Ode to dead week

Just before my first RRR week — which, I was informed, does not stand for “reduce, reuse, recycle” — a friend of mine explained its true name: “dead week.” I laughed, hiding my worries about its accuracy.

I couldn’t have known then what a symbol of school spirit dead week truly is. As we attempt our second go at remote finals, feelings of isolation and apathy have overcome the feelings of community we usually enjoy.

And so, looking back on that time, I can’t help but do so with rose-colored glasses.

I miss strolling through Haas Library, envious of the “Intro to Business” Quizlets open on every device.

I miss the black market haggling of deep stacks where caffeine is as good as currency.

I miss freezing my cheeks off in the dungeons beneath Wheeler Hall, hidden between decaying manuscripts and depressive episodes.

I miss hanging my feet over the railing outside Doe, watching the people come in and out of hiding: the slack-jawed STEM majors, drowning in a sea of Monster Energy cans, the girl with an entire tree branch sticking out of her hair, only to notice after clotheslining a communications major on the way to Golden Bear Cafe.

But most of all, I miss the atmosphere.

I miss watching a group of students huddle around a table or scrawl a problem across a whiteboard.

I miss the silence convincing me the entire world could hear my footsteps over the clacking of keyboards.

I miss trying to pry my way into locked study rooms to no avail.

I miss all-nighters where you get to watch the windows change color and hear the birds start chirping.

I miss the symbols of college community that make the weeklong marathon a bearable race.

During dead week, the student body becomes a vast, disparate supercomputer with enough analytical wherewithal to solve the biggest problems of our age. I can’t help but marvel at the power of hundreds of trillions of neurons all aimed at one thing — it’s impressive the libraries don’t spontaneously combust.

So much of that is gone. Libraries are shuttered, cafes are empty and our lives are isolated. Grieving that loss is healthy and necessary.

In 2019, once that last Friday afternoon after finals came around, campus ignited in a sparkling celebration of victory over the semester. People climbed onto rooftops and screamed from towers. 

Those feelings of victory will be muted this year, but that doesn’t make our accomplishment any less real.

That student body supercomputer still exists; it’s just further spread out. Zoom sessions will never be able to replicate the feeling of being on campus, but all we can do is hold onto that spirit of solidarity.

We persevered through the most dire learning circumstances many of us have experienced. We watched our professors struggle with new platforms and our administrators with new restrictions, lost our communities and our accountability and tried desperately to flap our wings as we were pushed out of the nest.

I know that campus awaits our return as eagerly as we do. The archives miss having students sleeping among them. The bins miss overflowing with iced coffee cups. The railing outside Doe misses having feet hung over it

It’s good to mourn what’s missing. There’s nothing shameful about grief. I can only ask that you look toward our triumphant return with as much pride and anticipation as I do.

Contact Luke Stiles at [email protected].