Tag Archives: college

Championing in the Writing for Screen and Television Department of USC School of Cinematic Arts

Main piece:

Student #1: It was like, the way people get into screenwriting is every screenwriting professor picks an application and has to fight for it. Um, and so every student has their “champion” who is the one who fought for them to get into this program, and then before you graduate they have to tell you who they are. 

Student #2: I heard the same version Student #1 heard but I didn’t hear it freshman year. I heard it at Admitted Student Day back as a senior. And there was like this panel of like upperclassmen getting ready to graduate and they were doing this Q&A and then one of them brought up the champions and they basically said what Student #1 said, but then they also said that there was like a room somewhere that they go to specifically to do the applications each year, to read them, and before we graduate they’ll take us to that room and be like ‘oh this is where you were chosen’ or something like that. 

Background: Student #1 and Student #2 are sophomore majors of the Writing for Screen and Television Program and USC School of Cinematic Arts. Although away from campus due to COVID-19, both of them were on campus and participating in its folklore the previous year. While Student #1 couldn’t remember where she heard the legend, she believed it was when she was on campus freshman year. Additionally, freshman year SCA students are assigned a “big”, an older student in the major who is meant to show them the ropes first semester, and are known to pass down lore to incoming students. As stated above, Student #2 heard it during Admitted Students Day. 

Context: This piece was brought to my attention through a text message Student #2 sent, requesting that we meet to discuss “SCA” (School of Cinematic Arts) folklore. She casually mentioned “like the rumor of having champions and the secret room where they read our applications”. I had never heard that rumor, and ended up meeting with her and Student #1 (via Zoom) to discuss it, and share the folklore that I knew in return. Both students called the championing a “legend”, which means they are unsure about the “truthiness” of it. They both seemed inclined to believe it to be true, or at the very least hopeful that some professor wanted them there and was looking out for them. 

Analysis: Championing is a Writing for Screen and Television major legend that serves as a way of making new members feel wanted in the community. People hear of championing either once they’ve been admitted to the school or when they first get there, a time that they are technically a member of the community even if it doesn’t feel that way yet. This liminality, accompanied by the fact that college in itself is a new scary space, has students looking for reasons to belong. Being told that they are special enough to fight for, and in fact, their membership is contingent on someone fighting for them, makes students feel more comfortable in the space, and induces a greater sense of validation and belonging. The legend of championing is accompanied by the knowledge (true or not) that it is not happenstance nor circumstance that led to their acceptance, but a completely intentional act. Additionally, many people are away from their parents for the first time once they attend college, and having a teacher “choosing” them inspires a greater sense of comfort as this can be analogized to their own relationships with mentors or other parental figures. It can also be interpreted as creating stronger bonds among the students themselves, as they are the “chosen” ones, specifically selected to be there when others were rejected. This “us vs. them” mentality creates a shared identity that can be used to inspire greater familiarity among new students, as well as students from older grades. As it is traditionally the older students who pass down this knowledge to the younger ones, the legend of championing can be used by older members to invite younger ones into the community. The addition of a “secret room” where the applications are read heightens the sensibility that the students are important and that the Writing for Screen and Television department itself is prestigious enough to warrant this kind of behavior, adding mystery to a process students are already familiar with, that of college admissions.

Auburn University – The Lathe Folk Belief

Context:

Informant CA, a current undergraduate student at Auburn University at the time of this collection, described a popular folk belief shared by university students. This belief had existed before CA became a student at the univeristy, however, CA learned about this belief only once they had become an undergraduate student themself.

The belief centers around a statue called The Lathe which is located on Auburn University’s campus. The Lathe dates back to the Civil War where it was used to manufacture military supplies for confederate soldiers. It was gifted to a sorority on campus and can be found on the side of Samford Hall.


Text:

The Auburn folk belief is that Auburn students can bring their significant other to The Lathe at midnight to test their faithfulness to one another. After they kiss next to The Lathe, if the wheel of the Lathe does not move then they have been faithful to each other and are believed to get married.


Analysis:

This folk belief is one of the many traditions that are known and shared across the student population at Auburn University. I feel that this particular belief speaks towards the cultural and communal values at Auburn Univerity. While its students come from all across the world, Auburn University is located in Alabama and, therefore, the “Bible Belt. ” Southern states are often known for their close affiliations with Christianity which shape “southern values.” While not all students would identify as religious or southern, the value of faithfulness is evident in this popular folk belief and run parallel with southern/religious values. Since folk beliefs create identity and culture, the values underlying this belief speak to Auburn’s identity and campus culture. After hearing this belief, I feel confident in assuming that being unfaithful to one’s partner would be frowned upon at Auburn. By providing couples with a way of “testing” their partner, this university folk belief is helping to ensure a continued value of faithfulness.

The University of Alabama – Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer Sports Chant

Context:

Informant AA was a current undergraduate student at The University of Alabama at the time of this collection. Both of AA’s parents are passionate Alabama fans which meant that AA was practically born into the already prevalent game-day culture. Alabama game-day culture finds its peak during football season as The University of Alabama tends to beat just about any team they play. Tailgating, parades, and ritualized viewing are all aspects of this widespread game-day culture that can be especially observed in Tuscaloosa, AL where the university is located.

