The Indiana Wesleyan University English and Writing Club recently made a decision to change its name to Literati. This change was implemented in hopes of appealing to a more diverse range of students.
“We just wanted to make it more inclusive,” said Brittany Spurlin (sr), co-president of the club. “The English and Writing Club makes it sound endemic to only English and writing majors, which we do not want it to be.”
Noah Welsh (sr), also a co-president, added: “Because we are a division of the modern literature department, we wanted everyone in our department to have the opportunity to attend our meetings. In our previous constitution it said that only English and writing majors could attend. We are changing that so now our whole division can come to the meetings and we can involve everyone.”
Welsh explained that Dr. Mary Alice Trent, chair of the Modern Language and Literature Division, had previously approached him on several occasions, suggesting the club have a name change. After Trent had suggested this “a few hundred times,” according to Welsh, he decided maybe the club should consider the name change.
“We had people submit name ideas, and then we chose the top five that we thought would be a good name change,” Spurlin said. “During the first meeting of the year we all voted.”
The vote was done “‘Survivor’-style,” according to Welsh. “I’m a huge ‘Survivor’ fan. So we had all of the [top] votes in a bag and I pulled them out one by one and read them aloud. It was a nail biter. It came down to the last vote and that was the deciding vote. It was pretty intense and I loved it.”
Needless to say, Literati won the name change.
Paul Allison, professor of English, said the club’s constitution is being revisited to officially implement the changes the new name signifies, of allowing more than just English and writing majors to be in the club.
But the club couldn’t simply expect new members to just come. Leaders added new concepts to the club in order to appeal to those different majors.
This is also the first year Spanish has been included in the club. This addition led to the creation of Spanish Night, to further reach out to that part of the division. The leaders of Literati expressed that this is something that should have been done a long time ago.
The group explained the primary reason only Spanish was added primarily because it is the only foreign language that offers a major. “That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be willing to add other languages,” Welsh said. “We will take any other languages and any suggestions.”
Spurlin added that the club could also add a French night. “The French students are really involved,” she said.
Another aspect new to Literati this year is an emphasis on reaching out into the community of Marion. “One of the things we want to do this year is read Christmas stories to the elderly,” said Welsh. “It is something that we have never done before, so it is very brand new and a little scary. We also have a newsletter that Brittany is going to start publishing.”
As an additional amendment to the club’s constitution, besides the name change and inclusion of members outside English and writing majors, Welsh said, “We are changing the roles that some of our officers play.”
Upon further exploration of the club and member requirements, Allison stated there is a GPA requirement of 2.0 for members and 2.5 for officers, and you must be an official member of the club to vote, but membership does not bar you from attending meetings.
Some of the club’s activities are Scattegories and Catch Phrase. Also, typically once a semester, the club has guest readers. A few years ago, Dr. John McCracken, associate professor of education, spoke and was a very exciting reader, according to Welsh. “He brought the literature to life. He knows how to read with a voice that is different for each genre,” Welsh added.
Allison has been the adviser of the club since its beginning in 2004, when Bethany Bregan, a sophomore at the time, started it. “She wanted to do something outside of class,” Allison said. “I think she saw the need for it and also kind of a personal need. Even though students got to know each other through class over the semesters, there was really no social outlet for people interested in writing and reading. So that’s how she started it; It was purely student motivated.”
Regarding the future of the club, Welsh said: “I want to see it reaching out into the campus. … I really want to see us growing so much that Literati makes a name for itself on this campus, [as well as in the community as a whole].”
“I would like to see it flourishing,” Spurlin added.
Allison said he would like something to spring from Literati, even if it’s online or blogging, something that everyone can start contributing to.
Spurlin concluded that she hopes the traditions the club has started this year are still around in the future.
“[Literati] is not just for [specific] majors necessarily,” Allison said, “but for anyone who loves literature and loves to write.”
The group’s biggest outreach activity is “I Speak,” Literati’s second-annual spoken-word poetry night. It will be in the Globe Theatre on Nov. 17.
“It’s a chance for anyone on campus to sign up and come to read poetry,” Spurlin said. “If it’s original poetry that they wrote, it is an opportunity to share it that maybe they do not have in their division. Also, if it is a poem that they really love and would like to share with other students, they can.”
Literati meets 9:30-10:30 p.m. every Tuesday, except for the week of Friday Night Live, in Kem Hall Bistro.