The Switch to GadNik

Student Activities combines Gadkin and Nikdag to a new event in response to community concerns

Maddy Simpson | Editor in Chief

Young men huddle in the small stairway of a dimly lit freshman dorm. Their sweaty hands grasp paper pamphlets as they nervously chat amongst themselves. One by one, they approach the dorm-room’s door and propose a weekend of fun to a girl on the other side. This is Gadkin.

For most of the world’s population, the words “Nikdag” and “Gadkin” hold no meaning. But on Bethel University’s campus, the words hold great importance. Nikdag and Gadkin are annual campus-wide events that historically involve girls asking guys – and vice versa – to a weekend of fun activities.

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A newspaper cutout from a 1948 edition of the Clarion recounts the origins of what the tradition is today. Cutout from Bethel Clarion Archival collection.

This year, the event changed. Instead of two different events – Nikdag and Gadkin – Student Activities combined the events into one larger event, GadNik.

The change was intentional, according to Executive Director of Student Activities Ashley Connolly.

“With the shift to GadNik, we are hoping to have a more open culture,” Connolly said. “We still have the traditions of the ask and the events, but we are going to sell [only] individual tickets, making it … more group oriented.”

The culture of the events has traditionally been based around couples. According to volume 28 of the Clarion, students were initially introduced to Nikdag when an event called ‘Nikolena’s Dag’ replaced an old Sadie Hawkin’s tradition. Nikolena’s Dag included a brief program centered around traditional Swedish Midsummers festivities, followed by food and drink.

By 1951, Nikolena’s Dag had become NikDag, and the event was no longer simply a performance to attend. 1951 marked the first year that girls waited in the men’s dorms, asking a specific male student to be their date to the event.

Gadkin was created to be the opposite of Nikdag (Gadkin is Nikdag spelled backwards). In this event, it was the men who asked the women to be their dates. By the time Gadkin started in 1984, Nikdag had turned into a weekend of fun for the couples.

Until this year, the events have been consistent with what they were in the 1980’s.

But in the past few years, the chatter surrounding Nikdag and Gadkin has changed. Some students, instead of feeling excitement and anticipation in terms of the tradition, feel a tension surrounding the event. Senior Erin Koski remembers her freshmen experience with Gadkin as a night full of pressure.

“I believe [Nikdag and Gadkin are] fun traditions for Bethel, but there is an unnecessary pressure that comes along with it,” Koski said. “I understand that that isn’t the intention, but it is present. Some people thrive with that tension and some people … don’t like it.”

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The first mention of Gadkin, the complement event to Nikdag is in a 1984 edition of the Clarion. Cutout from the Bethel Clarion Archival Collection.

The change from two separate events to one is a response to this feeling around campus.

“There was very consistent feedback from the student body,” Connolly said. Connolly said that after reviewing feedback from personal emails, student surveys and conversations with students themselves, the Bethel community was largely in favor of the change.

Many on campus are excited by the shift, but some in the Bethel community don’t feel excited. Ashlyn Chaika, senior at Bethel, stands firmly in favor of the original structure for the events.

“I think the change is lame. Nikdag and Gadkin have been traditions at Bethel for a really long time,” Chaika said. “I feel like it’s ruining the tradition that has been here for a long time.”

Chaika attended the events sophomore year with a group of friends and her boyfriend.

“I think that it has always been an option for groups of people to go. Even though tickets are sold in pairs, you can still get a group of people to go. You could always go with a friend. I don’t think it’s directly focused on couples.”

For married couple Gary and Sue Simpson, the events are a fun memory from their years at Bethel, but they disagree on the change.

“I remember that a group of people attacked me on a basketball court so that [Sue] could ask me to Nikdag,” Gary said. “It was a fun time, but it’s social engineering wrapped up in a pretty dance theme.” Gary is in favor of the change, but his wife has different thoughts.

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Freshmen male students wait in the lobby for the right time to ask their potential dates to Gadkin. The men must wait until 12 a.m. to ask the women, and are responsible to bring tickets and a small gift for their hopeful dates. Photo by Maddy Simpson.

“I think they’re getting too politically correct,” Sue said with a roll of her eyes. “A little bit of pressure is good, it makes you grow and do things you’re not comfortable with. If you don’t want to be part of the dating culture, that’s fine. But if you do, it’s a fun event.”

Though these differing opinions are present, the event was officially changed to GadNik early this year. Tickets will be sold individually, opening up the event to anyone and everyone who wants to go.

“Our hope is that, since we are putting so much more time and effort into one event, it will be something that students will want to go to regardless of if they feel they need to ask somebody,” Connolly said. “That’s the hope.”