Upon attending The University of Alabama themself, AA was granted access to the student section of the Bryant-Denny Stadium where the university’s home football games are held. Admission into this section is limited and students have to reserve their place for a select few games before the season even begins.

When speaking with AA, they told me a chant the student section and other Alabama fans yell out just after winning a football game.


Text:

The chant is known as Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer and it goes as follows: “Hey __________! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer give em hell, Alabama!” This chant is repeated three times and is accompanied by the university’s “Million Dollar” marching band.


The ________ in the chant changes from game to game so that Alabama fans can direct the chant directly at the team they just beat. For example, if Alabama were to beat Auburn University, the chant would say, “Hey Tigers! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer give em hell, Alabama!” If Alabama were to beat Georgia, the chant would be changed to “Hey Bulldogs! We just beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer give em hell, Alabama!” The target of the chant is the losing team’s mascot making the chant more appropriate and personal for each circumstance it is yelled.


Analysis:

After hearing about AA’s description and experience with this chant, I am lead to believe that this example of game-day folk speech serves to showcase victory, celebration, and unity. According to AA, the chant can be heard all across campus and many tailgaters outside of the stadium will even participate. While this chant has become traditional when the team is victorious, it functions to connect/unite Alabama fans. By participating in this chant at its appropriate time, each fan’s scream is contributing to a singular voice that is more powerful than could be achieved individually. Similar to the sport itself, teamwork and communication are the driving forces behind large-scale victories. By chanting, the students and fans become a kind of team themselves. Campus communities and cultures thrive when comradery can be attained. In becoming a traditional folk saying, the Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer victory chant successfully celebrates victory while simultaneously strengthening the moral and bonds between Albama fans.

Auburn University – Rolling Toomer’s Corner

Context:

Informant MW was a current undergraduate student at Auburn University at the time of this collection. The informant’s parents are both Auburn fans who participate in game-day events and they encouraged MW to do the same as they grew up. As an undergraduate student, MW has had the opportunity to continue participating in some of the same game-day events they did before attending Auburn.

Auburn football fans celebrate the game day in a multitude of ways, all of which contribute to the large game day culture which can be experienced both on and off campus. I asked MW if they could share some of the traditions/game day rituals they enjoy partaking in.

This particular tradition is beloved by many Auburn fans.


Text:

“When Auburn wins a football game, we all go roll Toomer’s Corner” “It’s usually for football games but sometimes we do it for other sports when it’s a big game.”


See the Toomer's Corner madness following Auburn's win over Alabama

Analysis:

This game-day ritual overtly celebrates the victory of Auburn University’s sports team. While to outsiders it might just appear to be an enjoyable tradition, to insiders it has come to represent the passionate spirit and comradery of the university and its fans. In hearing about this ritual, I am inclined to believe that it expresses and reflects one of Auburn University’s most fundamental values: unity within community. By encouraging large groups to gather and roll specified trees on its campus, Auburn is permitting a temporary yet unavoidable change in its physical appearance. If only one or a few people were to participate in this ritual, it would not have much of an effect, but by encouraging mass participation in this ritual, Auburn is allowing a demonstration of the potential that students/fans have when they unite. Just as sports themselves are team efforts, this game-day ritual hinges on teamwork. While this tradition provides students and fans with an exciting activity, it is simultaneously functioning to represent and physicalize the shared value of unity.

Auburn University – Seal Superstition

Context:

Informant CA, a current undergraduate student at Auburn University at the time of this collection, described a longstanding and well-known superstition shared amongst the student population at Auburn.


Text:

According to CA, the superstition is as follows:

The Auburn University seal can be seen embedded into the bricks in the ground in front of Langdon Hall on campus (see photo). If a student walks on or across the seal at any point during their time at Auburn University, it is believed that the student will not graduate in four years and will marry someone from the University of Alabama (the school’s biggest rival). The only way the student can undo/reverse this is to jump and swim in the fountain in front president’s mansion at midnight on February 29th (leap day).

CA went on to explain the seriousness of this superstition. Auburn students are careful to walk around the seal on their way to or from classes/activities. According to CA, students will gather in groups to go to the fountain at the president’s mansion on February 29th in hopes to reverse their actions. Extra campus security is said to be stationed at the president’s mansion on February 29th to avert any disorderly conduct that might arise because of this superstition.


Analysis:

As a social undergraduate student at Auburn University, informant CA is well aware of this superstition and adheres accordingly. While the informant has never walked on/across the seal themself, they have a friend who did. The informant’s friend, an Auburn student, and believer of this superstition participated in this superstitious belief by swimming in the president’s fountain at midnight once February 29th came around.

While I do not attend Auburn University myself, I believe that this superstition works to create the student community and culture at Auburn University. While all colleges are composed of unique communities, I feel that this superstition is evidence of the lively and spirited nature of Auburn University’s campus culture. This superstition is one of many at Auburn University – all of which are actively working to unite its student body. After hearing about this superstition, I am lead to believe that community is highly valued at Auburn University… so much that one would rather humiliate themselves and risk getting into trouble than get “left behind” by not graduating with their friends/class. This tradition also leads me to believe that the value and importance of the Auburn community are carried on after students graduate as well. If you were to walk across the seal and marry someone that attended the University of Alabama, it is almost as if you have broken ties with your Auburn community. To ensure that you stay on good terms and connected to the Auburn community after graduation, you are encouraged to adopt this superstition as a belief as an undergraduate.