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Augustana: The King Is Dead! So Is the Queen! Long Live the Nobles!

Augustana students selected Rebecca Ziems and Taha Afzal as their Viking Days royalty last night. But don’t call them queen and king—when we dress ourselves up in the trappings of oppressive monarchy, we will at least be gender-inclusive:

Students voted for ten royalty candidates — regardless of gender — in preliminary voting. Additionally, royalty committee co-chairs Marin Bartman and Jose Cruz Medina said the two crowned court members will be named “royals” or “nobles” instead of the traditional titles.

Viking Days co-chairs Jessica Kratz and Camryn Simmons both said this change was long overdue.

“Breaking tradition is acceptable,” Kratz said. “Just because something has been done for a long time does not mean that it is perfect and that it should be transformed to match modern day standards” [Lyric Oslund, “Viking Days Announces New Gender Inclusive Royalty System,” Augustana Mirror, 2021.09.23].

There’s not just social justice (might the conservative cranks who send their kids to USF cry critical gender theory?) at work here. There’s also plain practicality, proportional representation, and a chance to use the coronation shindig to ennoble members of the college community beyond a couple of comely, vote-getting students:

Women outnumber men on campus, too, so this change could make it more equitable than the past requirement that five young men and five young women be nominated, Simmons noted.

At coronation this year, students didn’t have to pair off in couples, but could instead pick a faculty member, mentor or family member to be their escort up the stage.

“Instead of continuing and perpetuating the coupling system, which is very heteronormative, students can choose who to represent them,” Simmons said. “It’s a positive step in the right direction, and making Augustana a more inclusive place for people of all identities” [Morgan Matzen, “Augustana University Crowns First-Ever ‘Nobles’ in New, Gender-Inclusive Homecoming Coronation,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2021.10.05].

I’ve never been a big fan of homecoming festivities of any sort, as they revolve far too much around the jockocracy that pollutes almost every college campus. But at least this  Augie event helps its students learn a new word, heteronormative!


  1. Richard Schriever 2021-10-05

    Proud to be an Augie alumnus. Historical Viking women were fierce. Today’s Scandinavian peoples are some of the most gender-equally empowered in the world.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-10-05

    You know Cory, my sister Margie who was head cheerleader for the Coyotes in 1958, a big year for the them, finished second for Miss Dakota 1957 She lost out to a former
    Governor’s daughter. Now I’ve never mentioned this to her because she’s about a positive person as you’ll ever want to meet but I figure it was rigged. That womans brother also became a governor, so who knows. I also had a cousin who won queen at Augustana in 1960, she went to Tanganyika in the peace corp. and married a sculptor, the boy who did the giant Buffalo in North Dakota, an early work folks, he did much better stuff. I know Noem was a snow queen, but way back then their were liberals in South Dakota. No longer, the President of Augustana is a blue dog Democrat right? I believe their called lonely dog now.

  3. Porter Lansing 2021-10-05

    South Dakota has superb universities.

    They truly are on a higher level than the majority.

  4. DaveFN 2021-10-05

    It’s a fine line to hoe, this “all signifiers are arbitrary ” versus a respect for the traditions and signifiers transmitted to us by previous generations. Granted, it’s always a dynamic tension between the two. Sometimes, the arbitrary is invoked out of ignorance of tradition, while at other times it is a sign of deliberate disrespect for those traditions. th

    We must respect the dialectic at play while not presuming to overvalidate either side. Each side does better to call into question the other side of the equation.

  5. ArloBlundt 2021-10-05

    All is well at Augustana.

  6. V 2021-10-06

    I love to see the blending of traditional and popular cultures.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-10-06

    I find it puzzling that a nation founded on the overthrowing of monarchy would infuse the trappings of such hereditary nobility into its own customs. Even with those “nobles” selected by popular vote, homecoming royalty still reek of the emptiest possible popularity contests.

  8. Mark Anderson 2021-10-06

    Come on Cory, just look at Trump. He’s gone beyond king into God status. He’s worshiped by tribes of the unwashed and I’m not talking Steve Bannon.

  9. larry kurtz 2021-10-07

    It’s important to remember Augustana is a derivative of the Evelyn Lundberg Counseling Agency with deep ties to the Swedish monarchy.

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-10-07

    Larry, we used to go for an hour plus drive near Vermillion just to listen to Prairie Home every week when we were so busy it was crazy, but we loved it so much.

  11. larry kurtz 2021-10-08

    We’re getting a little far afield, Mr. Anderson.

    Before US 14 was widened a team led by Adrien Hannus from Augustana University uncovered evidence of human habitation from over 12,000 years ago in a cave in Boulder Canyon near Sturgis. At one excavation site in Wyoming evidence revealed that humans killed a mammoth with a Clovis pointed spear launched from an atlatl, a type of throwing stick. Nearby Inyan Kara Peak in the Wyoming Black Hills is the bastardization of Amerindian words where chert was quarried for atlatl points.

    When Garrison Keillor opened A Prairie Home Campanion in the Rapid City Civic Center Theatre on November 20, 1999 he cited a statistic that Pennington County has the highest per capita gun ownership in the United States. A nervous chuckle rolled through the audience.

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