The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

The gourd, the bad and the ugly

AS THE final minutes of Halloween night ticked by, heads began popping out from behind closed Lawn room doors. Where and when would the P.U.M.P.K.I.N. Society strike? Rumors flew regarding the practices of the elusive group: "They come at midnight." "No, it's later." "Actually, I heard they come in the early evening." Those who burned the post-midnight oil Sunday on the Lawn learned the truth.

As the chants grew louder, those still awake ran outside to watch the spectacle. Cloaked figures, linked arm-in-arm, marched down the Lawn. At the Homer statue, they pranced around yelling "Respect us!" For the most part, it seems this Society does deserve the respect of University students. But one stop on their Halloween jaunt through Grounds should end - the stop that results in destruction and condemnation rather than encouragement and praise.

Each year the P.U.M.P.K.I.N.s bestow pumpkins with a "P" carved into them to 10 individuals in the University community, students and faculty members who presumably have affected the University positively and given of themselves to serve their fellow students. The Society also visits one University student to deliver him a gourd or, in this year's case, a smashed, rotted pumpkin.

The pumpkin awards recognize deserving students anonymously, but the gourd reflects petty dislike and represents purely political motivations. If the P.U.M.P.K.I.N.s aim to accentuate the positive and give credit to students who give of themselves but garner little recognition, awarding the gourd seems at odds with their goals.

The gourd creates a blemish in the Society's record of good deeds and detracts from their true purpose. Students focus on the gourd recipient rather than recognizing the positive contributions of those who received pumpkins. The P.U.M.P.K.I.N. Society's work cannot have a wholly positive impact with this kind of skewed emphasis.

This year, University students have no way of knowing who the P.U.M.P.K.I.N.s honored. Because of their failure to produce the appropriate type of candy for The Cavalier Daily staff, the P.U.M.P.K.I.N.s lost the privilege of running a free advertisement naming the recipients. Still, the students named deserve to have an acknowledgment of their distinction. Perhaps the P.U.M.P.K.I.N.s should determine an alternative method of identifying those they recognize, rather than relying on free advertising. The Society also should explain what the honored individuals have done to serve the University community.

In an effort to shift the focus of the P.U.M.P.K.I.N.s' awards to the positive pumpkin honors, accolades for this year's recipients follow:

Kisa Pendergras has worked on racial reconciliation at the University and has been an active member of Black Voices. She serves on resident staff, on the Christian Fellowship Council and as a peer advisor.

A friend of Jonathan Hottinger described this Engineering student as one who, "gives his heart and soul and lots of time to Young Life ... a Christian ministry to high school students." He remains dedicated to serving others while also consistently pursuing academic excellence.

According to one of his advisees, Dean Gordon Stewart "is exactly what a dean should be. He is just very friendly and willing to talk to you about school or life ... or Scottish heritage or whatever is on your mind." His remains committed to providing exceptional academic advising and to improving the University's intellectual climate.

Dustin Burke has served as the head of SAFE, Sexual Assault Facts and Education, a student organization committed to educating the University about the realities of sexual violence. He now serves as a Class of 2000 Trustee and is a member of the University Judiciary Committee.

David Wilkinson, a brother in the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, has participated in migrant aid work and also raised money for the University-led trip to Honduras this past summer. He "has been amazingly service oriented here at the University, but also has maintained a high academic standard," a friend explained.

Adam Popp serves as chairman of the Student Council Arts Committee and has worked diligently to bring arts to the forefront at the University. Mr. Richard Warner, another artistically-inclined pumpkin recipient, has had a major impact on the University's Drama Department. A fourth-year drama major explained, "Most drama students would say that [Warner] is extremely encouraging and very dedicated to getting students into acting MFA [Master of Fine Arts] programs and/or jobs after graduation."

Caroline Chien served as president of the Chinese Student Association during the 1998-1999 academic year and continues to take a leadership role in the organization as an advisor. She also created and led the Chinese Christian Fellowship group.

Vivian Jennings volunteers with Madison House and works with Habitat for Humanity. She is an active member of the Kappa Rho Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated and has served as acting vice-president of the University's NAACP chapter.

Mary Kay Knupp, through her involvement and leadership in Kappa Delta Sorority and her constant commitment to helping and supporting others, has positively affected the University community.

Such brief descriptions can't begin to do justice to those named in the most recent P.U.M.P.K.I.N. outing. The Society should change that. They also should end their annual gourd smashing, an aspect of P.U.M.P.K.I.N. tradition that offers no constructive criticism or possible benefit.

(Amy Startt's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.