Splish, splash. Inside the office of WCSA’s coolest, most Gen Z Assistant Director of Student Activities, Caroline ‘Cat’ Crawford, sparkling in the dim office light, Freddy D. floats happily — or I suppose he could be emo, but it’s not our place to tell.

Frederick Douglass (fish) (affectionate) has graced Crawford’s side table since June 2023. He’s all long, flowing orangey-blueish fins and sudden, futile efforts against the current, and people describe him as a beta but that sounds mean and I don’t know fish, so like, whatever. Every day, students peering through the open door in Genesee Hall can enjoy the sight of a floundering friend on their way through the cold October wind, but to my great surprise, in September, she told me that the student response to Freddy had been less than ideal. 

“They’re always telling me I’m ‘despicable and inhumane’ and that he needs a bigger tank,” she reported in dismay, “that this is the equivalent of him being on life support and he wants me to pull the plug.”

Looking at the tank, Freddy seemed to be living it up, in my humble non-fish opinion. He’s got marble beads aplenty, which I’d take any day over dormitory linoleum; nonetheless, I suppose it could be the marine fauna equivalent of walking on LEGOs.

“Is the marble sub-optimal?” I inquired. She responded that no, that this staple of fish floors everywhere did not make the list of abuse allegations, although Freddy D. did almost die trying to eat a bead once. “He’s so stupid,” she said wistfully. 

Privately, I wondered what intelligence tests for fish look like (“solve for x: if food appears in increments of 5x^2 – 3x, where x is the amount of shits given about fish…”) and elected to remain silent, given that Crawford controls approval over all of my club’s activities. 

After several visits to Freddy D., who proves a calming presence after exams, I happened upon the story of his existence on campus. To my great surprise, Freddy D.’s presence in Crawford’s life was not optional. A restitution:

Lilli Tamm: Imma be so real with you, I fully thought this was like, your fish that you chose to have.

Cat Crawford: (hysterical laughter) Nooooo!!!

Lilli Tamm: This makes you talking about hating him make so much more sense.

Cat Crawford: I did not ask! For this fish!

Crawford describes showing up to her office one Monday and having a colleague follow her in and leave a mason jar on her desk, with Freddy floating inside. Amid much confusion on why he was there, he stayed and survived in that little jar for four days, so we can maybe calm down on the tank thing. He’s tough. 

Freddy D. was a staff initiative by “an unknown amount of people within WCSA,” who somehow decided there should be an office pet. Why they designated Crawford the fish-caretaker is unclear: from her name alone, you’d think she’d be exempted. 

She has theorized that it’s because she’s the lone Pisces on staff, which seems as logical a reason as any other step in this saga. It also remains unclear why real, salaried adults chose to deliver the fish as a surprise, without making any arrangements for its care and well-being, or why they didn’t ask the person they were foisting responsibility onto ahead of time. Crawford did not want to have the fish, so why make her do it? Couldn’t anyone else take it? Why have the office fish so far from the main offices in Wilco anyway?

More troubling, she is one of the newer staff members: could this be a form of hazing? “If he dies, that’s on me,” she confides. “I refuse to be branded as the fish-killer of WCSA.” This would be pretty rich considering how hard WCSA comes down on any suggestion of student groups singling out new members.

For those too young to remember (which is actually all of us, considering the Class of 2024 graduates this spring), the main reason the fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu got kicked off campus in 2019 was for excessive hazing — apparently, through the grapevine, for making pledges eat live fish. FISH! Could it be that WCSA is gearing up to follow in their footsteps? Just keep swimming!

WCSA apparently realized that they couldn’t use their funding to care for the fish, so a cohort of six sponsors had to be assembled from the staff to pay, out of their own pocket, for “the betterment of his life.” 

Freddy D., I love you dearly, but if someone put a taser to my head and asked for you or 20 dollars towards a tank upgrade, I’m not sure which side up you’d be floating. Crawford naturally has no choice but to contribute to the FDCC (Freddy D. Care Committee), which has finally been able to get a bigger tank for our only campus-owned, crowd-funded, aquatic friend. For Freddy D. they will provide. You know the way people talk about unplanned children that they end up loving best of all? That’s the vibe I’m getting from this fish. And Freddy is thriving in his new tank: it even has mood lighting!

Freddy D is happy in his new home, but as long as he lives (which I do hope will be for a while, I do not wish harm upon this fish), his expenses will keep growing. If you want to support him, and the rest of WCSA employees that were coerced into fish-keeping, Venmo a couple bucks to @freddyd_wcsafish. All donations will actually — for real — go to Freddy D., and keep him swimming for years to come. Maybe months? I don’t know things. Bite me.

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