USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘college’
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Rutgers Jokes

*Note: The informant, Harriet, is my grandma. She attended college at Rutgers University in New Jersey!

 

INFORMANT: “Well, there were a lot of jokes about the football team, the Scarlet Knights. They weren’t very good. West Virginia had a lot of jokes about us. And then there were the usual jokes about Rutgers kids being stupid, Rutgers kids being idiots. It was all pretty generic, most of the jokes could really be applied to anyone or anything. But one of my favorites was the one about the cemetery. It was … there was … a little boy and his mother were walking through a cemetery and they passed a tombstone that said ‘Here Lies a Rutgers Graduate and a Great Man.’ And the kid looks confused and he says to his mom, ‘I don’t get it,’ and she asks ‘Why not?’ And he asks, ‘Why are there two people buried here?'”

While the cemetery joke was pretty general, Rutgers jokes are a good example of the wider category of sports or college rivalry-related jokes. Almost every college has a direct rivalry with other colleges, whether it’s based on sports, academics, or something else entirely. With this competition always comes a slew of jokes, often very basic and general, that demean the other team, emphasize their shortcomings and failures, and downplay their triumphs. These jokes build on the lore of each particular school, strengthening bonds between its students and alumni, and enriching campus culture.

Generic jokes, I suppose, are also a form of folklore all their own, because they are blank slates to which any number of things can be applied. They aren’t specific enough to be blason populaire, but rather they’re so general that they can be used as a quick put-down for virtually anything.

Customs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Football Games at UC Davis

The informant is a 19 year old computer engineering student at UC Davis. He is currently a freshman there after graduating high school the previous year. He grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and has no strong religious ties. His family has been living in Southern California for many generations.

I asked him about the customs and activities associated with the football games at UC Davis. UC Davis is located in Davis, CA. This is northern California, which is slightly different culturally than the informant’s hometown. Though UC Davis has had an almost continuous football program since 1918, the team was only established as a NCAA Division I team less than a decade ago. This contrasts greatly with other universities who have structured themselves around their football team, like USC.

The football games are free for students to attend, but the informant says that the main draw for students to attend the game is the free giveaways of UC Davis apparel from various sponsors before and during the game. He said that he knew of giveaways of clothing such as scarves, beanies and t-shirts. There does not seem to be much hype for the games themselves. In other words, the students do not seem to be going because they are interested in football or supporting their university’s team, but just as something to do on the weekends. There does not seem to be as much pressure on students to actively support sports teams as there is at other universities that are more famous for their teams. When asked how he decided to go the game and who he went with, he replied that the decision was pretty spontaneous. A couple of his friends asked if he wanted to go and he said sure. He did not look forward to the game in advance.

Tailgating is found at UC Davis, but the informant said it was relatively minimal compared to other universities and takes place mainly in an empty field outside of Aggie Stadium. Aggie Stadium seats roughly 10,000 people and opened in 2007. The informant does not personally take part in the tailgating.

During the game, the student section is called the Aggie Pack. There is no assigned seating and people come and go as they please. There is a student leader in charge of leading cheers, but the mascot (a horse named Gunrock) plays a relatively small role in the games and is merely a person dressed up in a typical horse mascot costume. The informant said that the most exciting part of the games is the UC Davis tube sock giveaways, in which pairs of tube socks are thrown into the student section randomly.

When asked about half-time, the first thing he mentioned was that people like to leave then. This reinforces the idea that the students attend the games merely as something to do and not to actively watch the games.

All in all, there does not seem to be much hooplah surrounding the football games at UC Davis. Football is not the defining feature of UC Davis and this is evident in the blasé attitude towards the games. This is also evident in the attendance of other sports, including basketball. Even when ESPN was going to be filming one of the games, the students had to be lured in with free items to fill in the usually pretty empty stands.

general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Slang about UCLA

Context: The informant is a young professional who graduated from UCLA in 2012.  She relays that the acronym for her school had the unofficial meaning of the “University of Cute Little Asians”.

Analysis: A quick search of the UCLA website’s enrollment statistics shows that the ethnic category with the highest enrollment is those who have checked the “Asian/Pacific Islander” box, at 34.8% of total students; the next largest group is white students at 27.8%. The informant herself is not white, nor did she elaborate on whether or not she used the term in her own conversations, but she did confirm that at her time at UCLA, a large portion of the students she saw on a daily basis appeared to be of Asian descent.

The term therefore seems to be a somewhat racist comment on the high population of Asian-descent students at UCLA, combined with the well-worn stereotype that those of East Asian ancestry are shorter in stature than white people, and the fetishization of Asians, particularly Asian women, with the term “cute”.

A somewhat related term I have heard during my time at USC is “University of Spoiled Children”, quite obviously referring to the stereotype of most USC students being rich and white, and a good many of them “legacy” students, meaning an older family member also attended. This view, however distasteful to some, is actually rather true: USC’s student body is 39% white (the next biggest group, 23%, is Asian). And according to an LA Times article, “the percentage of USC students [whose family income is] over $200,000…is more than twice as high as [UCLA]‘s”.

