Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

CRC “Radiothon”

My friend lives in the Communications Residential College at Northwestern University.  This residential college houses communications freshmen and sophomores.  Every year the CRC would host a Radiothon and ask for pledges to donate to the American Heart Association.  The tradition was started in dedication to a student who lived in the dorm and died of arrhythmia in the 1980s.  Since its inception, the Radiothon has become a massive event for the members of the CRC, and it is carried out with a decent amount of publicity every year.

The radiothon lasts for 50 hours, and students are encouraged to stay up the entire time (my friend was unable to).  There are set programs that are carried out each year and passed down by each year of CRC residents, and there is room for customized programs that students submit.  The conditions for the custom programs is that they last for an hour, are entertaining, and can generate money for donations.

One of the most popular forms of the custom show encourages the residents of the dorm to donate money to see other residents do outrageous things.  For example, my friend’s friends donated to see her and another resident have a chocolate pudding fight.

An example of a hybridization between the fixed shows and the custom shows is the segment “That’s Stupid” during the Radiothon.  The tradition of “That’s Stupid” is passed down every year, and the framework is the same – pay money to have your friends do stupid things.  What exactly you can get your friends to do really depends.  My friend pitched in with other friends to donate $50 and have salsa poured on a fellow resident’s hair.

The tradition of the Radiothon acts as both a memorial and a celebration.  It’s a memorial to the student who died from arrhythmia and lived in the dorm.  Since both that student and the current residents major in communications, there is connection that the tradition plays on.  But it’s also a celebration of the present group of freshmen and sophomores who live in the CRC.  So on one hand it is mindful of the past – on the other hand, it is optimistic or celebratory of the present.  Sometimes, the Radiothon does extend to graduated classes of the CRC community – my friend said that alumni ocasionally call in to donate to the American Heart Foundation.  I feel that the use of technology allows for this potential expansion of the relevant community.

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