Campus News

Oakwood’s DUDE week celebrates 10 years of ‘digital detox’

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The spring semester means a lot of extravagant things at Bethel College. Seniors anticipate their walk across the graduation stage, students long for warmer weather and athletes are in the full swing of their season. But there’s one thing in particular that the spring semester has become synonymous with over the past few years at Bethel: the annual tradition of DUDE week. This year, the highly respected week of ‘unplugging’ and investing into the community celebrates its 10th year at Bethel College. The event began in 2008, but hasn’t changed too much since its beginning. Resident director of Oakwood-Slater Hall Josh Hartsell explained how his “baby” came to be while he was still a student here at Bethel. “Myself and the rest of the RA team that year put it together,” said Hartsell. “I was interning over that past summer at Grable Missionary and there was a guy from Taylor University, whose shirt said, ‘Dude Week.’ I asked him about it and kind of brought the idea back to Bethel.” Hartsell doesn’t know when it started at Taylor, but he said that Taylor’s DUDE week started after the power went out in the dorms one night. Some of the students on the floor discovered that they had a lot more fun with each other when the lights and power were off. So, instead of being upset with the loss of technology, the dorm ran with the idea, making it into a scheduled event to plan an annual technology fast in the men’s dorm. “We kind of stole the idea and brought it back here,” said Hartsell. “I think they still do a little bit of stuff with it now at Taylor, but it’s just a little amount compared to what it initially was there or even what it’s like here.” Hartsell brought the idea back to his resident director Bill Bemis, who approved the idea for Oakwood. The plan was to engage the residents in a weeklong technology fast, while engaging in a number of fun dorm-wide events such as a bratwurst dinner, an indoor slip-and-slide and a dorm picture. Though he liked the idea of DUDE week, Hartsell never thought that the annual week would become a staple event on Bethel’s campus or that he would be in charge of making it happen. “At the time that it first started, I was just hoping to graduate and pass it off for Bill Bemis to run it, if at all,” said Hartsell. “He was ready to do so, but when I got hired here after graduating, I was able to help continue it. We recognized that it was a cool idea, but it just needed someone to foster it and carry it out.” DUDE week has become a staple event known across campus, largely due to the technology fast that is associated with it. Hartsell explained that there is also a heavy emphasis placed upon the community that is formed as a result of this week. “Our tag line is ‘deeper relationships through digital detox,’ so that’s the way we sell it,” said Hartsell. “What we’ve noticed is that guys spend so much time in artificial worlds like TV, games and phones, but so much growth happens when community is around and engaging one another.” Hartsell explained that the goal of the week has always been to show how the technology detox/fast can help students engage the community around them. “When you shift things from the norm, then you can create something new and refreshing that can help grow community,” said Hartsell. “By detoxing through the technology fast, kids are doing something drastically different, which can help train their brains to appreciate being in community with others.” The event has caught like wildfire on Bethel’s campus over the years. What was once an Oakwood-exclusive week has blossomed into a campus-wide renewal amongst students. Manges now has ‘Man Week’ and Shupe has joined in with their own B.A.B.E. week as well. “It looks a lot different in a lot of the other dorms, but as you grow from that first year experience in Oakwood or Shupe, then you can kind of learn to appreciate what the other dorms are doing with the ideas of the week,” said Hartsell. “It grows and morphs a little bit at each dorm each year.” The event has evolved over the years, and has come with some tasty additions, such as the annual ‘meat fest,’ which began in 2013 and crams nearly every guy on campus into the Shiloh prayer chapel for pulled pork, macaroni and cheese and homemade chips. The women have also gained their own meal, with the addition of the ‘featherless fiesta,’ which feeds the Bethel women participating in B.A.B.E. week with a meal of tasty smoked chicken. Ironically, this weeklong event has been funded for the past 10 years without a direct account of money set aside by Bethel. “There’s no direct money line that the money comes from, which is intriguing since it’s such a big experience,” said Hartsell. “The money always seems to arrive. Last year, the online giving day helped out. Some years it’s student council or Campus Activities or random donors or alumni. I used to worry about that kind of thing, but now I’ve just gotten used to God’s provision.” With a week dedicated to spiritual and community growth, sometimes it can be hard to come up with concrete ways to measure success. Hartsell believes that though it may be hard to measure the exact effectiveness of this week, there most definitely is a strong change that can be traced back to DUDE week. “Success is really hard to measure,” said Hartsell. “We figure that 75 to 90 percent of the residents attempt to participate in the detox and most everyone contributes to at least one event throughout the week. But there’s something that happens during this week that is different and makes (it) so that the guys are truly different from this point throughout the rest of the year. So many stories happen from this week.” The events of this week are planned heavily in advance. It’s a process that usually begins when the resident assistants (RAs) begin their job in the fall. “We pretty much start right away in RA training, but most of the general structure is already in place,” said Hartsell. “Usually, it’s right when we get back from Christmas break that we hit it hard. I give them a sort of blank canvas. We always want to keep the digital detox, and we give them some parameters, but most of the events are so iconic that it seems to stay pretty similar over the years.” For 10 years, this week has been a Bethel College icon. According to Hartsell, this is an event that has the potential to affect lives for years to come. “There are residual effects that happen from this week, and the dorm always has a different feel to it after this week takes place,” said Hartsell. “There’s a lot of life that comes with it. This is what we love to do, and to see the fruits of your labor is exhilarating.”
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