Overheard, where Norwich culture thrives

Overheard

“Overheard” administrator Jim Black (center) hams it up with the ceremonial cavalry saber use to “knight” moderators of his popular Facebook site about cadet and student life at Norwich. There are around 19 moderators who run the site. Photo curtesy by Jim BlackAs everyone at Norwich quickly learns, “Overheard and Overseen at Norwich” is the unofficial and unauthorized Facebook page that everyone checks out every day. The man behind it simply calls it “a look into the culture on campus.”

James Francis Black IV, Class of ’17, is the chief administrator of the page, and it reflects both his sense of humor and steady fingers on the pulse of Norwich University.

“Originally, Overheard at Norwich was literally just an overheard page, a place where people could talk about things that they had heard about on campus, but nowadays it’s a group where the true culture of Norwich can live,” said Black, a communications major who was hired to work as office administrator in the department after he graduated.

Overheard at Norwich, often referred to as simply just Overheard, is an exclusive Facebook page for cadet sophomores through seniors, as well as some faculty and alumni. The page has been constantly changing with the times, having been created back in 2007 by a friend of Black’s who graduated that same year.

“In 2007, the page was created and ran by Zach Davis. The original idea for it came from a similar page at Yale University called Overheard at Yale. After Zach graduated in 2007, I took over for him and started running the page in 2008,” said Black.

Before Overheard at Norwich was established the only vehicle for “public gossip,” according to Black, was in the Guidon itself. Gossip columns known as “The Cannon Report” and “Give Me Your Two Cents,” were featured pages in the school paper but were eventually removed due to their offensive nature. Now social media offers many avenues for outlets to offer uncensored and unauthorized views of all kinds of organizations, but Black said Overheard tries to toe the line.

Although the Overheard at Norwich page has had its fair share of troubles in the past, Black makes it clear that the mission for the future of the page is to make sure “it’s a safe, fun and enjoyable place to be in.”

“It used to have some mean and nasty stuff on it when it originated, but it’s really turned around since then. I have about 19 students working under me right now checking and moderating what goes on the page to make sure it’s a good time for everyone,” said Black.

“There are times when things here can be really stressful or aggravating and this is a good platform for some relief in a comical manner,” said Taylor Gorycki, 21, a senior political science major from Coral Springs, Fla.

Gorycki works under Black as a moderator for the page making sure that there is nothing on the page that can offend anyone or create problems for students or the school.

“As a moderator, I basically scan the posts and comments to make sure they are not targeting anyone or anything that may cause an incident,” said Gorycki.

For those who are members of the Overheard at Norwich administration or moderating team, trying to keep things in bounds make feedback challenging at times. “Majority of the time we get positive feedback but of course, like everything, there are those people who are just negative all together,” said Gorycki.

What many students may not know is that Black had a long path through Norwich, courtesy of the Vermont Army National Guard. His original class was 2011, but he ended up taking a long detour, spending six years in the guard, including a stressful deployment in Afghanistan. He “walked” at graduation with the class of 2018. Not long after he was hired by Norwich as administrator and technical assistant in the Communications Department.

Overheard at Norwich is not the only Facebook page that is run voluntarily by Black and his team.

The UOD (uniform of the day) From Huggy’s Window page is another important Facebook group on campus.

The UOD From Huggy’s window page was inspired by former Cadet Jason Huggy, a 2013 graduate who had a room in Hawkins Hall during his sophomore year where he could see the code flag and know the uniform of the day without going outside.

“Huggy originally created the page and I thought it was a great idea. He could see the code flag from his window in Hawkins Hall and that’s why it’s called UOD From Huggy’s window,” explained Black.

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100s night at the Rustic after Jim Black received his degree. Photo courtesy of Jim Black

Over the years the page has had many different students operating it, each serving as a “volunteer morning caller,” informing the Corps of Cadets upperclassmen of the uniform of the day.

“Before the UOD From Huggy’s Window page the Rooks would have to go up to the upperclassmen decks and give the traditional morning call to inform everyone of the uniform of the day, the weather and anything else that you can now find out on the Huggy’s page,” said Black.

Over the years, the development of Black’s pages has helped bring Norwich “into the modern age,” according to one cadet sophomore. “Being in my first year out of rookdom, I can really see how much easier these pages can make life on cadets once they get recognized,” said Samuel Grossenbacher, 19, a sophomore criminal justice major from New Milford, Conn.

“As a rook, in order to find out what the uniform of the day was someone in your platoon would have to go out on the upper parade ground at around five in the morning every day and check the code flag then report it to everyone by yelling morning calls. Now I can just click a button and find out, it really is a privilege,” said Grossenbacher.

For Rabecca Hucksoll, 19, a sophomore electrical engineering major from Littleton, N.H., Overheard serves an important purpose at the university with its memes, pictures, humor and extensive comment threads on issues that concern students and corps.

“It is really a place that you can go and jump into the culture at any time. I love being able to hop on and just see what’s new on campus,” said Hucksoll.

It is not only current students that enjoy the page. Alumni around the world seem to enjoy perusing Overheard as a way to keep up with current events with the corps and Norwich. As one recent graduate said, “The importance of Overheard for alumni cannot be overstated.”

“Post-graduation you only hear what the university chooses to publicize, and as the pocketbook of the university, alumni should be far more aware of what goes on in today’s corps than they are,” said John Smith, who graduated in 2017.

“Although most posts are memes satirizing life in the corps, there are plenty of open discussion and news-style posts that provide substantial value to the community and have kept me informed on the current state of things,” said Smith.

For Smith, Overheard serves as a way to know how the Corps is being managed and administered currently and what the culture is like, an important factor when it comes to alumni thinking of donating to the university.

“If I’m going to donate to the university, I want to know everything about what my money is going towards and how the corps is being handled and Overheard is one of many tools that I use to determine those things,” said Smith.

Ryan Moon, 22, a senior cadet, believes that “Overheard is a place where everyone has the freedom to express their opinions and let their voice be heard.”

“I think Overheard is the only way we as cadets may voice our ever-growing distaste, hatred and frustration with the Corps, the school and the various other things that happen on campus, the only way to handle the stress of all the work we do as cadets is to make fun of it sometime,” said Moon, a senior criminal justice major from Auburn, Mich.

Black’s social media pages have influenced and changed the way information gets out at Norwich University, reflecting his high-energy personality and love of technology and background in communications.

With the goal of “trying to show the culture,” Black is constantly coming up with new ways to show the little details of life at Norwich, frequently posting videos from a drone that he flies around the campus or significant events, such as the recent recognition ceremony.

“I’ve been trying to make more videos of events here at Norwich because I believe it’s the best way to really the capture the culture best,” said Black.

Black is constantly seen filming around campus at all major events. Whether it’s a weekend football game, a rook field-training exercise or even the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, he captures each moment in time and allows cadets, staff and alumni alike to be able to reminisce in the most vivid way possible.

Although the future of these pages as a resource for students isn’t set in stone, Black believes that like all things, Overheard will evolve but remain a platform that reveals what it is like to go to Norwich University.

“I feel like these pages will become pieces of history, people will be able to look back and say hey what happened in 2015, what happened in 2018, and its great Overheard has grown in size because that will add more to the history,” said Black.

 

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