USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘college tradition’
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Touching the Fire

Main Piece
I don’t know how it started, but every year during homecoming, the freshman are in charge of building a big bonfire in the center of the green at Dartmouth, and you run around it for as many years of your graduation year, plus 100 now because it started in the 1900’s, so for example for my 2018, we were supposed to run around 118 times, but usually we just ran around 18 times. The upperclassmen would stand on the outside and like, jeer and stuff. So every year, something they want the freshman to do is to touch the fire, it is like a sign of being cool, like if you touch the fire, because its dangerous or whatever, and even now the police surround it, because they really don’t want people to do it, so it is really hard to do. So like, every year, all the upperclassmen scream “touch the fire! Touch the fire!”, and at least one person will do it every year. So this year, they even put a chainlink fence around the fire, but people still hopped it and touched it. And you are known for the rest of your Dartmouth experience for it.

Background
The informant attended Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she learned this story. She learned of this through experience and action, although she never personally touched the fire. She heard of the change this year through her college friends.

Context
The informant is a 23-year-old women, born and raised in Southern California. She attended Dartmouth up until last year, having graduated in 2018. She provided this information while sitting outside her family home in Palm Springs, California on April 20th, 2019.

Analysis
I love this tradition, but really am saddened to see institutions destroying traditions in the name of social progress or “safety”. I mean, it makes sense that the university wouldn’t want students touching a bonfire, for their own safety, but also that the university doesn’t wanted to leave itself open to a lawsuit. I just think they should not endorse the tradition, but not forcefully try to stop it! I love how enduring traditions are when they are held by a large group of people – even though the school is trying to stop the students, they have not been able to. With a university as old as Dartmouth, it makes complete sense that they have a lot of long-term, enduring traditions. I also love how legendary you become after taking part of the tradition – if I attended Dartmouth University, I would be sure to try my best to touch it! The continuation of this tradition in verbal form allows the informant to interact back with her own experience in the tradition, keeping it alive in her mind, but also in the world by passing it on.

Customs
Game
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Greek Life Shotgun Pinning

Text

The following piece was collected from a twenty-two year-old girl who is also a student at USC in the Greek community. We were discussing a “shotgun pinning” that was to occur later that day. She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant”, and I the “Collector”.

Collector: “So, what is it exactly?”

Informant: “Basically, it’s the people who are more wacky or untraditional in the way that they don’t want a normal pinning. So their friends set it up for them. It’s so much more fun than the normal pinnings. It’s funny.”

Collector: “What do they do?”

Informant: “First, the guy’s friends get him really drunk and the girls do the same thing. Then all the friends tie the couple to a mattress. They have to sit on the mattress in front of the house while all their friends give embarrassing speeches and everybody cheers.”

Context

The Informant learned of this custom within the Greek community at USC by first hearing it from other members, both in her sorority and friends in fraternities. The Informant then witnessed it herself. She believes it to be a non-serious, fun way to show off your partner but stress-free because that how the couple acts anyway. She remembers them because they occur at least once every year before the seniors graduate.

Interpretation

            Upon first hearing about the untraditional tradition, I laughed at the strangeness of it. But after witnessing one myself, I believe it to have a slightly different meaning. I think the couples that participate in the shotgun pinnings are, like my informant said, a non-typical sorority or fraternity member. By allowing their friends to handle it and force them to go through with it, the stress is removed from the situation. I also believe that everyone finds them to be more fun because no one is taking themselves seriously. If a couple were to participate in a shotgun pinning ceremony, I would immediately think, ‘Oh yeah, so they’re not that into the normal pinning.’ Then I begin to think about all the possibilities of that couple to dislike the Greek community and so they act in unconventional ways in order to make that point clear.

Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Streaking the Lawn at UVA

Abstract:

This piece is about a tradition at UVA (University of Virginia) about streaking the lawn at the Rotunda, a very specific building on the campus.

Main Piece:

“L: So I don’t know if this is a custom or tradition or just a rite of passage, but UVA students do this thing where they streak the lawn of the Rotunda which is part of Thomas Jefferson’s setup. And so how you do it, it’s actually really long. You have to take off your clothes on the steps of the Rotunda and then run all the way down to the other building where there is a statue of Thomas Jefferson. And you have to spin around 3 times and then say something and then you run back. And you’re completely naked. So I did it this winter, and you do it at night so you don’t get caught. But I feel like so many people do it now that you can’t get in trouble for it. Like what? You’re going to arrest one kid who got caught doing it when thousands of people have been doing it.

C: Is there something that prompts it? Or do you just have to do it if you’re a student there?

L: I think it, like if you’re in clubs or something then maybe one of the activities or initiation or something might be to go streak the lawn with your club or something. Because my friend who goes to UVA did it for the first time last semester and she’s like “oh yeah I’ve been doing it every week.” It is like a really long run, I didn’t even make the full run because I got so tired.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old from Charlottesville, VA who has lived near the UVA campus her whole life and has many friends who attend the school. She personally learned this and participated in the tradition over winter break in 2018.

