Tag Archives: college

“The Virgin Vault”

Text: “The Virgin Vault” or “The Vault” at Vanderbilt University

Minor Genre: Folk Speech – Crude Stereotype


L explained that “The Virgin Vault,” or “The Vault,” was the unofficial name for an all-girls hall at Vanderbilt in which boys were not allowed. It was the fourth floor of the Dyer Observatory, and its reputation as “the living space for virgins” was well-known among the student body. L lived in “The Virgin Vault” in her freshman year of college, 1993. She explained that she was aware of the hall’s reputation before she moved in – and that the title was “not considered a compliment, but it did not bother me.” It was simply where she could get a room; she wanted to get out of a bad roommate situation, and the only room available was in “The Vault.”


“The Virgin Vault” as a community nickname for an all-girls floor makes for an interesting social analysis in two main ways: it makes gendered assumptions about sexual engagements and implies that it is a negative trait for a girl to be a virgin. While it is reasonable to consider that 1993 did not have the same level of LGBTQ inclusivity that is common today, this phrase and its context implies that sex can only happen between people of the opposite sex. It also raises the question: would an all-boys floor also have the potential to be called a Virgin Vault? The answer is no, at least for Vanderbilt. This is another aspect that creates gendered assumptions about sex and traditional roles: that it is the boy who would be visiting the girl, and not vice versa.

The second interesting implication of “The Virgin Vault” is the implied negative connotation of virginity. Socially, being a virgin is considered “bad” – but so is having “too much” experience. Another aspect to consider is that some girls, including my mother (L), did not consider being labelled as a resident of “The Virgin Vault” to be a bad thing. This indicates that such a charged phrase only achieves power when it is used by/on people who care about its negative (or positive) social implications.

R2D2 “Hack” at MIT

Text: In May 1999, MIT students pulled a prank that involved making a building resemble R2D2.

Minor Genre: Prank, Practical Joke


When the Phantom Menace opened in May of 1999, students on the MIT campus colored fabric panels to make a building resemble R2D2, a beloved droid from the Star Wars universe. According to L, who witnessed the building, “MIT is very proud of its prank culture.” Such pranks were common on campus and encouraged among students. They were dubbed “hacks” among those involved, and “hack culture” was widespread at MIT. Part of hack culture was to “do no damage,” which is a potential reason why the administration allowed for such a mischievous culture to thrive.

When the R2D2 “hack” took place, L described that “campus was buzzing. It was the kind of feeling like ‘it’s cool that I go to a school where people do stuff like this thing.’” The prank made national news because it happened at a time when “everyone was going crazy about the Phantom Menace.”


“Interesting Hacks To Fascinate People: The MIT Gallery of Hacks” is a website created by those involved in “hack culture” intended to document the history of pranks at MIT. The website describes the meaning of the word: “the word hack at MIT usually refers to a clever, benign, and ‘ethical’ prank or practical joke, which is both challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT community (and sometimes even the rest of the world!).” (https://hacks.mit.edu/) Although hacks are not officially sanctioned by the university, the culture built on clever practical jokes has had a significant impact on broader MIT student culture.

The R2D2 hack described by my mother is officially catalogued on the MIT Gallery of Hacks as the “Great Droid.” It stood in place from May 17th through the 18th in 1999 on the Great Dome building. The “Great Droid” is a prime example of how pranks can utilize popular culture to inspire excitement and a sense of unity within a community. It also provides insight into the values of MIT as a whole; due to its overall high level of safety, the hack received praise from an MIT security officer and the administration initially declared they would allow it to remain in place for three days. The MIT “hack culture,” therefore, was based on intellectual and thorough planning to create large-scale, harmless pranks.

USC Football Superstitions – kick the lamp post


NC: “Before a football game, when you are walking to the Coliseum, you have to kick the lamp post right before you leave campus or else USC will have bad luck in the game. I have no idea where that comes from, but my friend told me on our way to one of the first football games we went to our freshman year. We saw a bunch of other people doing it too, so we did it. Now, I always do it because I don’t want to curse the team with bad luck. It’s like subconscious, I mean I’m not superstitious about anything else, but I always do it without fail before the game. You only do it before football games too, nothing else.”


NC is a undergraduate student at USC. She is 20 years old, and she is a sophomore. She is from Seattle, Washington, and did not most of USC traditions before coming to the school. She originally learned of this superstition in the fall of her freshman year. She does not know the origins of this tradition. I collected this superstition in person and recorded her to transcribe what she stated.


University of Southern California, as do many old and large universities, has many traditions that are passed on through new students in each incoming class. Often, the origins of these traditions are lost over the years, as is the case with this superstition. USC has a very large culture that is very specific to the people who are a part of the community, especially regarding football. These might be hand gestures, songs, objects, or in this case, superstitions. Even though many people who attend this school are not superstitious people by nature, they still partake in this game day good luck action. Kicking a lamp post for luck is not based in reason, and probably seems silly to people who are not a part of the community, as is common with superstitions. However, the desire to be a part of the community and partake in rituals nudges people to take part in a superstition they might initially think is illogical. As a person begins to feel the belonging associated with partaking in certain ritual experiences, the person is more and more likely to do the act associated with the superstition, until they believe in the truth of the superstition themselves, essentially causing an illusionary truth effect. This superstition clearly shows cultural influence on a person’s personal beliefs.

Fraternity Term


2. “To fade…oh I’m fading that or I’m fading you, that’s a term in my frat and its commonly used. To fade means to like leave or disengage from. If we are hanging out and I walk out of the room.. I’m fading you, I’m leaving you. Or if its like I’m fading class, I’m skipping class.”

3. For my interpretation of this term, I associate fading or being faded to a term that is associated with marijuana. I have heard people say they are faded when they are high, but I have never heard of it in this way, so that’s interesting. Because this term is common in fraternities, I could gather that because fraternities are not new, this term has been around for quite some time and is not just used at USC. By the google definition of the word fade, it means to gradually disappear or come in or out of view. With this in mind, thinking historically, in the fraternity environment I would think it is common to come of with slang like this. Moreover, throughout history the word fade has been used and changed in so many different ways, but seem mean the same thing. For example, when getting a hair cut, one can ask for a fade and basically the length gradually gets thinner and thinner to create a fading sort of look. I think this is cool to think about.

Fraternity Term

  1. Scope
  2. In a continuation of an interview I did with a classmate of mine in my anthropology discussion class he shared with me some of his fraternity terms and here is what he said: “Scoping is another one, its like to look at. If you are wearing something funny… you can say ‘yo! Scope me’ that’s a few of my fraternity terms”
  3. As he got this term from his fraternity, I find it common knowledge that brother in a fraternity often like to use slang or shorten their words when they talk to each other. This could be to come off as cooler to others or to feel a sense of community knowing you are in a house or organization that has its own language essentially. He did not reveal to me the origins of this saying, but I assume it has been around long enough to become relevant now. I would not personally use this term, but when looking at the definition of the word scope, used in the context my friend did, it seems to make sense. When thinking somewhat historically, people or even animals would “scope out” or look around their surroundings to find someone or something, so this one is not a far reach.