Eduvation Blog

Higher Ed Hallowe’en Treats!

Good morning, and TGIF!

As we head into the weekend, made longer by an hour of Daylight Savings Time, and punctuated by All Hallows’ Eve and Dia de los Muertos, I feel like focusing on light-hearted frights instead of the pandemic or politics. (Maybe I just miss the opportunity to make a fuss for Hallowe’en!)

That being said, I should of course mention that France and Germany have imposed strict national lockdowns, driving global stock markets into a nosedive. The French will need to show papers to police just to justify being outdoors. “November will be a month of truth,” tweeted German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. In Russia, hospitals are at 90% capacity in many regions. Here in Canada, although Ontario just might be flattening the curve, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have set new records.

I’m going to try to ignore US election coverage for the next few days, but I do have to point out what is perhaps the most sobering development yet: Walmart has removed guns and ammunition from display in ~2,500 stores, anticipating “civil unrest.” American readers, colleagues and friends – know that we Canadians sincerely hope the next week passes peacefully for you!

“The virus is circulating at a speed that not even the most pessimistic forecasts had anticipated. Like all our neighbours, we are submerged by the sudden acceleration of the virus.”Emmanuel Macron, President of France

COVID on Campus

3 more cases in CdnPSE since yesterday…

McMaster U reports its 8th case of COVID19 on campus.  McMaster

Olds College reports a 2nd case of COVID19 on campus.  Olds

Red River College reports a third unrelated case of COVID19 on campus this week. “While three cases in one day can seem alarming, we want to emphasize that transmission did not occur on campus… Unfortunately, we know that COVID19 community transmission is a reality right now in our province.”  RRC

Saving Hallowe’en

Even if the weather cooperates on Saturday night, the pandemic has put a serious damper on street celebrations and costume parties…

Lights Out for 81% of Canadians

An Ipsos poll finds that just 19% of Canadians will be handing out Hallowe’en candy this year, and just 23% plan to take their kids door-to-door. Your kids’ odds will be best in Atlantic Canada, where 30% of doors will open, but worst in Quebec, where just 13% will answer the door. (As you might expect, COVID19 is affecting the holiday most where the outbreak is currently worst.) 26% of Canadians are cancelling Christmas plans altogether.  Global

Socially-Distanced Festivities

Necessity is the mother of invention, and for those who love Hallowe’en, a global pandemic just serves to spark creative problem-solving. The Atlantic shares a photo gallery of novel approaches, like a drive-through haunted house and socially-distant candy distribution methods like slingshots and chutes. Naturally, medieval plague masks are back in style, too.  The Atlantic

Boarding-House Reach

Mechanical engineering students at Okanagan College have been 3D printing “trick-or-treat bowls” that can attach to any standard broom handle, allowing socially-distanced candy distribution on the doorstep. 3 models are available – a pumpkin, cauldron, or witch’s hat – all in biodegradable bioplastic. Printing takes about 3 hours per unit.  OC

Hallowe’en Histories

The evolution of Hallowe’en into the commercial “chocolate holiday” we know today has been an ongoing process of moderating and civilizing pagan rituals. And for some reason it captivates historians in particular, like my Dad…

Domesticating Samhain

Arthur McCalla, prof of history and philosophy/religious studies at Mount St Vincent U, summarizes the origins of All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day. The Catholic Church actually moved All Saints Day to the fall so that it could co-opt the Celtic festival of Samhain (“Summer’s End”), which seems to have involved lighting fires and wearing costumes to ward off spirits, and was particularly popular in Ireland and Scotland. Irish immigrants in particular brought these mischievous traditions to North America in the late 1800s, and they were gradually “domesticated” to make Hallowe’en more child-friendly.  MSVU

Curtailing Hallowe’en Fun

A century ago, Hallowe’en 1918 fell during the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, the Spanish Flu, and many of the same health precautions are being urged again now. In the US, local governments urged residents to stay home, banned parties and street “jollifications,” and strenuously warned against blowing horns, throwing confetti, or using “ticklers and brushes.” Newspapers of the day report that residents in Dallas TX and Birmingham AL defied the health ordinances and noise bylaws, causing considerable vandalism, stealing a piano and a horse. Election day was just one week later, and days after that Americans returned to the streets to celebrate the end of WWI.  Time

