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Long a forum for intellectual discussion at Lafayette through weekly — and, this school year, sometimes twice weekly — dinner discussions, the McKelvy House Scholars program has established another outpost this semester: a talk show on campus radio station WJRH with studio discussion and audience call-ins.

The show, “Two Blocks Past Wawa: Two Massachusetts Liberals and a Terrorist,” airs 9-10 p.m. Wednesdays. The name refers to the geographic location of McKelvy House and, satirically, to regular hosts Jaclyn Smith ’07 (Saugus, Calif.), a neuroscience major; Kaydence Cowley ’07 (Littleton, Co.), a biology major; and Ben Doremus ’07 (Hopkinton, Mass.), an electrical and computer engineering major with a religious studies minor.

The hosts want the audience to play a large role in directing the discussions on “Two Blocks past Wawa.” The direction of the show fluctuates depending on current events and interests, says Doremus, but maintains some regularity as topics from past and upcoming McKelvy dinner discussions are addressed.

“We also hope to shed light on the overlooked details of student life, such as locations on campus that deserve more love and attention like the rock wall [in Kirby Sports Center] or the video conference rooms,” he says. “In keeping with the Wawa theme, and giving air to our comic sensibilities, our radio show will include spoof commercials for Wawa products, live, on-site reporting from Wawa, interviews with Wawa staff and customers, and Wawa trend-spotting.

“‘Two Blocks’ is hosted by quirky, creative, open-minded students; hopefully our show will reflect this. We hope to foster creative conversation, not propaganda, and we welcome guests of all political and social persuasions onto our show.”

A major goal of the program is to spark campus discussion and combat apathy.

“We see many things that are very wrong with the world as is, and too many people are letting their apathy get the best of them,” notes Doremus. “‘Two Blocks’ hopes to change that and instill a little fire in the heart of campus. Controversial topics are our domain, and little will remain untouched. We can only hope that the Lafayette community will respond to our challenges and get some real debate going.”

“Two Blocks” has sparked interest on campus. Many callers of all political persuasions have voiced their opinions on issues such as a campus visit by Sen. Rick Santorum, the concept of human logic vs. emotion, and many other themes. Last week, listeners were urged to call in with their complaints and praises of Lafayette College.

Many features are planned for the rest of the semester, ranging from conversation on Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ comment about how males may be more predisposed to the sciences than women to improvisational vocal sessions with guests and featured music each program.

The show was inspired by “Sound Off,” a conservative WJRH program hosted by Greg Plefka ’08 (Holland, Pa.), but is designed to provide another voice, rather than a counterpoint, says Doremus.

“Also, people always want to change the world, especially when they’re in college,” he adds. “I have long hoped that a radio show could be a successful mean to those ends for me.”

Another motive is to expose the campus to the atmosphere of McKelvy House and dispel some preconcieved notions about the program – including its distance from Lafayette’s main campus. Because few outside the program experience the group’s dinner discussions, the show is bringing the debates to them, says Doremus.

“In that, we also hope to abolish the stereotypes about the house as either ‘nerdy intellects’ or ‘hippies,’” he says.

Finally, the program draws upon the campus community’s collective Wawa experience.

“We all have a story to share,” says Doremus. “Using the shared endearment that we all have for this charming spot, our show hopes to unite the campus in sharing our own funny, witty, perceptive view of campus life. Also, Lafayette does cater to a certain demographic, and sometimes that means that the views we are exposed to are slightly one-sided.”

He seeks to bring a diverse approach to issues that does not necessarily fit into the categories of Democratic, Green, or Republican.

“Everyone has their own vision, and that is what we hope to inspire, not political rhetoric,” Doremus explains. “Nobody needs a more divided nation. Individual thinking is epitomal to being a mature and resposible adult, but to make up your own mind, it’s easier if you see the options. While Greg Plathka is doing a fine job with his one side, ‘Two Blocks’ hopes to reign over the rest. Everyone’s input is necessary to do this, and I hope that what we talk about will inspire people to interact both when we’re on the air and long after we sign off.”

Since 1962, the McKelvy House Scholars program has brought together Lafayette students with a wide range of majors and interests to live in a historic off-campus house and share in intellectual and social activities. In addition to taking turns leading the dinner discussions, most members contribute to the annual McKelvy Papers, written on a topic of each person’s choice. McKelvy Scholars participate in activities together such as field trips to plays, concerts, and exhibits, and sponsor events for the campus as well.

Categorized in: Academic News