Monday was dreary, rainy and humid — not a typical day for celebration — but dozens of senior history majors still crowded into Rudy’s Restaurant for some late-night revelry.
Brooks Kaufman ’09 was among those who made an unusual change to their weeknight routine: Instead of hitting the books, he walked the half-block from his off-campus house to the bar on Elm Street. He carried his ID, a dollar bill and the cover sheet of his just-submitted senior essay, the ticket for a discounted $1 draft or well drink at Rudy’s annual Senior Essay Night.
Monday marked one of the first of many deadlines for second-semester senior essays this month. With feelings of relief, triumph and even pangs of nostalgia, the almost 200 history and history of science, history of medicine majors marked the culmination of their academic careers by popping champagne corks, returning books to Sterling Memorial Library and catching up on lost sleep.
By 11 p.m., Rudy’s had attracted about 30 seniors — and possibly some impostors — as evidenced by the cover sheets strung from clothespins around the bar.
“The Beast was good. The Beast was nice,” Kaufman said of his discounted Milwaukee Best, which was followed by an order of large fries. But turning in his essay that afternoon, Kaufman admitted, gave him “more satisfaction than any alcohol could ever give.”
Several hours before, he and dozens of others frantically rushed through the rain with plastic-bagged copies of their senior essays.
Essie Barros, the undergraduate History Department registrar , stood waiting for the soaked seniors in Room 211 of the Hall of Graduate Studies, as she has done for the past 18 years. Forms were filled out, envelopes stuffed, hugs exchanged and even a few tears shed amid the constant ruffling of paper.
“There should be trumpets playing!” one senior exclaimed as she waltzed into the room, a look of anticipatory glee on her face.
For many seniors, leaving Room 211 meant they could finally return to the assignments and meetings they had put off while finishing their senior essays.
But on this particular Monday night, some of them had different priorities.
“It almost feels like sort of an anticlimax,” mused Anna Parks ’09, a history of science, history of medicine major. “It’s sort of scary to have nurtured this little baby for so long and send it off into the world to be judged … I had a lot of mixed emotions.” (At the time of the phone interview, Parks had already turned in her essay and was in a liquor store stocking up for a night’s worth of celebration.)
While history major Jarrett Drake ’09 had not heard about Rudy’s 15-year annual tradition of discounted drinks for seniors, he had his own two-fold plan: take a long-awaited nap and then return all the books he used for his senior essay — 60 to 70 of them, he said — to Sterling Memorial Library.
“It’s going to be a big deal for me to load up my suitcase and walk it over to Sterling and dump all the books at the circulation desk,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the most relieving thing to do.”
The overwhelming load of books returned at the end of senior essay season marks one of the most frustrating moments in a librarian’s job behind the circulation desk.
Sam Matias ’09, a political science major with a looming senior essay deadline on April 27, has worked at Sterling for three years. He said he has seen seniors lug in huge cardboard boxes full of books. In extreme cases, he wrote in an e-mail, some people have used a little red wagon so they can make multiple trips to the library from their car.
“They’re so happy, but it’s so frustrating for me and the other workers because we have to check them all back in,” he wrote. When it comes to his turn, he said, he will return his books “incrementally” to lessen the load on his fellow co-workers.
Just as the University’s libraries are receiving an influx of books, local bars and club owners said they have noticed an uptick in the number of patrons around this time of year. Some students, after all, have been pacing out their celebrations, starting as early as last weekend.
Jaymie Potteiger ’09, a history of science, history of medicine major, finished her paper, save for minor edits, by Saturday, after which she went out with friends to Viva Zapata.
“I’m just going to start carrying the first page of my senior essay with me anywhere I go and hope I can get free drinks,” she said Monday.
But whether they pull all-nighters downing beer or throwing back tequila shots in celebration, every senior still has one last step to take: commencement.
“I can really care less about a free beer or whatever,” Drake said. “The greatest ritual of all is graduation.”