MIT pumpkin drop
Credit: Tassadara C (via Flickr)

10 Crazy College Traditions

Many people’s finest memories from college have to do with the traditions, and for many the crazier they were the better. Traditions give students a chance to bond, have fun, and do things they normally would not.  Others frown upon these wild events; after all they often involve illegal activities, and college is for education, not partying. Either way university traditions are here to stay as they give the schools a way to develop a sense of community among students. And as long as the students have some say, they will likely continue to get crazier.

Here are ten examples of crazy college traditions — some common among schools and some specific to one college or university.

1. Naked Runs

One extremely popular tradition found at many colleges is a naked run. While public nudity is normally frowned upon at most campuses, naked runs have become so popular administrations often hire police and security to keep students safe instead of arresting the lawbreakers. Though usually most students show up as spectators, many gather courage from their classmates and join in.  The locations vary but typically happen on the streets of the campus, but at Yale they run through the library. Not all schools are okay with naked runs. Many have underwear runs instead, but of course a few streakers always show up too.

2. Primal Yell

Another common college tradition is a primal yell or scream. This allows students a moment to relieve stress by screaming out their windows. It usually happens during finals week when stress has reached a high point and people just want to yell. Students love it, but residents in the neighborhoods around these universities may wonder what is going on.

3. The Ohio State University: Mirror Lake Jump

Ohio State Mirror Lake
Credit: House of Hall (via Flickr)

Many students at Ohio State are crazy about their football team and cannot wait for the game against the University of Michigan. To celebrate the game against their biggest rivals they jump into an on-campus lake on a late November night the week before. Despite the temperature, often below freezing, students make the trek to the lake singing school songs before the jump. It happens on a weeknight but having class the next day does not stop the huge group of students who show up for a swim each year.

4. Barnard College: The Big Sub

Barnard College, a private women’s college in New York City, has a unique tradition involving a giant sandwich.  Each fall students help make and consume an enormous sub sandwich.  The sub is already over 700 feet and each year another foot is added. The plan for this year is 714 ft. Hundreds of pounds of food are needed to keep this tradition going.

 5. Texas A&M University: Aggie Bonfire

Aggie Bonfire
Credit: mikel_duke (via Flickr)

The Texas A&M Bonfire is a tradition that is no longer sanctioned by the university because of the dangers, but many students have an off-campus version anyway. Their rivalry with the University of Texas inspired this giant bonfire which got its start around 1909. Students built the bonfire pile themselves, even cutting down the trees used. This was a hugely popular event with crowds of up to 70,000 showing up some years. In 1999, during construction the stack of logs collapsed, killing 12 people and injuring 27. Since then the school has not held the event but the off-campus version, which uses a safer construction design, has had 15,000 spectators.

6. Vassar College: Serenading

This college tradition has strayed pretty far from its origins which involved freshman singing songs to the senior class. That part still happens, but it evolved to include a food fight and sometimes insults as well. This occurs the beginning of fall semester to kick off the school year. Each dorm writes lyrics to a song to perform for seniors who select a winning performance. A recent change has gotten rid of the food fight in favor of a water only fight but that has not taken away from the fun of the event.

7. Cornell University: Dragon Day

Dragon Day at Cornell pits two of the university’s colleges against each other. In March of each year freshman from the College of Architecture create a giant dragon which they parade around campus. Their route takes them past the College of Engineering whose students are waiting to heckle them. At the end of their march the dragon is burned in a bonfire. This tradition continues on the rivalry between the two departments and has gone on for more than one hundred years.

8. MIT: Pumpkin Drop

MIT pumpkin drop
Credit: Tassadara C (via Flickr)

The Saturday before Halloween at MIT is the annual pumpkin drop which shows the fun side of physics. At midnight students gather around the tallest building on campus, the Green Building, to watch dozens of pumpkins being dropped from the roof. The night often includes a live DJ to add to the fun as well as costumes and trick-or-treating around the dorms beforehand. At 295 ft, not only is the Green Building the tallest on campus, but it’s the tallest in all of Cambridge, MA where the university is located.

9. University of St. Andrews: Raisin Weekend

Most of the traditions on the list have been from the United States, but schools in Europe have crazy traditions of their own. Raisin weekend is a tradition at St. Andrews that goes back centuries. In the past, first-year students would present raisins to seniors in appreciation for helping them adjust to the school. Much has changed since the early days. Now this weekend, in November, consists of a lot of drinking, partying, and other fun. The highlight is a foam fight with shaving cream that ends the festival on Monday morning.

10. Merton College, University of Oxford: Time Ceremony

In late October clocks in the U.K. roll back from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. It is at this hour that the Time Ceremony takes place. Students at Merton College refer to the time as “standing still” for that hour. The purpose of this tradition is to maintain the integrity of the space-time continuum. To do so the students put on formal academic dress and walk backwards around the Fellows’ Quad while drinking alcohol. This ceremony has been going on since 1971.

What are your thoughts on college traditions? Are they all in good fun or do you think administrators should crack down on illegal activities taking place? These are just a few of the many crazy college traditions, what are your favorites?

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