BY CAITLIN LYNCH ’20
“I feel the campus hum with wishful thinking about this time of year,” said Rachel Fink, a biology professor who’s been working for Mount Holyoke since 1986, on the prospect of Mountain Day. “Every year there is the same level of excitement and enthusiasm, and everyone has their own way of calculating odds.”
From gut feelings to detailed algorithms, many on campus have their own methods of predicting Mountain Day.
One method comes from professor of politics Calvin Chen, who uses Mountain Day prediction as a teaching tool in his class “to show how social science can be useful in studying all kinds of phenomena.” Chen cites the many factors that go into choosing the perfect Mountain Day, including the day of the week, the president’s schedule, proximity to the beginning of the year or the start of hunting season, special guests or the Trustees visitingcampus and coordination with Smith College’s Mountain Day, and gives weight to each factor according to how important he thinks it is in the decision-making process.
Using this method, Chen anticipated that Mountain Day 2017 would fall on Oct. 4. He has been able to correctly predict the date of Mountain Day using this strategy many times, including this and last year. “I got it right several years in a row,” said Chen, “until President Pasquerella broke the rules twice, which threw me off.”
Computer science major Kat Aiello ’18 took an even more calculated approach to predicting this year’s Mountain Day by creating an algorithm, which factors in variables such as date, day of week and weather (preceding, current and forecast) of Mountain Day.
“I thought it’d be helpful to have something like the Snow Day Calculator for Mountain Day,” said Aiello, whose algorithm predicted that the days that have the highest chances of being Mountain Day were 9/28, 10/3 and 10/4 when she ran the algorithm on Sept. 23. “As it turns out,” said Aiello, “Mountain Day has a lot more to do with events happening on campus and the president’s schedule than I anticipated.”
Some have caught on to the importance of the president’s availability in the decision of the date of Mountain Day. “When I was a first-year I knew this junior who literally got a hold of [former President] Lynn Pasquerella’s schedule and charted out which days Lynn wasn’t in town or had an important meeting,” said Mira Kelly-Fair ’17. This strategy was replicated this year when students accessed Acting President Sonya Stephens’ Google calendar and speculated that an 8:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m. window marked “Busy” on Monday Oct. 2 was evidence for Mountain Day being on that day.
A more direct strategy of finding out the date of Mountain Day is just to ask the acting president directly. “Look into her eyeballs,” said Chair of Senate Liz Brown ’20, “and say, ‘Sonya, is tomorrow Mountain Day?’ […] it doesn’t work.”
Brown speculated that Mountain Day would come after fall break this year, because “Sonya loves the fact that this is dominating our conversations. She wants us to keep talking about it.”
And yet, Mountain Day was announced on Tuesday, Oct. 4, in accordance with both Chen and Aiello’s predictions.