Students decorated their own boxes, carried them to classes and united at the end of the day to assemble a box fort on Libe Slope in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Box Day Friday.
Deepa Saharia ’18, one of the event’s student organizers, said a Cornell alumnus introduced her to Box Day three years ago. According to Saharia, Box Day was a prominent Cornell tradition in the past but has disappeared over the last 50 years.
“A box fort doesn’t work with one box,” Saharia said. “It only works if everyone comes together with their box and with the spirit of what they put into their box. It’s just a really cool way to use our physical space, our intellectual space and our creative space.”
Decorating is an important part of the spirit of Box Day, because the event is about turning waste into an expression of “creative spirit,” Saharia said.
“It’s not just a cardboard box — it’s something that would have otherwise gone in a landfill, been incinerated, something that is doing something negative for the world,” she said. “[Box Day] is a method of expression and people being together. It’s something positive.”
Student organizer Greta Sloan ’18 added that Box Day is about spontaneity and embracing the modified saying “boxes without borders.”
“[Box Day has] really encouraged us to get out of our own boxes and also combine with other people’s boxes and learn from other people’s boxes,” Sloan said.
Saharia agreed, saying Box Day celebrates how Cornellians can join as a community, bonded together because “everyone has access to a box … something that makes them feel good about what they put into this world.”
Student organizer Dara Canchester ’18 called Cornell a “very stressful place,” saying the event gives students “a place where we celebrate more of what we bring to Cornell.”
“[Students need] something like Box Day, where you can take a moment to step back and be like ‘No, we’re using the space for a positive impact,’” Canchester said. “It’s a really cool way to give back to Cornell and also give back to yourself.”
Saharia added that she hopes the spirit of the event will prompt an increase in consideration and personal responsibility.
“[Box Day] takes stewardship and responsibility of what it means to take care of your box and the fort that you create with it,” she said. “Part of creating a structure is taking responsibility for it and taking responsibility for whatever we put into it.”
Jared Gallina ’20 called the atmosphere of Box Day “fun,” saying many people smiled at him as he walked around with his box all day.
“I had people sign all over my box throughout the day, and then on another side, I have a small house cut out with a sun and some trees in it,” he said. “A lot of people gave me weird looks and asked me why I had a box, but I met some more friends today from having a box and talking about it.”
Canchester shared her hope that the event will continue as a Cornell tradition even after the current event organizers graduate.
“In 50 years, if I came back to Cornell as an old lady walking up these hills, and I saw a box fort, that would make me super happy,” she said.