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Club launches a new way of communicating across campus

Photo by Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash

In a world of texting and Snapchat, the art of snail mail still isn’t dead.

Campus Cursive, a club recognized by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), is launching a mystery pen pal project in October that will allow students to correspond anonymously with their match. The group aims to explore the art and preservation of cursive writing, and discuss what it means in today’s modern world.

Loretta Beauchamp, the club’s event planner, explains the essence of it with the Fulcrum. The club will start an online survey to match participants. Based on your results with the questionnaire, you will be paired with another student and send letters to your partner anonymously. To be matched, students only need to answer a five-minute survey on the club’s Facebook page.

Founder and president Natania Abebe came up with this idea because she thinks there aren’t enough authentic connections on campus and she wants to rekindle school spirit.

Campus Cursive believes the archaic feel of hand-written letters to an anonymous friend is special, and appealing to students.

Fatima Kamal, the treasurer, explains why the anonymity of this project is such an advantage.

“If you know someone’s identity, you’re more restricted in what you say. The anonymity allows you to talk more openly about yourself,” says Kamal.

“It’s also fun because it’s mysterious, so you can’t look them up on Facebook,” Abebe adds.

So far, more than 70 people have registered. Once students are assigned a pen pal, they will correspond for five months until February, when Campus Cursive will hold a masked ballroom event and reveal the identities.

Typically, the club hides encouraging anonymous messages across campus. People can also nominate their friends for a “love bundle,” which is a compilation of positive messages. Abebe says this is helpful for a student going through a difficult time.

“You’re on a campus with 40,000 other students and everyone is anonymous and you think that no one cares, but yet there’s a group that cares about you that is going out of their way to send you a package,” she says. “That’s very special.”

Dr. Annette Poizner, a registered social worker and psychotherapist based in Toronto, says handwriting is a craft worth preserving.

“We do see the trend that people are using handwriting less and valuing it less,” she says. “I would suggest it’s actually a crucial life skill.”

Kids who may never study music or art, or who may never work on other expressive projects or activities, can end up with underdeveloped neuroplasticity of the brain, she explains.

“Handwriting used to be an equalizer,” says Dr. Poizner. “How to flow, how to be fluent in expressing themselves and facilitating hand-eye coordination, and any number of brain activities that can be more fluid.”

“I’ve often said the difference between keyboarding and handwriting is the difference between playing the triangle and playing the violin,” she says.

With cursive writing, we get better coordination between the left brain and right brain, she says, “And yes, we will suffer and not have the same cognitive fluency if you take away this vital skill.”

Though handwriting may be fading, Campus Cursive believes snail mail with an anonymous partner just might be the perfect way to create a lasting friendship, and keep your brain skills in check.


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