Screw Up Nights show everybody’s human, and at the fifth installment last Wednesday, so was the president.
Stories of failure serve as a “great equalizer, allowing everyone to have a laugh at human foibles,” said Mary Ann Mavrinac, Dean of River Campus Libraries to the audience at iZone. Holding true to this, president Feldman and anthropology professor Daniel Reichman were the first two speakers.
“None of the mistakes are presidential,” Feldman said, diving into stories of failed plumbing attempts and recurring rejections from Brown University for undergraduate, graduate, and job positions. Feldman’s third story, received with laughter, was about how he published a 2003 philosophy textbook, in which he predicted the Chicago Cubs would never win a World Series. After the 2016 World Series, he said he was flooded with messages.
The winning story of the evening — as chosen by event organizers — came from Reichman, who recalled a trip to Argentina he took during high school. When apologizing for his flawed Spanish, Reichman repeatedly mispronounced “I’m embarrassed” as “I’m pregnant.” On the same trip, Reichman attempted to thank someone by saying he liked the dish, instead saying “I like the pope.” With this story, his winning prize read “Pregnant Jewish man who likes the pope.”
Reichman’s other story was about almost causing a lawsuit at his first job. While working for an international energy organization in Boston, Reichman says he was told not to call one specific person who had threatened to sue the company if it bothered him again. Reichman accidentally called him. Years later, he still receives emails from former coworkers with just the man’s name in the body.
iZone project manager Alexandra Frederickson said these stories “give people the courage to share their own.”
Once the scheduled speakers were done, the floor was opened to anyone wishing to share their own experiences. People shared tales of drinking too much wine and missing a campus event, thinking “husband” means “cousin” and telling their class they were “playing with their husbands,” and asking someone if their boyfriend had a date for the prom.
Sophomore and event organizer Deniz Cengiz said, “A mix of returning and new audience members indicates a sense of community.”
Unique to the fifth Screw Up Night, sophomore and iZone employee Mike Arinarkin pointed out that students were able to “connect with members of the administration through stories of failure.” He concluded, “If you don’t have a screw-up story to share, you don’t live bold enough.”
Correction (3/25/19): A earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Dean Mary Ann Mavrinac as Dean Mary Mavrinac.
Correction (3/29/19): Reichman’s story about his Spanish-speaking mistakes took place while he was a high school student, not while he was on a faculty exchange program as previously indicated.