Day 1: Tuesday 19 August. Cofrin 11 is a middle-sized auditorium classroom but this afternoon it looks more like a small farmers’ market. On the upfront professor’s tables are high-piled stacks of sunflower yellow T-shirts: small, medium, large, extra-large, and extra-extra-large. The range of sizes reflects the cross section of St. Norbert College administrators, staff, professors, and students: members of the library staff, the Director of the Normal Miller Center, a philosophy prof, directors, staff and interns from campus ministry, admissions, alumni and parent relations, and development — an incomplete list, a kind of archaeological trench that hints at the broader makeup of the College community. They march down one side aisle of the room, across the front where they check in, move on to receive their shirt and then take a seat waiting for the day’s instructions. John Sabo is brief and to the point. On the whiteboard are not numbers reflecting the business administration and economics classes taught here. Instead are the names of the res halls, the number of students expected to arrive there and the number of Kunkel’s Krew assigned to that hall. John is a non-anxious drill instructor: arrive early at your post, receive your brief instructions, and don’t worry if you can’t be “on duty” from the first 9:00 a.m. arrivals until the noon time finish. We’ll have backup: the football team and women’s soccer.
Day 2: Wednesday 20 August. This is a warm up for the Thursday. Today sees the “early arrivals,” first year honors students moving in to Bergstrom and others who have permission to check in earlier. Today it seems that the Krew is made up in large part of those who have done this before. They’re the men and women whose Kunkel’s Krew shirt is orange (2011), deep red (2012), or chartreuse (2013). Some of these “veterans” can be spotted in the early arrivals lunch in Bemis and some arrive in Krew uniform for President Kunkel’s afternoon address to faculty and staff in Old Saint Joseph’s.
Day 3: Thursday 21 August. There is hazy early morning sun over the Fox but The Weather Channel predicts 40% chance of rain around 1:00 p.m. so we should be able to exercise the “radical hospitality” we’re committed to exercising in new and renewed ways this year at SNC. At 8:30 a.m. campus security begins to “release” the SUVs, small trucks, and hitches that have been “on hold” at Schneider Stadium parking. Parents and FY men and women arrive bearing refrigerators and microwaves, flat screens and futons, stuffed chairs and lamps, fans and book cases, clothes on hangers, gadgets in baskets and framed photos of family and high school friends. And food and drink: twelve packs of Mountain Dew and water, popcorn packs and crackers, gallon bottles of iced tea, and large jars of peanut butter. They are met by smiling men and women of every age and size, a small army of electric yellow -shirted parking lot “generals” and eager carriers-porters who relieve them of their burdens (“no, not another refrigerator to third floor!). Meanwhile “the loft crew” negotiates for those who wish the details of renting these black metal space savers.
Parents are surprised and relieved that it is not they who will need to tote all that they’ve transported from home. They are instructed to stay with their vehicle while their child checks in and “the Krew” empties trunks, hatch backs and flatbeds of their contents. Some ask the meaning of the “docere verbo et exemplo” on the back of these bearers of first year housewares, bedding, appliances and groceries. They need not ask. They are having the experience. Their sons and daughters are having their first class in “radical hospitality: in “self-giving service,” in “communio.”
Midmorning, about two hours into the heavy lifting and climbing, two sweaty krewmen pass one another on the stairs. The empty-handed man descending passes the other going up bearing a refrigerator. The unburdened one asks the other “how ya doin”; the other responds “living the dream.” Indeed, indeed.