conservatism — I’m from a “Republican” family. For those of you who can (secretly) relate, Grinnell College can seem quite intimidating, right? After all, it is the college where more than 80 percent of students voted against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a candidate who repeatedly wins elections with at least 70 percent of the vote. Grinnell is a liberal bubble in the middle of the moderate political landscape of Iowa.
Let me tell you a little about Titular Head, Grinnell’s own homegrown film festival. Now don’t get the wrong impression. We’re not sophisticated filmmakers. We don’t watch in silence and clap politely at the end. And we definitely don’t submit the movies on time.
Twelve first-years. Twelve! While staff training week taught me how to handle pretty much every conceivable conflict I might encounter as a student adviser, or S.A., it left out that little part about any potential pandemonium that could arise when 12 nervous first-years begin their Grinnell experience on Read Second. Suddenly, my self-doubt about being an S.A. rose. My welcoming presence would play a key role in getting the college career of my first-years off to an acceptable start and convincing parents that leaving their kids in Iowa wasn’t such a bad idea.