Season’s greetings from the resident assistants in Tower C

By John Manganaro

A group of resident assistants from Tower C took on the daunting task of spreading holiday cheer… A group of resident assistants from Tower C took on the daunting task of spreading holiday cheer before finals.

The RAs ¬¬— dressed in garb representing different religions from around the globe — visited almost every floor of every campus dorm between Tuesday and Saturday, handing out candy and fliers about holiday diversity.

Santa, elves and reindeer were all present, as were traditional Muslim and African holiday dress.

The Muslim dress included various styles of thawbs, long tunic-like garments typically worn by men in the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Morocco and other Muslim countries. An RA in African dress wore vibrantly colored, hand-woven shawls wrapped around the body.

“The whole point of this initiative is to spread love around,” said Asdaq Wyne, president of the Tower C Resident Student Association. “We want to let everyone know that no matter where in the world you are from, no matter what your religion is, we like to celebrate the holiday season together at Pitt — as one people of one university.”

Wyne called the initiative a joint effort of RAs and Tower C RSA aimed at educating students about holiday diversity.

Along with a shopping cart full of candy, Wyne and the holiday crew also delivered fliers with information pertaining to various winter holidays. The fliers described Kwanzaa, Eid al-Adha, Bodhi Day, Hanukkah and other upcoming holidays.

“Bodhi Day honors the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama,” reads the flier. “Buddhists observe the holiday through prayer, meditation and teaching.”

Eid al-Adha, another holiday less known by Pitt students, was described this way:

“Eid al-Adha commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s sacrifice of his son Ismael. Muslims observe the holiday by attending prayer at their mosque and sacrificing animals such as sheep, goats and cows. They then offer the meat to their family, neighbors and the poor.”

By 9 p.m. Saturday, the group had delivered its message to residents in Towers, Lothrop, Forbes and all five dorms in the Quad. More than 3,000 students live in these residence halls.

“We just knock on doors, smile and try to be as friendly as possible,” Wyne said. “Who wouldn’t be excited to see a huge cart full of candy come down their floor?”

Throughout the week, the candy-and-cheer delivery process was simple. Between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m., the company traversed each floor, knocking on doors while blasting seasonal songs from portable speakers.

Pitt student Lauren Priestap, a Holland resident, was caught off guard by the groups’ holiday charm.

“This is probably the best thing that’s happened to me all day,” she joked as the group passed her dorm room. “Especially after Cincinnati won the football game. It’s picking up my spirits a little bit.”

Abhinav Mittal, Tower C resident program coordinator, said the project was initially more about having fun than educating residents about holiday traditions different from their own.

“The whole diversity thing kind of started as a joke,” Mittal said. “We dressed up in all the different garb just because we could. Before long, we realized what an opportunity this was, and our focus shifted from candy to education.”

After realizing the opportunity, Mittal said, the group quickly wrote up the informational fliers.

Tower C resident assistant Anthony Saba, who dressed up as an elf and Santa Claus, agreed with Mittal.

“When people hear the music and come out into the hall, it’s fun to see what they think,” he said while suiting up late in the week. “They don’t have any idea what’s going on at first. In that sense, it’s both about the message and the way people react.”