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During adapted Senior Week, Class of '21 strives to make memories, celebrate last days on College Hill

With the entirety of their senior year marked by COVID-19, CCB and other seniors work to create class unity, celebrate their time at Brown

This article is the second in the four-part series "An Unexpected Commencement: The Class of 2021 Looks Back, and Forward."

As the late Spring dawns on College Hill, many students rush to dining halls to grab a last bite between cramming for finals and packing their semester into boxes that will only be opened in the fall. 

But for most seniors, the semester does not end in a simple “goodbye for the summer.” Instead, it trails off into a series of traditional celebrations that begin immediately after finals and conclude with the momentous opening of the Van Wickle Gates.

One of these festive traditions is Senior Week. Usually, during the period after finals and before Commencement, boisterous events including Unit Wars, Senior Scramble, Trip to a Casino, Last Meal at the Ratty and Campus Dance dominate campus as seniors rejoice in their last experiences as undergraduates at Brown. 

But with the COVID-19 pandemic still restricting social activity, these events have been transformed and adapted to comply with public health guidelines.

Like many events over the past year, Senior Week 2021 — Friday, April 23 through Friday, April 30 — had to be mostly virtual, though there are some in-person Grab-and-Go events, according to Ella Joshi '21, co-president of the 2021 Class Board.

Because of this shift online, CCB had to be selective about the events that they included in this year's roster, Joshi told The Herald. Some “fan favorite” events like Campus Dance and Casino Night at Moghen Sun had to be cut because they simply could not be replicated through a screen. 

Most of the events of this year’s Senior Week will be held over Zoom, with some events involving Grab-and-Gos where seniors can pick up items like Knead Donuts or cocktail supplies. Some events, such as Behind the Scenes Day, were omitted to mitigate “Zoom fatigue”, said Nick Correia '21, co-president of CCB 2021. The organization chose to host events like Senior Scramble and Regional Meet-ups virtually, but sought to cultivate some intimacy through the incorporation of breakout rooms.

Correia said he really hopes that the Grab-and-Gos can add an in-person experience that will make Senior Week feel like more than just a series of Zoom events. He hopes that the merch and swag will boost morale and help get seniors excited.

In addition, he hopes that events like “Last Meal at the Ratty,” while also a Grab-and-Go event, will provide an opportunity for seniors to celebrate safely with their pods while still enjoying a more traditional Senior Week staple.

“We know that people have been through a lot this year with COVID,” Correia said. “We've really, really tried to make it special for seniors.”

In a normal year, CCB usually plans monthly senior nights, according to Max Dekle ’21.5, the public relations officer for the 2021 Class Board. 

These in-person, class-wide events typically attract between 100 and 200 people, Dekle said. Virtual events this year, which included a cocktail mixing night, have struggled to hit 50 attendees. It has also been more difficult for Dekle to feel immersed in the Brown community this semester as compared to previous years.

“I would go to a lot of random talks on campus, I would snag free Kabob & Curry at lunch, I would crash these faculty talks, whereas I find this semester with everything being virtual I'm doing that a lot less,” Dekle said. “This year I'm more focused on just passing my classes and just being healthy.”

Joshi added that CCB tried to mix up activities to include seniors that are remote and won’t be able to attend graduation.

“I think we all have come together and really have thought about events we want to see and things that we're genuinely excited about,” Joshi said.

Beyond the inclusion of COVID-safe activities, this year’s Senior Week differs from past iterations in one major detail: It is completely free for all seniors, whether living on-campus or off-campus.

Alongside the health and safety considerations for this year’s Senior Week, Joshi explained that CCB was conscious of the financial difficulties the pandemic has posed to many students and their families. They were able to remove Senior Week costs for students thanks to the lower cost of this year’s restricted activities, as well as additional funding from the Undergraduate Finance Board and the President's Office.

In past years, because of the scale of the many, large in-person events, Senior CCB had a big budget — ranging from $128,777.55 to $139,003.57 — and had to finance this budget with some student payments. Usually, seniors would have to purchase packages in order to attend certain events. Although financial aid was available, in past years it only covered up to 50 percent off packages.

For Joshi, organizing Senior Week has been especially rewarding since she has participated in CCB since her freshman year.

Though the planning was difficult, Joshi said she hopes that seniors show up and get the most out of this year’s Senior Week activities.

“I guess I just really want them to feel like a little bit of joy,” she said, “a little bit of positivity.” 

Additional reporting from Melanie Pincus


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