I have also heard the much less controversial and more humorous “University of Summer Construction” (but not just summer anymore–I have been a student since the fall of 2010, and there has been some sort of constrution, modification, addition, or repairing going on every single semester along the commonest routes I take across campus).

Legends
Narrative

Cold Surroundings

So my friend goes to college in the southwest and there is a girl on her floor who is convinced her dorm room is haunted. Apparently, a girl died there a few years ago, I don’t know if it was suicide or just a mysterious event. Well, they know for sure that it happened on her specific floor but no one knows the room it happened in. But as I said before, my friend knows a girl who is certain she has the room. She says she feels like she always is being watched and the biggest thing is how cold her room always is. Like apparently no other room on their floor is like it. She can have no fans on and the room is always freezing. If fact, my friend said she and a bunch of other girls would hang out a lot in the room when the days got hot because there isn’t any air conditioning in their dorms and yet this girl’s room was always so cold.

I heard this story in a USC cafeteria around 3:30pm during a late lunch. The informant is a good friend of mine. He heard this story from a friend of his, who lived on a college dorm floor where one of her classmates claimed to have a haunted dorm room. My friend mentioned how thankful he was that he did not have the same situation in his dorm room.

I found a multitude of ghostly motifs in my informant’s tale. These motifs include suicide, college life, and cold rooms/sensations. Suicide, or otherwise a mysterious death, is common in ghostly tales because a popular cause of hauntings is when an individual does not receive a proper, natural death. When there is murder, suicide, or an event that cuts someone’s life short than naturally intended, the victim’s spirit is known to roam in this world for some time afterwards. Also, college is considered a liminal period in everyone’s lives. One is neither an adult nor child. It is the transition in between two worlds. Because ghosts are and manifest around liminal objects, locations, and events, it is no surprise ghosts haunt college settings. And finally, the mentioning of cold sensations felt inside the girl’s dorm room. Yet another ghostly motif, as cold temperatures are often associated with cold, dead bodies.

 

Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic
Signs

Roman High Five

For this joke, you make a peace sign with your fingers (V) and high-five someone with your fingers in said position while saying: “Roman five!”
The joke here is an erudite one since you have to have an understanding of Roman numerals to know that the roman five was written as ‘V’.  This joke was told to me by my mother who heard it from a friend in the O.C.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sorority and Fraternity Pinning

My informant shared with me how her sorority celebrates one of its members getting pinned by her senior boyfriend in a fraternity. First, the fraternity shares with the president of the sorority that a member of their fraternity is intended to pin a sister in the house. When a date for the pinning is set, the sorority informs the house that a sister is getting pinned, but the girls do not get to know who. Any girl in the sorority who has a senior boyfriend is asked to come to the ceremony wearing a red dress and to send the president the names of her two closest friends in the sorority. Then, on the day of the pinning, all members of the sorority are required to wear black dresses except for the girls who are eligible to be pinned. These girls will be in red. The girls in black gather in the sorority house with the lights dimmed and stand in a huge circle. A ritual song is sung while the girls in red join the circle and stand in-between their two closest friends. A candle is passed to the right, starting from the ritual chairwoman, around to every girl in the circle once. On its second time around, after it passes the girl wearing red who is getting pinned, her best friend standing to her right will make to pass it to the next girl, but then actually pass it back to the sister getting pinned. The two closest friends then blow the candle out together. That signifies that it’s that girl, and this is when she first finds out she is getting pinned. After the candle is passed around, all the sisters line up outside of the house where the fraternity and the sister’s boyfriend are waiting. The boyfriend and his best friend as well as the girlfriend and her two closest friends stay standing on the porch so everyone can see them. The sorority president introduces everyone and officially announces that the sister is getting pinned. All of the close friends give toasts to congratulate the couple and the boyfriend talks about his relationship with his girlfriend. Then the fraternity presents him with his pin and he pins it on his girlfriend.

 

These ceremonies are very fun and exciting for both the fraternity and the sorority as pinning is comparable to a pre-engagement promise. The fraternity brother is giving up his active pin and is essentially reduced to pledge status within the house. It’s a little bit old fashioned, but the girls appreciate this public acknowledgement of their relationship. My informant was just involved in a pinning ceremony at her sorority at the University of Southern California, as her best friend was recently pinned.

Adulthood
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Humor

Ring by Spring

Allison attended Azusa Pacific University, a Christian college located in Southern California. During orientation her freshman year, she encountered a phenomenon called “ring by spring.” The idea is that women who enter college should or will be engaged by the spring of thei senior year. It’s presented in as a joking tone, as a caricature of a crazed woman who must get engaged before she graduates from college. This co-aligns with the idea that women go to college to get an “MRS degree,” in other words, they attend university to find a husband and get married.

Although “ring by spring” is presented as a joke, it is a common enough occurrence that the joke has weight in the community. My sister noted that 3 of the 20 girls in her graduating class of social work at APU were indeed engaged. If a girl does in fact get engaged just before graduation, she may get a lot of grief from her peers because of this widely circulated joke.

