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Leadership Perspectives

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In 1965, Mikhail Bakhtin defined the often-misunderstood and subversive term “the carnivalesque” in Rabelais and His World. It is the temporary overturning of the dominant culture governing a space — in this case, academics at Carnegie Mellon.

But I’m not here to sell you on Carnival. You already know that the four days of relaxation are a welcome reprieve from the normal hustle and bustle of classes, especially this far into the school year. I’m writing to you — the staff, faculty, students, and others of the campus community — to explain to you just how much you’ll regret it if you don’t make it out to watch the Buggy races this year.

Like Bakhtin’s term, the students who live and breathe Buggy are often misunderstood. What are they doing on Frew Street at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday? Why is there duct tape stuck to their shoes? Why didn’t they sleep last night — and what is in their hair?

But Carnival is your chance to learn. Two years ago, Pi Kappa Alpha, the team with the longest winning streak in Buggy history, broke a 20-year course record set by SPIRIT Racing Systems in 1988. Last year, Student Dormitory Council broke that record by a full second — a huge chunk of time in a two-minute race. This year’s races are anyone’s game, and this is the best year yet to come out and watch records being shattered.

Buggy is unquestionably Carnegie Mellon’s strongest and most unique tradition. It is perhaps the strongest pull bringing alumni — both recent and of yore — back to campus. It is largely the reason why many class reunions were moved from Homecoming to Carnival this year.

And on this race day, we celebrate Buggy’s 90th anniversary with more pomp and circumstance than ever before. There will be two huge Jumbotron screens — one at the top of Tech Street and one at the corner of Schenley Drive and Frew Street, in the Chute — to make it easier for you to watch the whole race from your favorite spot around the course. We have a brand new timing system to increase the accuracy and integrity of the races, and to underscore how technologically advanced the sport has become over the last 90 years.

I invite you to witness this incredible tradition this year, regardless of how well you understand mechanical engineering, pushing technology, or petite female drivers (not that the Buggy mechanics themselves do, even after all this time). I promise you won’t regret it.