This last weekend marked the end of Cornhuskin’, one of the biggest traditions at Meredith. A constant within the chaos of the tradition is what students believe needs to be changed about it. As a co-chair, I’ve seen just how much Cornhuskin' needs to be reimagined. I’ve listed three areas that Meredith needs to change for our most popular tradition.
1) The name
I’ll state the obvious: “Cornhuskin’” doesn’t accurately reflect what the event is. The event began as an agricultural-based event, with activities like folk dances and (actual) hog calling. That’s not to say that calling the event something else would fix all the confusion (it’s pretty clear to all of us that it takes the experience to truly understand it), but it would help mediate some of it. Additionally, the name is a huge deterrent for some students to participate—mainly because of the racist history behind corn shucking. During slavery, enslaved people were forced to harvest corn, shuck it and dance for slave masters as entertainment (this is also where the phrase “shuck and jive” comes from). Corn shucking is one of the competitions that occurs during Cornhuskin’, and it reinforces the harmful activity. This isn’t made better when these concerns are shut down by alumnae who are more invested in maintaining tradition than fostering inclusivity.
2) Storage place
One of the rules of Cornhuskin’ is that all props must be built off campus. However, this significantly limits who is able to participate. This rule does not take into consideration students who do not have transportation available to wherever props are being built. Additionally, it assumes that students have the resources for off-campus building and storage. This year, the parents of someone in my class offered their driveway for us to build props. As grateful as we were for this resource, their house was 25 minutes away from campus. This meant we had to find a way to transport our materials to their house and get the finished product back to campus. We are also required to figure out storage after Cornhuskin’ is over. Having a designated space on campus to create and store props would take pressure off of classes and allow more people to participate.
Even as the most well-known tradition, Cornhuskin’ is the most inaccessible event at Meredith for several reasons. For one, the amphitheatre that the main event is held in is not handicap accessible. Not only does this prevent students from participating, but it even hinders their ability to watch. If the amphitheatre won’t be updated to become more accessible, then Meredith needs to reconsider the location of the event to an accessible location on campus.
Secondly, the cost that comes along with participating in Cornhuskin’ is not cheap. The compounding cost of apparel and dancer packs can range from $50 to $90—not to mention the money lost for students who have to take off work. Classes received grants for the last two Cornhuskin’ years that lowered the cost of items for all students to account for pandemic-related strains. However, the necessity of these grants is another example of just how out of reach Cornhuskin’ can be. Considering the cost of these items shouldn’t just happen during the pandemic.
Third, the event does not account for students who have other obligations. Cornhuskin’ takes virtually the entire day, and (as we saw this year with it being moved to Friday) plans can change at the drop of a hat. Students who need to work are often forced to choose between working and participating, and are most impacted by shifts in plans.
The Meredith community touts Cornhuskin’ as a way to build class unity. But the event has the complete opposite effect when these problems are prevalent.
By Aminah Jenkins, Associate Editor