Regi Ball rook proposals: Drama and anxiety

With Regimental Ball just around the corner on Oct. 27, the annual ritual of “rookie proposals” for dates is causing anxiety and humor throughout the halls of the barracks surrounding the Upper Parade Ground at Norwich.
“Rookie proposals can be pretty out there,” said Leah Andrea, a 21-year old communications major from Pittsburgh, Pa. “I have seen some hilarious ways to ask a person to a dance, it’s definitely not something you see every day.”
According to Andrea, there is not any specific criteria someone must follow during a rookie proposal. Generally, the recruits need permission from their cadre, but once permission is granted they may begin making their plans.

For those not up on Corps of Cadet traditions, “The rookie proposals are when freshmen ask the cadre members for one of their recruits’ hand to the regimental ball,” explained Grace Rodriguez, a 21-year old political science and Spanish major from Hialeah Gardens, Fla.
Rooks, as recruits who are first year cadets in the corps, are expected to follow various rules and be under close supervision until the regimental commander “recognizes” them as full-fledged members of the corps. They are supervised and trained by upperclassmen who hold the title of cadre. A date proposal is a chance for a recruit to stand up to the cadre and prove that they are worthy enough to take another recruit to the ball.
As with a high school prom, the rookie date proposals are a big deal, according to Alexa Elrod, a 19-year old nursing major from Waldorf, Md.
“I never thought it would happen in college,” Rodriguez said. “Being rooks, everything is so regulated, and I guess it is just another regulation.”
The rules of rookie proposals are straight forward. On top of asking for permission to “propose,” recruits are not allowed to ask another recruit within their own platoon. They should also wear their dress blues. Andrea explained.
“One misconception is if you have never been asked or seen one, you just don’t realize how intense it can be,” Andrea said.
Recruits typically come together in a barracks room during their training time, in order to create an elaborate proposal plan. Each is different, but they are all meant to be extravagant, according to Elrod.
“My platoon went all out,” said Elrod. “One of my rook brothers had on a dress, earrings, and makeup.”
Elrod had no idea that her platoon had participated in creating a proposal for her until the moment it began. She anticipated it to be crazy, but she did not expect the sequence of events to come.
“My platoon hid me during a lot of my proposal, but I could hear and then watch the video of the proposal after.” The recruit who asked her, “came in with his platoon, acting like he was a knight riding a horse. They had swords and they marched in. Each one of them did tricks. He sang in Italian and threw rose petals everywhere,” said Elrod.
Elrod was hardly the only girl who experienced a date proposal that was eccentric or elaborate or dramatic.. Andrea said her cadre were a major component in what made her proposal experience so intense.
“He came to our deck one night with flowers. He asked if I would go with him and my cadre snatched the flower arrangement from the recruit’s hands, bit out of them, and spat them all over the floor,” Andrea said.
Andrea explained that while the cadre are typically mean to the recruit, that is just part of the tradition of rookie proposals. Not only can recruits be denied by the person they ask, but also by the cadre.
“There were instances where cadre, including myself, said no to a recruit. We could deny access to our deck for a number of reasons,” said Roger Cowgill, a 22-year old Norwich alumnus from Salisbury, Conn.
As a cadre member Cowgill would say no to proposals for reasons such as a messed-up uniform, lack of confidence, even a lack of basic recruit knowledge. Cowgill did keep sensitivity in mind when it came to denying his recruits the chance for a rookie proposal, however.
“Often we tried to keep it light-hearted so that way it would come off as a joke as opposed to us targeting him or her. That being said, I am sure there were some recruits who did take it to heart,” he said.
Cowgill explained that in general cadre attempt to let recruits down easy – although, he understood that being denied had the potential to kill a recruit’s interest and self-confidence.
“I am glad I got a proposal, but I feel like it also sucks in a way if you want to be asked, and all your rook sisters get asked, but no one asks you,” Andrea said.
Not every person gets the experience of giving or receiving a rookie proposal.:Elrod estimated only approximately 20 proposals occur per year. It is however more common for females to be proposed to than males, but it is still not guaranteed for everyone.
“Typically, people won’t just randomly ask you. You have to be social enough with the guys,” Andrea said.
According to Matthew Candy, a 19-year old business management major from Clifton, Va, most of the socializing between males and females happens in clubs because of the relaxed environment. In Candy’s experience with rookie proposals, he found that women do not always appreciate receiving them in the first place.
“It is very public. At one point or another they are both probably going to get embarrassed. Most girls do not want that,” Candy said.
While rookie proposals are meant to be a silly tradition, there are many ways they can go wrong. According to Andrea, some females have been very cruel to unsuspecting male recruits.
There are rumored to be “a lot of females” who will say “Yeah you should totally ask me! I’ll say yes,” to their male counterpart. “Then they will get up there and make a fool out of themselves, and the female will say no,” Andrea said.
Andrea explained how frustrating it is to hear about proposals that end in that fashion, noting there is a darker outcome that can occur in the tradition.
“They like the attention or just want to be mean. I think that’s really messed up,” said Andrea “but some people will say that’s just part of being a rook.”
Rookie proposals are open to any recruits, according to Candy. While it is typical on campus for a male to ask a female, there is nothing stopping females from asking males, or people of the same gender giving and receiving proposals.
“I have not heard of any rookie proposals between just girls or just guys,” Candy said. “It is just the nature of the beast.”
According to Candy, Norwich University demographics explain why it is so uncommon. The male to female ratio is very uneven. However, it is very common for the same girl to be asked by multiple guys to the Regimental Ball.
“It becomes a competition quite often. Then it just comes down to who asked her first or in the best manner,” Cowgill said.
Cowgill explained that in his view, rookie proposals should not be a mandatory part of rookdom. They are fun but not necessary to the experience of becoming a cadet.
“There are a lot of things that you can do to gain a Norwich experience, but rookie proposals are not necessary for it. Fun? Absolutely,” Cowgill said.
The significance of rookie proposals come down to more than just the excitement of the experience. It is a step forward for the recruits.
“It is the first time someone else from the outside is coming into the platoon. It matters a lot,” Elrod said.
Elrod explained that she learned how protective her rook brothers and sisters were over her during her proposal. They wanted to make sure the recruit asking her was worthy enough to be their rook sister’s date to the ball.
“It was a bonding time for us. When you are going through rookdom little things like that are extremely meaningful.” Elrod said.
Andrea explained that it is hard enough to date as a rook, so rookie proposals are nerve-wracking for the person proposing. But it is also a great opportunity to get close to someone you like.
“Maybe you met someone at the library, and that is the only time you get to see them. You think ‘well do they like me enough to make a fool out of themselves in front of my platoon to ask me?’ So, it is a really cool thing when they do,” Andrea said.
According to Candy, rookie proposals are more than just a silly tradition. They are a team building experience. Everyone becomes very protective over their rook sisters and brothers. They all have each other’s back which is very important in a platoon.
“It creates a little bit more unit cohesion,” Candy said.

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