For undergraduate students, this weekend will bring with it childhood fun and wild times, and for some, hard labor and plenty of splinters. Starting Wednesday night, Carnegie Mellon undergraduates will forget coursework — for once — and rejoice in Carnival, with fun typically attributed to those under the age of 12.
For most first-years, that age represents two-thirds of their current age. Even for fifth-year students, 12 years is more than half the time they have been alive. Carnival manufactures nostalgia for a time within a decade ago for these undergraduate students.
Meanwhile, hiding deep within their computer clusters and research labs, doctoral students trudge on, oblivious to the raucous behavior occurring outside their Wean Hall homes — out in the terrifyingly bright sun, if the weather smiles on us. Even though Thursday and Friday classes are canceled for most of campus, graduate students continue to work on projects, bury their noses in books and studies, and go to meetings with advisers and research partners.
In one of my courses, the instructor was discussing the schedule for the rest of the semester. One student pointed out that she had planned a class on April 16 — the Thursday of Carnival.
“You graduate students aren’t going to be involved with that,” the professor exclaimed, frustrated she could not hold class on that day. “It’s an undergrad thing.”
Students in the class looked to me at this comment. My academic colleagues are aware that I am an atypical graduate student — I actively participate in campus organizations and remain on campus for things other than my research. I’ve eaten dinner at Schatz and paid for my greasy, late-night Underground repast with DineX. I spend nearly all of my free time in the University Center and a good deal of my social life with undergraduate students.
Still, my anomalies aside, graduate students have the same opportunities to dedicate time and energy to the campus that undergraduates do. While most graduate students will not be putting in 20+ hours this week constructing a booth like I will, they can venture away from their computer or out of the library for a few hours this weekend and experience the hard labor that scores of fellow students have devoted to bring a fun and memorable Carnival to the whole campus.
The scents of deep-fried Oreos and funnel cakes will permeate the Morewood parking lot, a space soon to be filled with carnival rides and games. Robots — referred to as “mobots” — will race along the chalk path outside Wean Halls. Pocket-sized students will be shoved up and down hills in tiny soap-box cars. There will be a comedy show on Thursday and a concert on Friday. Of course, for the undergrads, one of the most important aspects is Booth.
Student organizations — in which graduate students can take an active role, though most do not — construct shacks that contain unique and original games. This year’s theme, Epic Adventures, is sure to inspire creative designs following a variety of ideas, from Indiana Jones to Where the Wild Things Are. Even if they’re not putting in the labor hours of booth construction, graduate students can support this hard work by growing down a little and playing games.
Carnegie Mellon, as a whole, takes this event seriously: Several dining locations will have extended hours and prime parking spaces, and several roads within and around campus will be out of use for days. While some parts of the campus community — such as the Heinz College, which has not canceled Thursday and Friday classes — may not consider it a big deal, most of the campus will turn its attention to this weekend and its events.
Graduate students are a significant part of this school, bringing groundbreaking research and powerful awards to the university. Unfortunately, many of the undergrads never see them; graduate students rarely become part of the Carnegie Mellon social scene. The easiest first step is to take part in the major campus phenomenon known as Carnival.