Haunting UPEI

Edward MacDonald, a history prof at UPEI, explores the legend of the ghost haunting Dalton Hall at St Dunstan’s U (one of UPEI’s founding institutions) in a 3-min documentary. On a Friday the 13th in 1931, student Ivan Malloy and 2 friends left the campus without permission to visit the city; only the 2 friends made it back alive. Over the years, the story has been embellished and evidence of his hauntings has been reported. UPEI tweeted yesterday, “we’re not saying Dalton Hall is haunted, but we’re not not saying it’s haunted either.”  YouTube

Witches & Politics

Apparently “the witch is having a cultural moment” as women-led political activism and empowerment peaks during Hallowe’en and the US election…

Sirens, Hags & Rebels

Carleton U humanities prof Kim Stratton unfolds the ancient stereotypes and misogynistic fears behind traditional Hallowe’en witch costumes. “Young women and girls don this costume because it allows them to flirt with the daring possibilities of female agency — expressed as naughtiness and defiance — that is normally off limits to them.” The archetypal witch as wizened old hag dates back to Roman poets Lucan and Horace, who portray them “cravenly committing infanticide, violating their biological role as mothers, making potions to control men and violating male prerogative in a patriarchal society.” Accusations of witchcraft peaked in the early modern era, “as a method of social control.” Even Hillary Clinton was accused of child murder and depicted as a witch during the 2016 election campaign.  The Conversation


uCalgary media studies prof Jessalynn Keller and PhD student Alora Paulsen Mulvey report that a group of witches from Salem MA launched #WitchTheVote in 2018 for the US mid-term election, as a way to raise political awareness and encourage voter participation. More than just a social media hashtag and a podcast, Wiccans are also directing their collective magic “towards electing candidates who will push our country and our planet forward into the witch utopia we all envision.” Magical resistance has been on the rise since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, and witchcraft is interwoven with wellness and mysticism. Social media is enabling the “digital coven,” and the internet casts its own spell: “We may even think of emojis, shares, likes and retweets as possible technologies of magic when used with energetic intention to manifest social change.”  The Conversation

Culture is not a Costume

Hallowe’en parties provide an annual occasion for poor judgement to create permanent embarrassment and scandal. (Remember Justin Trudeau’s blackface and brownface costumes?) Thompson Rivers U student Amna Qazi reminds us against abusing or appropriating different cultures as a Hallowe’en costume: “Costumes depicting marginalized or minority cultures can cause a lot of harm to people from those communities. Cultural attire is not a costume; it is stories woven through fabric representing a person’s identity and ancestry.” Qazi provides a 7-point checklist to ensure your costume isn’t racist, sexist, transphobic, devaluing traditional regalia, or perpetuating harmful stereotypes.  TRU


A Treat for You…

The SEMM Forum Online

Today (well, tomorrow) is your last chance to score a 30% discount on the 2020 SEMM Forum, being held virtually this year Nov 17-19. I’ll be presenting on “Post-secondary Post-COVID,” and moderating a presidents’ panel on “After the Plague: Has PSE Changed for Real this Time?” But there will also be plenty of sessions by other experts and practitioners, on challenging topics like student engagement, success, and enrolment during these turbulent times. What’s working in 2020? How do we prepare for 2021? I’m looking forward to finding out!  Use the  registration code: EDUV30 (until tomorrow!)  SEMM Forum



I’ve never thought about higher ed Hallowe’en videos as a genre before, although you may know I have compiled pretty massive collections of Christmas and April Fools Day videos in the past. I’ve been too busy this week to do a thorough search, but there have already been a few videos released this week, and certainly dozens last year. Here are a couple of examples…


The Scariest Book!

uTexas at Austin chemistry prof Brent Iverson dons a tuxedo to read from his favourite scary book for Hallowe’en. (Just watch the first bit and you’ll get the idea.)  YouTube


Your Favourite Scary Movie

uStirling in Scotland has produced plenty of impressive Christmas videos over the years, but I hadn’t noticed their Hallowe’en efforts before. Last year they released this 2-min parody of a horror flick, set in a campus residence hall.  YouTube


What a Tangled Web…

In my favourite of the 3, uRichmond (VA) put together a pretty slick Ghostbusters parody, complete with a giant monster, to wish the campus community a happy Hallowe’en.  (It helps if you know that Richmond’s varsity teams are the “spiders.”) It’s wordless, but has well-done special effects and passable acting.  YouTube


Whether you’re dressing up in convocation regalia or something even scarier this week, I hope you enjoy a spooky Hallowe’en (and an extra hour’s sleep) – but be safe!

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