The Quick 10: 10 Strange College Traditions
Most colleges have a campus-specific tradition or two that you simply must participate in before you graduate. Here are a few of them – be sure to leave a comment and tell us what your college or alma mater does!
1. Naked Quad Run – Tufts University, Medford, MA.
I don’t need a special day to run around naked, but apparently they do at Tufts. On the night before winter reading period, many Tufts students throw off the shackles of clothing all the way from West Hall to the Residential Quad. The tradition originated when Tufts, an all-male school, and Jackson College, an all-female school, were combined to create the Tufts we know today. Many young men, angry at the flagrant display of women’s rights, took matters into their own hands, or, er, other parts, by streaking in front of the President.
2. Cadet Versus Civilian Snowball Fight – Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
Just as Tufts used to be all-male, Virginia Tech used to be all Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). In honor of its heritage, civilians and cadets engage in a no-holds-barred snowball fight during the first big snowfall of every year. If you’re at VT, see snow, and hear a fire alarm, you best run for cover. The cadets are coming. Check out the 2010 fight:
3. Healy Howl – Georgetown University, Washington, DC.
By far, without a doubt, undeniably, incontrovertibly, irrefutably, The Exorcist was one of the scariest movies ever made. Few, however, know that it was filmed in part on the Georgetown campus. The film is showed on Copley lawn every Halloween, and is scheduled to end at around midnight. Students then process to the cemetery near Healy Hall for the Healy Howl, a tradition that’s almost as creepy as that little girl’s head turning all the way around.
4. The Foot of Good Luck – Yale University, New Haven, CT.
Although there’s probably a more formal name for it, this tradition involves rubbing the foot of the stature of James Dwight Woolsey, the president of Yale from 1846 to 1871, for good luck. At least, that’s what I was told when I took the tour. Naturally, of course, I rubbed the foot, hoping to get into Yale. I later learned that an unwritten “graduation requirement” for Yale students involved peeing on the foot at night. I just don’t think telling a high school senior to touch the foot of a statue that everyone’s “christened” is a nice thing to do.
5. Spree Day – Clark University, Worcester, MA.
Waking up at my college can mean bright light and a splitting headache. Waking up at Clark University on Spree Day means the party has just begun. On a random day selected by school administrators, classes are spontaneously cancelled and the entire student body celebrates on the Green. The event usually features bands, but has also been known to include elements such as hot air balloons, giant slides, and other trappings conducive to college fun.
6. Graduation Requirements – Duke University, Durham, NC.
There are a number of unofficial graduation requirements at Duke. Here are a few:
1) Climb Baldwin Auditorium. This was easier to do last year, as construction required scaffolding that ran to the top.
2) Gain access to the university steam tunnels. This was similarly easier to do last year, because they boarded them up this year.
3) Drive backwards twice around the East Campus circle. This is as easy to do this year as it was last year.
7. Hello Walk – University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho.
In the 1920s, University President Alfred Upham insisted on greeting everyone on the walk from his house (where the current Campus Christian Center is located) to the Administration Building. He went so far as to make the greeting mandatory. Today, while hellos are no longer obligatory, many choose to continue the tradition of friendliness. Had Holden Caulfield been a real person, and had he attended U of I, he would have been pissed.
8. Fourth Year Fifth – University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
Nothing says “college” like being able to consume your own weight in alcohol. Seniors at UVA might not be able to do that, but they can certainly try. My best friend, an undercover Cavalier, informs me that during the last home football game of the season seniors try to drink a fifth of alcohol, which is around 17 shots. With a tradition like that, I don’t know if he’ll survive to be my friend much longer.
9. Birthday Dunk – Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.
Everywhere else in the United States, a birthday means a cake and a DVD box set of Planet Earth. At Occidental, however, it means you’re thrown into the chilly Oxy Fountain. The best part of the tradition is that birthday students never know when it’s coming. You could be dragged out of your bed, or a class. There is only one certainty: you’re going in.
10. Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day – Reed College, Portland, OR.
Finally, a college that appreciates the most underrated element as much as I do! At Reed College, Nitrogen, seventh on the periodic table, is celebrated annually with Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day. The tradition involves a daylong festival of free food, entertainment, and a haiku recital. You also get all the free nitrogen you can fit in your pockets.