Tag Archives: Senior

Fountain Run

My informant is a student USC and a member of the Greek community.  I asked him if he had any initiation stories or customs on the row or in his fraternity.  He chose to tell me about the Senior Fountain Run closely approaching.

Informant: The Senior Fountain Run happens every year at USC and it’s literally the entire Senior class running around the campus at night, drunk, and jumping in every fountain.

Me:  Why do you think this became a tradition?

Informant: I couldn’t tell you the real reason but its kind of one of those things I have always wanted to and the University lets us do it right before we leave. I mean we have like 20 fountains around campus that I walk by everyday, how could I not want to jump in?

Me: Ya makes sense, especially during these hot Spring days.  What are you looking forward to most, aside from finally jumping in those fountains of course.

Informant: Being drunk while I do it, haha, but I guess just seeing everyone that I haven’t seen in a long time, like friends from the dorms freshman year that I may not see anymore.  Probably gonna be a really nostalgic moment.

The fountain run tradition is one that has been long standing at USC and for good reason.  There is a non-spoken agreement between the students and staff that they can break the rules just this once to do something they have always wanted.  Its almost a gratuitous gesture by the University by thanking them and effectively saying, “you are about to leave, so we’ll bend the rules.”  The tradition certainly says a lot about the importance of the fountains to the students as well.

USC Fountain Run

Here the informant describes USC’s tradition of the Senior fountain run, and what it means conceptually to the USC community:

     Every year the seniors go on a fountain run, where they run through every fountain on campus. So every year the seniors of USC go on this fountain run, where they run through every fountain on campus, and they just get wasted, and they carry around, like, squirt guns full of tequila and handles and all this crazy stuff, and they dress in like the most ridiculous costumes, and its just kind of like a way for all the seniors to say goodbye to campus and like celebrate the end of their four years here and kind of leave their mark in terms of USC.

     I’ve heard about this tradition through my own personal experience: in having witnessed it and followed seniors around who needed help, and also, just through, like, you know, grandparents and parents talking about how, like, they did their fountain run several years ago, or not several…  decades ago! And it’s just pretty amazing It’s still a tradition today.


As can be seen from her impassioned description, the fountain run and USC’s traditions in general, mean a lot to both the informant and a great deal of USC’s community. With the fountain run having been practiced for decades, it is now an integral part of USC lore. As the informant says, it is an opportunity for bonding, and she claims to have been one of the students who follow the seniors help those who need it. Given the familial nature of this event, she too told me she will undoubtedly take part in this tradition her senior year, and expects to be followed by underclassmen then, just as she followed the seniors as a freshman.

The Spade

 The Spade

Folk item/tradition/game/initiation ceremony

My friend told me about a folk object/tradition from her school:

“The spade is close to 100 years old. It is literally a shovel, but is very old. The tradition is that every graduating Class has a color tie that they must wear at all times, and at the end of the school year, the graduating Seniors tie a ribbon of the same color on the spade. Usually people embroider their year, since only 4 colors are used. The spade is used in a tree planting ceremony, but the Hiding-of-the-Spade ritual.

The graduating Senior Class must hide the spade and leave clues for the rising Senior Class. These clues are presented by a representative of the graduated Senior Class on the first day of school (now alumnae). The Seniors have until October 31st to find the spade. if the Senior Class has not found the spade, then they must tie a black tie on the spade. There have only been two black ties, and there is a lot of superstition around it because a member of each of those Classes died. During the whole year, too, the Class must wear black ties instead of their normal colors.

If the Class finds the spade, they can apply to get Senior privileges, like off-campus lunch. If they do not find the spade by October 31st, at that point they can continue searching but the Junior Class is also allowed to search for the spade. If the Junior Class finds it first, they receive Senior privileges.”



My informant feels like it is an interesting way to make the rising Seniors prove themselves, show that they have earned their spot as Seniors, which is why there is a black tie if you don’t find it, that is not what you want – you want to show you are clever enough to step up to the challenges set up by those before you.


The spade connects students of the Senior Class to a legacy. Covered in ribbons, the “ties” of older Classes, it links the Senior Class to years worth of alumnae. This spade also functions as a concrete moment in an otherwise liminal time: rising Seniors and graduating Seniors change identities here. The graduating Seniors become alumnae once the tree is planted, joining their Class to all the past Classes and their trees planted on campus. The rising Seniors, upon securing their tie on the spade, become part of the legacy as well, but must first earn the privilege to do so by finding it.

Senior Stairs

Senior Stairs



My informant described to me a senior tradition from her school:

” The Senior stairs are the stairs for the front, grand staircase, and are casually called the Senior stairs. It used to be one of the Senior privileges was that the Seniors has full control of those stairs and who could use them, so anybody who was a student that was not a Senior was prohibited from using them. Faculty and guests were exempt.

If Seniors caught students using the Senior stairs, the assailant would be punished by the Seniors as was deemed fit by the Seniors. The Co-head of the high school, when in 5th grade, stepped on the Senior Stairs and when caught, he was forced to sing Celine Dion, embarrassing himself. When a student, my Japanese teacher was caught and was forced to skip Class and spend the time scrubbing the floor of the Senior smoke-lounge with a toothbrush.

Because the punishments got too intense, Seniors no longer have full reign of the stairs. Nevertheless, at the end of every year, there is an event called Step Songs, which is centered around the rising Seniors claiming the stairs from the graduating Class to claim their rights as Seniors.

All of the doors in the building are locked besides the front door and another door, and the rising Seniors have to find the mystery door. They then run to the top of the stairs at the front of the school and they fun down onto the stairs and proceed sing songs promoting their own virtues, talking down the under classman, criticizing the faculty, and expressing their excitement for the graduating Class to be gone. There are retorts by the underclassmen, which get single song retorts. Then, the graduating Class closes the ritual by initiating the Alma Mater.”


My informant thinks it is a very important ceremony because at the end of the year, the graduating Class gets the mentality that they are done with high school and check out, and the Juniors get restless and anxious to be Seniors. Besides graduation, there is not a clear, deciding moment for when Juniors become Seniors. This is the moment when they become Seniors, and this creates a way for Juniors to publicly acknowledge and claim that they are now the oldest Class, and it gives the graduating Class the opportunity to hand over these privileges. There is no “oh no, you’re not a Senior yet!”


The Senior Class, a highly regarded position in high school, is an empowered group allotted special privileges to celebrate their dominance, their “Seniority”. The stairs are a symbol the Seniors high standing in the school, and so the process to hand them over is important: it demonstrates that the identity of a Senior must be earned. Because the stairs are only usable to the Senior Class students, it reinforces and celebrates their identity as a member of that Class.