Allison pondered the weight the joke has in guy culture at APU, but she didn’t have any insight into guy’s reactio the the phenomenon.

This idea and joke is widely heard in a Christian context. Allison first encountered this idea at a Christian university and has since heard other accounts from other Christian environments like Biola University. In fact, in my Christian sorority at USC, Alpha Delta Chi, there are currently 4 girls who are engaged and graduating now. In a Christian atmosphere like APU or Biola, girls and guys who share the same ideals and believe in the same things are in close proximity. “Ring by spring” is an acknowledgment of the fact that one might meet their spouse in such a context, and it might not be a bad idea to be looking for one.

general

Sorority Bid Night/Song

At the University of Colorado there is a strong Greek life culture and there are many traditions, which accompany this group of the university.  Many sororities and fraternities have songs that are song at various times of the year, which help signify different bonding moments for the group of guys or girls.  The informant describes that she learned the tradition on her bid night.

On “bid night” for the girls in a sorority all the freshman girls come back to the house in different rooms and take shots.  You also have to dress up in crazy clothes and you get your letters and your official sorority t-shirt with it’s letters.  You aren’t supposed to drink in your letters, but you do anyway.  During the night there is a chant that goes along with the drinking.  The chant goes as such: “Take a shot, take a shot, take a shot like a [insert sorority], if you can’t take a shot like a [insert sorority] can then why is the drink in your hand?”  All of the girls are taught this song and all yell it together at different points of the night.

I find the story of “bid night” for the sorority interesting as it indicates a classic example of a liminal period for the freshman girls who are not yet fully initiated into the sorority, but are not completely outside of the group.  The different traditions of dressing up crazily, taking shots with active sisters of the sorority, and learning and singing songs that have been part of the sorority for a long time indicate the freshman girls’ passage from being just a normal freshman non-affiliated with Greek life, to a full member.  The freshman girl’s earning their letters also indicates their progression in the liminal stage.  This story also shows how big of a role drinking plays in the culture and lifestyle of college kids during the twenty-first century.

Customs
general

Pledge Fraternity Paddle

The informant describes the importance of the paddle during pledge’s semester pledging and the time beyond that semester.  The informant explains he learned of this tradition immediately after getting accepted into the fraternity.  He has close ties with this tradition because he has many memories of getting signatures for his paddle and feels as though it was his way of being fully accepted into the fraternity.

At the beginning of the pledge semester, all of the pledges need to get a paddle and put their name on it.  The paddle is typically made out of wood and has the fraternity’s letters on it.  The paddle also has the pledge class year and semester and the pledge’s last name.  And over the course of the semester you’re supposed to earn paddle sigs or paddle signatures from all the actives in the house.  The signatures are put on in black sharpie on all different sides of the paddle.  Older members of the house are allowed to sign signatures on the front of the paddle, while younger members may not.  The paddle gives you an opportunity to get to know the active members of the house and the active members of the house to know you. A paddle signature is an active’s acknowledgement of wanting and accepting the pledge into the house.  This tradition has been a part of his chapter since the beginning.  Getting paddle signatures involves hanging out and getting to know the active better. The paddle signatures are your way of earning your spot in the house – it is a sign of approval. The point of the paddle is that by the end of the semester you have every actives signature and this indicates everyone saying they want you in the house and it allows everyone to get to know you better.

I find role of the paddle for the incoming pledge class to be a great example of a folk object that represents the liminal period the pledges of the fraternity find themselves in.  The pledges have received bids from the fraternity indicating that the active members have interest in them and want them to become full members. The paddle acts as a form of their growth and transition into a full member.  The paddle, as stated by the informant, serves the role to spur interactions between active and pledge members and acceptance from active to pledges.

Customs
general

“Raiders” Fraternal Song

The informant speaks about a certain song his fraternity sings with everyone after brotherhood events such as bid night.  The informant learned this tradition a few weeks after joining his fraternity.  He explains that the fraternity uses this song as a means for celebrating as well and often uses the song after events that warrant a worthy celebration.  The fraternity brothers either run out to the middle of the street or to their backyard and circle up and perform the song.  The singing of the song is described as being very loud and rowdy, but in a good-spirited way.  Below are the lyrics of the song.  See below:

OOOOOOHHHHHHHH!

We’re (insert fraternity) raiders of the night,

A bunch of rowdy bastards that rather fuck than fight,

So fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em, fuck ‘em, who the fuck are we?

We’re (insert fraternity) the best fraternity.

(insert fraternity) once, (insert fraternity) twice, holy jumping Jesus Christ,

God damn, son of a bitch, rah rah fuck!

Yeah hell yeah!

The informant describes the purpose of this song as a chance for the brothers of the fraternity to all come together and feel the fraternal bond.  I find this song intriguing because it a classic example of how a certain group of people use traditions such as music to strengthen their connection with one another.  A commonly shared song can serve to build just a much stronger bond than does paying the dues for the house to be an active member.

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