Monday, April 12, 2010

Fox Day 2010

Last Thursday Rollins College celebrated Fox Day, the most joyous day of the academic year. One student of my acquaintance told me she anticipated Fox Day the way she used to look forward to Christmas as a child.

A little background for those not in the know:  Fox Day comes in the spring and the exact day of its coming is kept secret until the hour just before dawn on the designated day. The president of the college announces Fox Day by appearing on campus around 5 or 6 am and placing the statue of the Fox in the center of Mills lawn. On the day when the much loved Fox appears, all classes are canceled and everyone, students, staff, faculty and administrators, are free to do what they choose during the day and encouraged to gather for a barbecue late in the afternoon.

Here's a picture from 1983’s Fox Day.

One could argue that the "no business as usual" disruption of having a sudden and unannounced closing of the school’s official functions for a whole day every spring is a frightful inconvenience. On the other side there are some Fox enthusiasts pushing to have one Fox Day for every semester: Spring, Fall, Maymester and even during January’s week-long Intersession -- but I doubt that even the laid back ethos of Winter Park could accommodate that much goofing off.

This year it was reported that as the President drove up and delivered the Fox, a throng of students was waiting in hopeful anticipation for his arrival one of whom called out, “You made my day, Duncan!”

A more respectful greeting might have been, “You made my day, President Duncan,” but the president seemed unperturbed as he politely shook the student’s hand. I suppose some allowance has to be made for the anxiety and enthusiasm that build up to near explosive proportions when one beautiful spring day after another passes with no sign of Sir Fox. When he finally shows up, the emotions can be downright volcanic. Students run up and down dorm hallways in pre-dawn hours banging on their friends’ doors shouting, “It’s Fox Day! It’s Fox Day!”

Telephone networks are quickly activated to spread the word to off-campus students and employees.

During some spring semesters in the past, the Fox was so late in coming that stirrings among the student body suggested an ugly bout of revolutionary violence was in the offing. And, let’s be frank, it isn’t just the students who anticipate the appearance of the Fox.

It is just the students, however, who play Fox Day Roulette. This high risk gamble entails neglecting homework for a night in the hope that the morning will bring the Fox and, consequently, No Homework Need Be Turned In! This year a very convincing rumor had it that Tuesday, April 6, would surely be Fox Day, and the losers at Fox Day Roulette on that morning were so numerous that, according to one unconfirmed report, the GPA for the entire student body dropped two tenths of a percent for the semester.

The anticipation was heightened this spring when Steven Madow, an enterprising Economics major, set up a web cam to survey Mills Lawn from dusk to dawn. Here is how the idea came to Steven, in his own words:

“I have a few reasons for starting this webcam. The original intent was to be able to alert people visually of when the fox had come out. I only had several people in mind, some of which were off campus and would have no way of knowing if the fox had come out. Secondly, in the most recent two years I have been able to roll over in my bed, look out my window, and see the fox on mills lawn. I wanted to share that experience with the community at large. I have had a lot of interest in technology and these sorts of things my whole life, and I kind of randomly decided to take on this small project. I realized that developing it would not take too much time, so I went forward with it.”

I call that a winning combination of cleverness and generosity on Steven’s part. The web cam site was eventually linked to the Rollins College webpage, the campus television network and to Facebook. Steven speculates that the site went viral because of the simplicity of the URL (, the Facebook integration on the page which, whenever a posting was added, showed up on the poster’s Facebook profile and the Facebook homepage.

I hear that more than a few students believe that Steven deserves some kind of community service credit for his contribution to Fox Day monitoring this year.

Fox Day 2010 - Little Sofia gives a hug.

How should we evaluate Fox Day? On the negative side it can be disruptive of college business and in its "Roulette" permutation it can put a dent in student performance.

But the positives are that it can promote a sense of community and remind us that, while competitive striving has its place, so does serene contemplation which "knits up the ravel'd sleave of care." (These are Shakespeare's words. As you can see, he was a bit of a slacker where spelling is concerned.) My own ravel'd sleave was knit up during last week's Fox Day as I spent an idyllic day at Bok Tower Gardens with three of my favorite people, two of whom are pictured here.

From the Bok Tower Garden Facebook Site

Grace at the Garden

Tyler - Photographer in Chief

Finally, there is the inherent appeal of an enduring yet quirky tradition. So, on balance, I say, Long Live Fox Day.

John Sharkey, Jill Gable and Mary Wismar-Davis - Fox Day 2009