There’s a groundhog on campus, and he’s one Southern’s biggest stars.
How did an ordinary groundhog, nicknamed Doug, become so well known on campus?
On April 28, 2021, @scsu_groundhog posted its first video of Doug on Instagram. The student running the account has been anonymous, until now.
Alexander Rice, a junior communication major, is the man behind the ‘gram.
Rice has highlighted Doug’s journey to students on the Instagram account.
“I take students’ pictures from around campus of the groundhog that lives in the residential quad and I post them,” Rice says. While Rice agreed to come out of his anonymity, he wants the sole focus of the account to be about Doug the groundhog, who is quickly becoming a star on campus.
The account has grown to over 500 followers. Among Doug’s fans and followers is Top Owl, President Joe Bertolino. Rice was excited and “star struck” when Bertolino followed the account.
“It was the first night that I had the account,” Rice says. “I was following a bunch of Southern accounts hoping some of them would follow me back and President Joe was in there. I was like, it can’t hurt, so I followed Bertolino and then within an hour, he followed back.”
Once Doug goes into hibernation in the winter, Rice says he has extra photos to post and will be working on some promotional content, including a sign about the missing groundhog to put around campus.
Rice is still thinking about what will to the account after he graduates, but he does have a few ideas.
“I think I’m probably going to hand it over to one of the school departments, like the Biology Department. Someone who is better equipped to handle the account than I am. I’m not really sure yet. I don’t have any set plans,” Rice says.
Sierra Gray, sophomore math secondary education major, says she didn’t know there was an account until the first time she saw Doug on campus.
“I was so excited to see the cute little creature and he let me get so close to him. I ended up taking a Snapchat, which is what I later sent to the Instagram account and they ended up posting it,” she says.
Gray says she didn’t realize how popular Doug already was.
“My first thoughts of the account were ‘woah that many people have seen this groundhog for it to be on Instagram?’ And then I thought it was cute and kind of funny,” Gray says.
One of the posts on @scsu_groundhog is the video Gray video sent with the caption calling them best friends. ( https://www.instagram.com/p/CTphTM1pWuJ/ )
“I’ve seen Doug twice now, that’s why the Instagram said we’re “practically best friends,” Gray says. “I saw him [spring 2021] outside of Farnham and then this fall outside of Chase.”
“I like the account because it’s almost like a Southern resident inside joke,” Gray says. “Not everyone knows about it and you probably don’t if you don’t go here. It feels like a Southern thing that the students made for themselves and not through the school.”
The only negative opinion Gray has of the account is Doug’s name.
“I actually don’t love the name Doug. It kind of reminds me of one of the thousands of silly names a middle schooler would use to name literally anything, like “oh my gosh this is my favorite eraser I’m going to name it Bob,” Gray says. “I feel like Doug is just bland and could have been more original, but that’s just my opinion.”
When he created the account, Doug the groundhog already had a name. Rice says that if Doug had not had a name at the time he created his account, he would have done a poll for students to pick the groundhog’s name.
Ari Coons, a freshman art education major, feels a little differently about Doug’s name.
“Doug is a fitting name,” Coons says. “I wasn’t expecting a groundhog named Doug, but ‘Doug the Groundhog,’ ‘it fits.”
Unlike Gray, Coons found out about the account before seeing Doug.
“I was waiting for an Uber to go to the Hamden Plaza, and then I turned around, and there he was,” Coons says of seeing Doug. “I was like, ‘I gotta do it for the ’gram.’”
Coons found the account by accident when following Southern’s club Instagram pages. It came up under the suggested pages to follow.
“Me and my roommate were actually going through all of the clubs’ lists, and we started following all of the clubs’ Instagram accounts, and then all of the sudden there was the groundhog account,” Coons says. “So we followed him.”
Coons says the groundhog page is great, but they suggest one thing: Doug apparel.
“I’d like some merch, but that’s just a personal thing,” Coons says. “I liked the one poll [the account posted polls on Instagram stories for people to vote on] that was like ‘should we have Doug the Groundhog merch?’ I voted yes.”
Coons says he believes every one of the pictures on the Doug account is the same groundhog, but they have not really thought about the possibility that there could be multiple groundhogs on campus.
“In my heart, they’re all Doug,” Coons says.
They believe there are no distinct features that make any of the groundhogs in the pictures look different, so to them, they’re all the same groundhog.
“I look forward to seeing that Doug is still around and that people get to enjoy their encounters with him,” Gray says.
Story by: Sarah Shelton & Sofia Rositani