Walking on the Grass at Spelman College

Background Info:

My informant is a 20-year-old domestic exchange student at the University of Southern California, from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. All universities have some kind of folklore surrounding them, both individually and on the level of the university system in general, such as the ‘hook-hand’ legend. This one in particular was learned by my informant during her orientation week at Spelman, and she has been an active bearer in not only following this ‘rule’, but passing it on to new students.

Main Piece:

Spelman College is an historically black women’s four-year liberal arts college in Atlanta, Georgia. The particular superstition I collected about this college is that Spelman students do not walk on the grass. This seems to have stemmed from a prohibition on walking on the grass for aesthetic reasons, as not to trample it. Firstly, the superstition suggests that the person who walks on the grass will not graduate on time, if at all. There are similar superstitions to this all over the world, for example in the University of Dublin, Trinity College, it is considered bad luck for the bell to toll while you are walking under the campanile, as it is believed that you will fail your exams. It is therefore traditional for people to stand under it when they graduate, as they have no more exams to do. In Spelman, however there is a saying that has grown up around this grass superstition – that “Spelman women do not cut corners.” Therefore, a kind of metafolklore has developed around this original folklore, which encompasses the values of the college and makes a didactic lesson out of a botanical necessity.

My thoughts:

This was the first and only piece of metafolklore I collected. This was interesting as it was suggestive of both the amount of people who actually abided by this rule not to walk on the grass, and in it’s metafolkloric form, encapsulated the community feel to the college and the dedication and intelligence of those in attendance. It is also interesting that this kind of folklore, a prohibition on walking somewhere, exists in many different universities across the globe, and emphasizes the college system as a hotbed of folklore. It also distinguishes one as an in-member of the community if they are to avoid walking on the grass, and therefore acts as a kind of initiation rite into a new community.

For the oikotype of this legend from Trinity College Dublin: http://campus.ie/surviving-college/college-life/5-best-trinity-college-myths-are-probably-true