Celebrating Harry Potter culture on campus

Andrew Kim

The final Harry Potter film passed through theaters this summer, and fans are still trying to figure out how exactly they are to negotiate their post-Potter lives. Though J.K. Rowling’s Deathly Hallows inflicted its wonderful damage back in 2007, for some, the movie could have opened up fresh wounds.

For others, it could have been a release, a stamp of finality that finally relieved them of the film franchise’s belatedness and banality. Perhaps for both these reasons — nostalgia, as well as an acute awareness of the lack of nostalgia — LUMOS has come at this time.

The Lawrence University Magical Organization of Students created a mild fervor on campus last week, as at least 475 Lawrentians — roughly a third of the student population — opened their ears to the sorting hat’s squeaky little voice — or rather, Will Doreza’s stressed one — outside Andrew Commons for an entry into one of Hogwarts’ four Houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin.

Harry Potter fans have loved discussing the polarities of these four houses and speculating on which one they themselves would probably belong to. To join LUMOS during this period, a Lawrentian was to give his or her name and e-mail address, and fill out a couple checkboxes, à la Myers-Briggs.

Doreza, a LUMOS founder who helped design the quick personality quiz, had in mind several outstanding characteristics of each house that would determine a sortee’s inner Hogswartian. Broadly, a typical Gryffindor is “thrill-seeking, self-giving, and loyal to friends”; a Hufflepuff, “group-oriented and reliable”; a Ravenclaw, “serious about his or her studies and/or practicing” and a Slytherin, “ambitious and concerned about pride and honor.”

Currently, Ravenclaw house has gathered the most Lawrentians under its talons, with a one-person plus over Slytherin, followed by Gryffindor, and finally by the “very low amount of Hufflepuffs” — approximately half that of Ravenclaw and Slytherin.

Harry Potter theorists will always argue over what exemplifies each House, but for the purposes of LUMOS, these placements are conducted primarily to “increase interest by competition — people can earn points for their house by planning and attending events, answering trivia questions on the LUMOS Facebook page, and the like.”

The group also seeks to collaborate with its slightly older sister LU Quidditch, an intramural sporting group that meets on the quad every Sunday afternoon to partake in “Muggle Quidditch.” Though confined within the physical laws of the more mundane world, the sport is what spokesperson Erik Morrison calls a “combination of soccer, dodgeball and hide-and-seek,” through which “LUMOS members will be awarded points for attending Quidditch practices and extra points for winning a match.”

The organization does not end there, however. If it did, LUMOS would be little more than a cup-ramen version of Pottermore, J.K. Rowling’s custom site where users get sorted into Houses and live it up at a virtual Hogwarts.

According to Doreza, it is not enough for LUMOS members to simply attend house meetings and ponder ways to win the House Cup. “We don’t want [the organization’s] success to be based on house meetings, but on large-scale events. This way, it’s not as much of a time commitment for people, and it’s just more flexible,” he says.

Most importantly, these events are aiming at something beyond the castle walls. Doreza, along with co-founders Sara Brannon and Emily Hamm, originally conceived LUMOS during a choir trip to Björklunden as a simple “Harry Potter club,” but they have expanded this conception to include a more general philanthropic mission.

They see themselves as an aspiring student chapter to the Harry Potter Alliance, a worldwide non-profit organization that uses Harry Potter as a springboard with which to “fight the Dark Arts in the real world.” Their principal issues are literacy, equality and human rights. Oppressed house elves may not actually exist, but oppressed human beings do. To call someone a “Mudblood” may be foul play, but people call each other worse names based on race, gender or sexual orientation. To Doreza, LUMOS events can be a very palatable way to address such issues.

The Lawrence University Yule Ball is vaunted as the big winter term event. A glamorous formal gala with catered services, it will cost a mere meal swipe, with additional proceeds donated to such organizations as the Harry Potter Alliance.

LUMOS also aims to send out its sparks into the community, envisioning a “Harry Potter Day” to not only indulge local school children in their own Hogwartian fantasies — like choosing their own wand or getting sorted — but also, and more importantly, to encourage book-reading.

And, of course, no Harry Potter fandom of any kind is complete without a movie marathon, during which hardy souls will compete with each other to see who can sit through the film sequence the longest and accumulate money for their respective chosen charities. More tentative events are being brewed in addition to these, and each house will take turns planning and organizing smaller events.

People interested in getting sorted/joining LUMOS can email lumos@lawrence.edu or consult its Facebook page for more information.

People interested in playing Muggle Quidditch are welcome to join the scrimmage on Sundays at 1 p.m. Practices are usually held at the quad, or in the case of inclement weather, at the Recreation Center.

People who have gotten sorted and are interested in becoming prefects can contact the head of his or her respective house: Gryffindor — Brooke Blowedorn, HufflepuffProvie Duggan, Ravenclaw — Heather Gandre, SlytherinAbi Leveille.