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GAD-NIK: An updated approach to a decades-old Bethel tradition.

Men ask women to Gadkin on a shared dorm phone, 1957. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Bethel Library)

The terms “Nikdag” and “Gadkin” have been part of the Bethel vernacular for generations of Royals.

Nikdag—“Nick Day” in Swedish—dates back to at least the 1950s as an annual Sadie-Hawkins-dance-esque opportunity for undergraduate women to ask men to a series of school-sponsored events. A 1954 Clarion article reads, “Under the sponsorship of the sophomore class, the [Nikdag] season officially opened last Monday, when Bethel co-eds began phoning the men of their choice after 10:30 p.m. Open season, for women to date men, will continue up to the time of the program.”

Gadkin—“Nikdag” spelled backwards—was added later to give men a similar opportunity. Though the events and specifics have changed year-to-year, both have included top-secret, committee-planned events and a predetermined (usually somewhat ridiculous) way in which participants are to ask prospective dates to the events. In recent years, committee members have revealed the weekend’s events and specific “ask” instructions through a video, like this one from Gadkin 2015. While Benson Great Hall is typically packed for the kickoffs—and the events sometime sell out even with a capacity of 500—there has been some pressure and discomfort associated with them.

In spring 2015, Student Activities (SA)—the branch of Bethel Student Government that develops student events like Nikdag and Gadkin—surveyed students about their sentiments regarding these traditional events. While there were some parts that students liked, there were other elements that were less favored. The survey confirmed that just like culture has changed dramatically since the 1950s, the events were in need of an update to remain relevant and respectful of students.

“There’s a lot of history—it’s a fun tradition, but it also creates a lot of pressure around relationships and the significance of being asked or not being asked,” says Sara Wanous ’15, director of student activities and campus engagement for the Office of Student Life.

“There were a lot of responses that said, ‘we need this to change and we don’t really like where the culture is right now,’” says Executive Director of Student Activities Ashley Connolly ’17, an organizational communication major with a minor in psychology. She’s part of the team of students who carried out the survey and proposed changes.

So this year, a combined “GAD-NIK” event will take place November 11-12, with the traditional event reveal and video in Benson Great Hall on Monday, November 7. The traditional “ask” of one date will be an option, but there will be more of an emphasis on options and less pressure to ask or be asked. Students can participate as a group (with a floor asking another floor, a team asking another team, friends asking friends, etc.) or skip the formal ask altogether and still be welcomed to the event. The SA team will sell single GAD-NIK tickets instead of pairs like years past. While there have been some questions about the changes, the SA team hopes that the new model will be more inclusive and mean a positive experience for all students who choose to participate.

“GAD-NIK will consist of a weekend of events that are chosen to create space for groups of friends, pairs of people, or individual students to come and experience a weekend of fun events together,” said a recent statement from the Office of Student Life to students and others on campus. “Moving forward, we want GAD-NIK to be an event that fosters a sense of inclusive community, focusing on experiencing a weekend of events and creating memories with other Bethel students.”

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