First Annual UBS Spelling Bee conquered by freshman

Gaberdine. Fugacious. Misspell.

These were just a few of the words posed to students at the United Black Students (UBS) First Annual Spelling Bee, ultimately conquered by the competition’s winner, Lauren Weiner, a freshman. For many, it was a trip down memory lane to the good old days of elementary spelling wars.

Held Tuesday night at the Rathskeller, currents of laughter swept through the room as the audience watched their fellow Canes struggle to claim the championship.

As participants shook their heads, raised their eyebrows and scratched their heads in utter bewilderment, it became clear that no one had expected the bee to be so very difficult.

“What are y’all laughing at? I’m trying, alright?” said junior Nick Ahye, a member of the Association of Commuter Students (ACS). “I must have pronounced the word 10 times.”

Inspired by the film Akeelah and the Bee, UBS second vice president Jarrod Matthei, a senior, thought it would be fun to host a spelling bee on a college campus and tie it into their theme of Blackademics, a study of academics in black culture and its influences on the campus community. Public relations chair Marquise Mccoy, a junior, thereafter took up the mantle and, with the help of the UBS executive board, organized the event.

“It seems like everyone remembers that one spelling word they got wrong,” said senior Shajena Erazo, the president of UBS and treasurer of Student Government. “And when we start talking about it, everyone is like ‘Oh, in fifth grade I missed this word!’ So it’s a fun way to integrate university organizations in a spelling bee that’s kind of like a throwback.”

Four organizations – the ACS, Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC), National Panhellenic Council (NPHC) and Stanford Residential College (SRC) – participated in the event, each sending five of their members to represent them at the Rathskeller. The fifth competitor, Team Sebastian, was composed of a group of students, unaffiliated with the other organizations, who simply wanted to participate in the competition.

Lined in five columns of five on the second floor stage, the spellers played rock, paper, scissors to decide who would be the first to begin the competition.

As participants were called on one by one to spell, expressions of incredulity and dismay quickly spread across their faces. Tongue twisters and double letters were their biggest foes.

“The words are pretty difficult,” sophomore Caitlin Dudevoir said. “Some of them I haven’t even heard of.”

The audience, safe from the sting of the bee, was ecstatic. Cheering and clapping, they traded stories about their own spelling bee mishaps and chuckled over personal experiences.

Uduak Bassey, a senior, had never participated in a spelling bee, but said she was enjoying the show very much.

“I knew it was going on and I decided to drop by,” Bassey said, laughing after one participant asked if he could be given the first letter of the word.

Two hours and two competitors later, Erazo hurriedly tried to find a word online to replace the exhausted spelling list. Hairs stood on end as the audience waited to crown their first spelling bee champ.

In the final bout between NPHC and SRC, SRC member Weiner triumphed over her rival Jeremy Ladson, a junior.

“It feels like an accomplishment,” Weiner said. “I never won a spelling bee before. I couldn’t believe it.”

As reigning spelling bee champions, the SRC team will be provided a pizza party provided by UBS. Second and third place winners NPHC and ACS will also be given an ice cream social.

“Education doesn’t always have to be boring,” Erazo said. “The spelling bee was a way of tying in our theme into the threads of campus life.”