I went over to the All-Campus Snowball Fight on Wednesday, plodding and sniffling from my south campus dorm to the spot, as the Facebook event put it, “just north of the library.” Many of us were heading over, troops of ten or fifteen students traveling toward the same little grove I was, each with a caravan trailing them: behind this gang from Tech there was another crew thirty feet behind, and yet another fifteen feet behind them.
I was struggling at the time with one of those persistent Winter Quarter colds, which descend somewhere around Week 2 and then return, like the harpies, every Wednesday, but this was the All-Campus Snowball Fight and it seemed like a thing not to be missed. As my group approached Kellogg, a brunette sorority sister directly in front of me ran into a friend of hers, and she said, “Jason! I didn’t know you were gonna be here!”
“How could I miss it?” he said. “It’s the all-campus snowball fight.”
And indeed: It was an event that heralded living NU history. The administration has called a snow day only four times in Northwestern’s 160 years: the first in 1918, during World War I, the second in 1967 during Vietnam, and the third in 1979, while my parents were in college and Carter was president. The fourth was Wednesday. An entire generation of Northwestern students have been denied a snow day, and now we had one. And now there was a snowball fight on top of that which claimed–and seemed to be–for the whole campus. Sound the purple vuvuzela! Surely Orrington Lunt’s body was rotating in its grave.
The whole campus didn’t show up, of course. “Media estimates”–meaning, I think, some high-achieving Medill students, placed the turn-out above 100, which struck me as conservative. There were, at the time of this writing, 1,328 students attending the Facebook event. Regardless, it seemed like a good cross-section of campus, and the people who were there seemed to come from all NU’s myriad pockets and communities.
And it was a wonderfully Northwestern scene. Sorority sisters teamed up viciously against everyone else; fratstars chucked indiscriminately and then guffawed; theater kids ran about, hugging each other and occasionally mounting an offensive: all these small, warring, ten-person pockets of flying slush, with people running from group to group, scarves rippling behind them, trading hugs and hellos and hard missiles.
And every so often, a group of girls would scream, and everyone would turn towards them, and suddenly there would be a huge pit as everyone threw slush at each other. One Northwestern, at last! Our attention was united in chucking snow at one thing!
It conjured, to my mind, the recent brothel debacle.
In that event, too, there was a scream, a sudden frenzy and a fizzle that brought us together. Add this all-campus snow contest, and you have two times this quarter that NU has united. Both times, no one made a fuss about coming together. We simply did, because there was a need to address or fun to be had.
We may each have our gangs, our frats or boards or majors which manifested themselves as tiny pockets of icy battle on Wednesday. And those gangs, those famed Northwestern sub-communities, may be quite real. But what Brothelgate and the snowball fight proved is that we’re all in eachother’s worlds. No one’s just involved in theater or has exclusively engineering friends, and that was clear even in the small group which came out on Wednesday. We’re always running between groups, meeting our friends, smiling widely and chucking an ice ball.