On Oct. 10, 2017, I lost my grandmother and lost all ability to participate in my first-ever Cornhuskin’. After one practice, I was unable to emotionally balance the pressure of memorizing movements or scripts, and I needed to focus on keeping up with my new college workload. After this, I felt a sudden disconnect from Meredith culture, which was only furthered when I lost my father on Sept. 11 2018 and was unable to participate in my second Cornhuskin’. Now, in my junior year, while I did not lose a family member, and while I had the time to participate, I chose not to join in the Cornhuskin’ hype. I felt that after missing it for two years, I would be so far behind my peers and so new that I couldn’t be a helpful addition to the competition. I don’t understand the Corn jokes or memes. I can’t relate to the long nights of work or the competition. I feel as though I haven’t had the Meredith experience, regardless of the Onyx on my hand.
Cornhuskin’ is one of the longest and most noticed traditions of Meredith College, from being named the second-most bizarre college tradition in an issue of Teen Vogue to being a major advertising tool for prospective students. It is so deeply ingrained into Meredith culture that one friend complained to me, “What’s the point of coming to Meredith at all if you don’t participate in the traditions?” Something about that statement stung. While it’s great that the tradition offers an opportunity for classes to bond within their class and with others through the spirit of friendly competition, students who cannot participate ultimately feel isolated from their peers.
After feeling lost and exasperated by the tradition, but still wanting to be a part of my class and a part of Corn, I spoke to my own Cornhuskin’ Co-Chairs, Neali Helms and Megan Gale. My main question for the chairs was as the title suggests: Is unity the theme or the goal? Helms and Gale offered a deeply diplomatic response; yes. Helms expressed that “the goal is to become unified and to come together as four classes. We’re in four different classes, but we all go to Meredith, and this is how we’re celebrating the fact that we go here.” Gale, to add on, stated, “I think it really is something that we have to work towards, even if it is the theme, it’s something we’re still working towards.”
Helms and Gale offered up different ways for students with less time or less knowledge to get involved with Cornhuskin’ if they wished, such as Can Art, which typically requires no practice to be involved with, or Word Parade, which allows students to hold up signs during the skit with little practice. Helms and Gale wanted to remind students that there are video clips of Cornhuskin’ on campus available for anyone new to the tradition in order to learn and participate. They also added that the manual is available on the SLS MyMeredith page at all times for more detailed understandings.
While the heavy emphasis on Cornhuskin’ can alienate students who wish to participate but are unable to, I have learned that my fears weren’t as realistic as I thought. Helms’ final advice was to “reach out to your co-chairs. We love when people come up to us and say, ‘we’ve never done it before, but we wanna try,’ and we’re like, ‘oh my god okay great!’ We get so excited.” The energy from Helms and Gale reminded me that even though I couldn’t participate, I didn’t need to feel alienated. Regardless of whether you’re a ’huskin’ veteran or a baby corn, the tradition is intended to be welcoming. I’ll try to be a part of Cornhuskin’ next year, and I don’t think I’m less of an angel just because my first year participating will also be my last.
By Savi Swiggard, Associate Editor