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Cows, Colleges, and… Clapping?

There’s a pandemic on campus, and it’s not the one you’re thinking of. It’s spreading like wildfire, and no mask or social distance could ever stop it. The sound is contagious, dangerous even, receding deep into the corners of Carleton students’ brains and hearts. The smacks of palms against one another echoing deep within the psyche of every Carleton student. What did we do after every note of gratitude during Opening Convocation? What did we do after every New Student Week session speaker finished? What did we do at every even slightly powerful line recited by Elle Woods during the screening of Legally Blonde on the Bald Spot? I’m talking about the phenomenon known as the Carleton Clap. The thing you do with your hands, not the pamphlets they keep passing out at Sayles.

Where a simple thank you would suffice, maybe even just a wave and a nod, Carls are possessed by an innate desire to clap. Hands begin to move so quickly that it’s impossible to even process what we are clapping for. They move in unison too. Carls help Carls to create raucous applause. 

As a first-year, my introduction to the Carleton Clap came about during New Student Week. Did we really need to clap after every single sustainability intern introduced themself? Wouldn’t one round of applause at the end have sufficed? Was student employment so exciting that fellow freshmen’s questions about scheduling their shifts required rowdy applause? Lest I forget to mention what happened at moments when clapping was appropriate. At the New Student Week Talent Show, every single act received a standing ovation—which, within the context of the Carleton 

Clap, makes sense. When a group becomes so cavalier with their clapping, they have to adapt and find new ways of showing approval at moments that previously warranted a simple round of hand-smacking. 

But, it’s not just the frequency with which we clap that is of note. It’s also the speed and vigor. And it’s coming from the top. At both opening remarks during New Student Week and the Opening Convocation, President Allison Byerly inaugurated the Carleton Clap. She displayed hand speed, wrist flexibility, and stamina that marked her a true leader on campus. We as students have followed suit, our applause becoming more unified and our commitment to the clap becoming stronger. 

This begs the question, why are we clapping? Is it to uphold the tradition of “Minnesota nice?” Or is it simply because we feel compelled to? I’ve spoken with multiple sources and frequent clappers, and they all say the same thing, they don’t know why they clap; they just do.

We, as a campus, are diminishing the meaning of the clap. I say that we join together and forgo that clap at the end of the NCAA Compliance Meeting, or after the frisbee game, or even after your language class decides to engage in an unspecified game on the Mini Bald Spot (yes, these are all instances in which I have observed unnecessary clapping). Let’s reclaim the original meaning of the clap, and let’s do it as a community. 

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