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Two students climb down from a velcro wall on Flunk Day 2018.


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Return of the Flunk

Student planners are looking forward to Flunk Day 2021

Two students climb down from a velcro wall on Flunk Day 2018.

As the Knox community inches closer to the end of an unprecedented academic year—filled with virtual classes and masked, socially distanced hangouts—Flunk fever is once again breaking out across campus. After an entirely virtual Flunk Week in 2020, the College recently announced the event’s return to its traditional one-day celebration: a hybrid-style, COVID-19-safe interpretation of a century-old Knox tradition.

On a typical Flunk Day, friars wake the campus at 6 a.m., announcing the cancellation of classes. Students quickly gather on the South Lawn for carnival games and a menu of sweet treats. An Abraham Lincoln impersonator makes an appearance, and a headlining musical artist or comedian often performs to wrap up the day. Happily, that's the experience that students can expect again in 2021—though, as usual, the exact date of Flunk Day 2021 is a closely guarded secret and a topic of much speculation. That's part of the fun.

“My favorite memories of Flunk Day are actually of the days leading up,” said Union Board Special Events Coordinator Maddie Tucker ’22. “As the day itself got closer and closer, I loved being a part of the speculation of when Flunk Day would officially be arriving.”

Despite the difficulties that the pandemic presents for members of Union Board—the student organization primarily responsible for planning Flunk Day (along with a multitude of fun events on campus), Tucker explained that there is still a lot to look forward to on Flunk Day 2021. “Many of our Knox traditions look different in the COVID-19 era,” she said. “And while we recognize that the world has not yet reached a true period of pre-COVID normalcy, it's so important to me that these traditions continue in whatever modified fashion necessary.”

Members of The Flunk Day Planning Committee, composed of Union Board student leaders, emphasized a return to normalcy—or rather, outdoor craziness—for this year’s Flunk. One planning committee member, Caitlin Edelmuth ’21, asserted her desire to emulate the spirit of her favorite, and most traditional, Flunk experience from her first year at Knox. Edelmuth’s sophomore and junior year Flunk experiences were both atypical; in addition to last year's virtual Flunk Week, Flunk Day 2019 was especially rainy (a day now referred to as “Thunder Flunk”). “My favorite memories from that first Flunk are of waking up at 6 a.m., throwing stress balls around the suite with my friends, and ziplining,” Edelmuth said. “I love the general feeling of fun, weirdness, and release that permeates the campus on Flunk Day. Students are saved from dreaded tests or labs and celebrate in the sun!”

As the advisor for Union Board, Knox's student engagement coordinator, Raina Johnson, has played an integral role in working with the Planning Committee to develop an experience that abides by COVID-19 restrictions as well as the traditional Flunk spirit. “We have been finding creative ways to reorganize Flunk Day,” Johnson said. “Over the past two terms, the students have really mastered the art of virtual and safe, in-person events; adjusting our plans to be compliant with the guidelines and policies has been easier than expected.”

Union Board Chair Kathryn Allee ’21 echoed that the challenges presented by COVID-19 were far from insurmountable. “The biggest thing is just making sure that we have enough activities spread throughout campus so that lines don’t build up and areas don’t become crowded,” Allee said. “Honestly, that’s not a bad mindset to have because it provides more for students to do throughout the day.”

Above all, Allee emphasized the critical role that community would play in this year’s Flunk. “The community at Knox is my favorite thing about this college, and Flunk Day is a huge celebration of that,” she said. “It’s a day where everyone can come together, relax, and enjoy each other’s company.”

And although this year’s Flunk will include masks, hand sanitizers, and social distancing, members of the Planning Committee emphasized that this will still be a Flunk Day to remember. “Though it'll look different to what many of our upperclassmen students have seen before, this Flunk Day will be made up of some innovative, fun, and COVID-19 safe activities, both old and new,” Tucker said. “Students can expect to see events that bring the Knox community together—both in-person and outside as well as virtual—for our friends away from Knox and those who feel uncomfortable participating in person.”

So when is Flunk Day 2021? The Planning Committee was unfortunately unable to disclose such information. Likewise, the specifics of the day's events remain a mystery. “I don’t want to say too much, but we’re really shooting for a bright and fun outside day, with lots of games, food, and color,” Allee said. “Let’s just say that the traditional Flunk Day is making a comeback.”

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Printed on Sunday, May 9, 2021