By Gisselle Hernandez, Features Editor
Gravity did not deter students from targeting the Golden Snitch on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Quidditch match held by the Honors College at Oakhurst Lawn. The Quidditch match preceded a lecture on spiders from assistant professor Laura Sullivan Beckers at Wrather West Kentucky Museum, called “I solemnly swear spiders are up to good.” These events were part of the Harry Potter series hosted by University Libraries from Oct. 10 to Nov. 4.
Paige Andrew, senior from Murray, organized the Quidditch match at Oakhurst, saying the University Libraries asked the Honors College to host it after they did a match last semester. Although multiple teams registered online for the match beforehand, only some students and middle schoolers participated. Andrew said this was probably because of tight schedules around Homecoming and how busy this time of the semester gets. In preparation for the match, they studied the official rules and regulations of Quidditch from a website and Andrew’s friend built the hooped goal posts from wood and hula hoops.
Teams were split into two – Gryffindor and Hufflepuff – and the “Snitch” was one of the participants with a tennis ball inside a sock hanging from their waistband. The players had an audience (parents of the middle school kids) as they sprinted across the lawn, dodging Quaffle balls and trying to snatch the Snitch. After the game was over, President Bob Davies, who was cheering the players on, invited everyone to his home for cookies.
Andrew said she was glad the University Libraries reached out to the Honors College to host the event.
“We also got to partner with some of the organizations on campus, so it was nice because our student council doesn’t always do things as much with other groups,” she said. “So, it was nice to have a diverse game.”
The Honors College hopes to host a Quidditch game again in the future and perhaps do one specifically for middle schoolers or high schoolers.
After the Quidditch game, the University Libraries held a lecture on spider communication and reproduction at Wrather West Kentucky Museum. Beckers, who students have dubbed as the “spider queen,” presented the data she had gathered from her research with spiders while actual spiders were contained in small plastic containers on the table in the lobby.
Beckers said her interest in spiders first began with foreign languages, a far cry from even the field of spiders.
“Then I decided to go into biology and the reason why was I was fascinated by how birds learned their songs,” she said. “Once I got into bird language, I found it was easier to do research for small invertebrate animals so I did my Ph.D. with insects and studied their communication and while I was doing that, I learned spiders are really smart and that’s how I got into spiders.”
At the end of the lecture, Beckers invited the attendees to admire what she called the creepy crawlers, saying bees and wasps are actually more dangerous to humans than spiders.
Beckers’ student Bryson Dahlberg, senior from Las Vegas, said he thinks the tarantulas are cute because they’re fluffy. Dahlberg, who has been studying spiders for about two semesters now, said he was afraid of them before but not anymore.
“After you observe them more and more they just become like an ant: You know it can bite you, but it loses its creepy effect after watching them for so many hours,” he said.
Both Dahlberg and Beckers said they had never been bitten before, despite working so closely with spiders and Beckers “diving into bushes” to catch them.
When asked if she thought her audience changed their minds about spiders, Beckers said she asked two of her arachnophobic friends if they were still terrified and they said yes, but that they found them more interesting. Dahlberg said the fear is something that is a social construct.
“It’s built into us to be afraid of anything that could potentially harm us,” he said. “But once you get to know them, they’re just doing their thing.”
The last day of the Harry Potter exhibit, which can be found at Wrather Museum, is tomorrow, Nov. 4.
Photos by Jenny Rohl/The News