Analysis:

I think these kinds of traditions at universities are a way to bond a community or feel a deeper connection in clubs, like in initiations. This tradition of streaking reminds me of fountain hopping at USC. Fountain hopping happens on people’s birthdays or at graduation. Streaking seems more vulnerable than jumping into a fountain fully clothed, but both seem to be ways students rebel against administration and have some fun.

Customs
general
Initiations
Kinesthetic
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Full Moon on the Quad at Stanford

My mom went to graduate school at Stanford. This is her interpretation of the “Full Moon On the Quad” Tradition:

Mom:”The original tradition holds that if you are a freshman girl at Stanford, you are not really a Stanford woman until you’ve been kissed by a senior under the full moon on the quad. For decades the story was often told, but the occurrences of these kisses would happen spontaneously – or not. Individual girls would report their initiation into Stanford womanhood with a mix of scandal and pride.”

Me: But is there an actual event where people meet on the Quad?

Mom:”These days, it has become an organized thing. Throngs of upperclassmen wait on the quad while scores of freshman females arrive to be kissed, and kissed again and again by a steady stream of upper class students– most of them strangers. This happens on the first full moon of the fall quarter.There are monitors to insure that consent is being given, there are express lanes for gay, straight, and bisexual preferences and there are even health center advocates who distribute mouthwash to help kill infectious viruses and bacteria being passed mouth to mouth.”

Me: Did you ever think this was an odd tradition for a prestigious school like Stanford to uphold?

Mom: “Yes. There was a saying when I went to Stanford that Stanford women were all either boobless brains or else brainless boobs. (If they were smart they were ugly and vice versa) What an astonishingly sexist tradition. Yet maybe it is no surprise that this is the elite school that also fostered an environment that taught Brock Turner to see rape as an extension of fun and games.”

Analysis: I agree with my mom in that it surprised me to learn that this tradition still exists at Stanford. I wonder how it will change in this generation- where gender, and being a “Stanford woman” may be harder to define. At one point in time, this tradition represented the idea that women must be verified in order to hold some validity on campus. I think that to be a genuine Stanford woman, a person should simply be enrolled at the school.

 

For more on the Full Moon on the Quad Tradition: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/orgy-stanford-freshmen-love-full-moon-quad/story?id=20759670

Customs
Game
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Pull- Hope College

My brother went to a small liberal arts college in Holland Michigan. He remembers “The Pull” vividly:

Skye: The Pull is a tradition that goes back 117 years. Every fall the sophomores challenge the freshman to a gladiatorial variation of tug of war. It takes place across the Black River. 16 men on each team, 16 women serving as the callers of the cadence and in charge of “morale”. The teams train for weeks, they shave their heads, and they put on war paint. They run throughout the campus carrying the heavy thick ropes. Trenches are dug, with footrests of dirt mounded up. The pullers will lie in the trenches to pull as they push their feet against the dirt mounds. The actual day of the pull thousands come from throughout the region to watch along either side of the river. There is a lot of guttural shouting and cheering. Mud is generated.”

Me: How long does it last?

Skye: “A typical pull goes on for approximately 3 hours before one of the teams is pulled into the river. There have been years when the exertion has gone on for over 14 hours. More recent years have brought rules that allow for the pull to end at three hours even if no one has been pulled into the river yet. The teams go by the names “Odd” and “Even” corresponding to the class year.”

Analysis: In a very conservative, Christian area of the Midwest, emotions are often kept inside and the behavior is quite circumspect. The Pull stands in stark contrast to this buttoned-up way of life in Holland, Michigan. Hope College prides itself on the purity and mild attitudes of its students. A loud and seemingly violent event like The Pull is and anachronism at this Conservative Christian Dutch College.150926PullOddYear020

Customs
general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fraternity Fountain Sticker Tradition

“Every semester, the pledges always have the job of making sure a sticker with our fraternitys letters are stuck onto the side of the Finger Fountain. Its almost a game, and if actives see the stickers theyre supposed to take them off the fountain,  and then a pledge is supposed to immediately replace it. If no stickers are found on the fountain then the pledges get in trouble.” 

When talking with my friend about whether his fraternity hazes or not, the informant told me about this tradition first, which I found rather humorous. Helearned about it in his pledge semester and older brothers in the house say that it’s been done since the finger fountain was first built. The informant didn’t really understand the purpose of constantly applying stickers but I came to the conclusion that it’s a way of the house making its mark on the school and identifying with it. Furthermore, it could be seen as a way of having the pledge make his mark on the fraternity. It’s a task meant to test those who are dedicated and really want to join, as those who don’t replace the stickers display a less serious and caring attitude about pledging the fraternity chapter.

[geolocation]