When Flunk Day comes, everyone is surprised, from professors to friars to freshmen. There are four students, however, who have already known the date for months.
Flunk Day is impossible without Union Board, Knox’s student-led event-planning committee. Assistant Director of Student Activities and Engagement, Travis Greenlee, is the advisor of the Flunk Day committee, usually comprised of four students: two seniors and two juniors.
Typically, the senior planners are the co-coordinators of Union Board. This year, those co-coordinators were seniors Kati Stemple and Cassie McLaughlin.
McLaughlin has served as a planner for the last two years, after running for co-coordinator of Union Board at the end of her sophomore year. After being in the organization for a year, she had fallen in love and couldn’t wait to be one of the heads of the club.
“My main incentive was I really wanted to be one of the co-coordinators, but being a Flunk Day planner was an added bonus,” she said.
For many, it seems as if being a Flunk Day planner is all fun and games. Knowing the date, getting to choose attractions and performers, as well as the theme, are a few of the obligations of the planners. However, not all of it is easy.
First, there’s the pressure to keep the secret of Flunk Day from your friends.
“I know last year I struggled with [the secret] a lot because people kind of see you as Flunk Day, you’re this Flunk Day representative, so you get a lot of people asking you even though they know that you can’t tell them. … I want to be able to share with them so they can share my excitement, but you can’t, because you tell one person, and then it obviously snowballs. So it’s definitely a lot of pressure, especially during Flunk Season,” McLaughlin said.
After having a year of experience, McLaughlin said that keeping the secret became a lot easier the second time around. Yet, knowing the big “secret” of Flunk Day also takes away from some of the anticipation.
“I think that I miss out on a lot of the hype, and I do kind of miss that. I know that a lot of people get really anxious and apprehensive not knowing when the date is, but for me, that made me all the more excited during my freshman and sophomore years, so I definitely don’t really get to participate in that, which is kind of a shame,” she said.
But the Flunk Day planners also get to participate in lots of other fun activities to increase the Flunk hype on campus. This year, Stemple and McLaughlin worked together to put Flunk Day “teasers” around campus, such as a poster on the Union Board bulletin board and decorating the graffiti wall in the quads with zombie-related art, managing to pull off a scare.
This year, though, the planners received an unprecedented amount of negative attention, something they were not expecting. Students at Knox took to social media apps such as Yik Yak to anonymously post their frustration about Flunk Day being later than usual. May 10 marked a late Flunk for sure, but complaints started surfacing long before the date. One of the planners even heard some students jokingly saying, “Kill the planners!” while discussing Flunk Day.
“Although I understand and think that everyone has the right to be critical, I’m very receptive to constructive criticism, I think that it went a little bit far this year in that it seemed like people weren’t just attacking the decision, they were attacking the Flunk Day planners,” McLaughlin said of the comments.
Stemple and McLaughlin received the most negative attention, since students assumed they were planners based on their co-coordinator positions on Union Board. There were two other planners, though: sophomore Naomi Morishita and junior Sebastian Llavaneras, who remained more anonymous throughout the planning. McLaughlin said that Llavaneras’s friends didn’t catch on that he was a planner until a few days before Flunk Day. Stemple and McLaughlin, however, could not hide from the attention.
“I just hope that in future years, people … think a little bit more about the words that they say on anonymous social media, because I know it’s easy to just say it and not think about the Flunk Day planners as people, but we heard the words loud and clear and it was very hurtful to see it taken as far as it was,” she said.
Most students do not understand the time that Flunk Day takes to plan. The committee starts working on the plans at the very beginning of the year, taking suggestions from the survey that they send out to the campus. By the time Spring Term comes around, the planners’ lives essentially revolve around Flunk Day. Everything is planned by the students, save the occasional question that they have for the administration or Campus Safety.
“I think my first year I saw it a lot as this event that the administration puts on, and now I’ve actually seen that it’s all student-run, and so I’m a lot more understanding of mistakes that went on my freshman and sophomore years during Flunk Days,” McLaughlin said.
For those who are hoping to become a Flunk Day planner in the future, McLaughlin gives a few words of advice.
“I would say that it’s a job that you don’t really understand until you actually are doing it. It’s a lot of pressure, and even though I knew that it was going to be difficult, I didn’t understand it until I was actually in the position. É I would definitely tell them to talk to people who have previously planned Flunk Day to get an idea of what the experience is like É and being able to reach out for support. I don’t think this year that I could have gotten through all the negativity if it wasn’t for the committee, personally.”