Beyond Bizarre – Strange College Traditions
COLLEGES ACROSS THE COUNTRY have some odd routines going back for decades, while others are newer but rooted in the same good-natured spirit. Here are a few of our favorites:
SPALDING UNIVERSITY (KY)
More than 40 years ago, a professor named Sister Julia Clare Fontaine overheard students at Spalding University talking about the “rat race” of finals week. To help put a little fun back into an otherwise stressful time, she created “The Running of the Rodents.” Rats speed around a tiny track in less than two seconds in hopes of the coveted prize of fruit flavored cereal-o’s. Today, the event has grown to include a parade, a formal ball and the “Rataissance Fair,” all done in the tradition of the Kentucky Derby, which takes place about a month later at nearby Churchill Downs.
REED COLLEGE (OR)
In addition to an annual Nitrogen Day that is always referred to as the Seventh Annual Nitrogen Day (a homage to the seventh element on the periodic table), Reed College hosts an annual weeklong Renaissance Fair (called “Renn Fayre”). Among typical fair fare, such as music, fireworks and food, there is the odd tradition of “Scroungers” sitting at the end of the cafeteria in order to accept leftovers from other students. This is definitely one of those times when it’s better to give than receive.
MURRAY STATE UNIVERSITY (KY)
Although strange, it’s also a bit romantic; the idea of students who marry returning to campus to nail their shoes to a tree. Currently, the famous tree has more than 50 pairs of shoes (one from each partner), of which many are marked with the couple’s anniversary. And yes, there are even a few baby shoes from alumni who starting “branching out.”
JOHN MUIR COLLEGE (CA)
If you’ve seen children scramble for a piñata, you can imagine what the pumpkin drop is like at Muir. Each year, giant pumpkins filled with candy are dropped from the tallest building on campus. One year, a nearly 400-pound pumpkin splattered more than 100 feet. Pie anyone?
BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY (MA)
At the annual Liquid Latex event, students at Brandeis University choreograph dances, paint mostly naked models with latex costumes and put on a show for an always-full house of about 700. It’s a performance not to be missed! With about 200 people participating as models, painters, designers and choreographers, it’s not surprising that applicants have to be turned away.
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Before Prohibition, UPenn football fans would raise a glass of alcohol to toast during the third quarter. Since Prohibition, the tradition has shifted to a more literal interpretation of the word, with students tossing actual cooked bread (toast) onto the field. The school even has a special Zamboni machine to clean up the mess. Sorry birds!
BARNARD COLLEGE (NY)
Hoagie, sub, Dagwood. The names change but the deliciousness is universal and no one knows that better than the students at Barnard College. Every fall, they help build a giant submarine sandwich that stretches across campus—more than one mile long! “The Big Sub” is sponsored by the student-run McIntosh Activities Council and each year another foot is added to the length. Despite the annual in-crease in size, the sandwich is gone in minutes. Some students eat on site, while others come with tin foil, plastic food storage containers and deep pockets. Sounds like the “starving student” stereotype is alive and well at Barnard!
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Since 1962, the football team’s captains have stolen chunks of sod from opposing teams. Each year, the pieces have been buried in FSU’s designated sod cemetery—complete with identifying headstones! Seems kind of ironic to keep a tradition alive in a cemetery!