University traditions: How does St Andrews stack up?

Courtesy Ben Goulter

We all know that the University of St Andrews takes the cake for the best university traditions. Nothing can rival our beloved Raisin Weekend in its duration or its variety of events. Even May Dip outranks most university traditions: what other student body is so committed to tradition as to pull an all-nighter just to run into a freezing body of water while, most likely (and perhaps helpfully), still intoxicated? Nonetheless, other universities at least deserve recognition for daring to compete.

In the 1960s, students at Harvard University participated in the Primal Scream, a full ten minutes of all-out vocalizing on the eve of finals week. Later, Chicago’s Northwestern University usurped the tradition. Not to be outdone, Harvard soon transitioned into the annual student streak, during which students run naked across the grounds accompanied by the university band and spectators’ cheers.

M.I.T. has a taste for slightly more intellectual pranks. University traditions include sabotaging the Harvard/Yale football game. In 1982, for example, students conjured up a weather balloon emblazoned with ‘M.I.T’ on the fifty-yard line. Without any of the spectators knowing how it got there.

Marathon Monday overwhelms the entire city of Boston, but Boston University students celebrate the concurrent local holiday of Patriot’s Day with beer pong marathons and waffle breakfasts, partying devotedly until the last runner crosses the finish line.

(One of the reasons why the recent bomb attacks were so horrific is because they subverted a sacred day amongst Bostonians – one that symbolized community and goodwill. However, one finds comfort in the strength of these traditions, and the knowledge that they will return in full-force next year.)

Closer to home, students at Merton College at the University of Oxford attempt to maintain the space-time continuum during daylight savings by either walking backward (in autumn) or forward (in springtime), always drinking port. Kudos on the good work – the continuum remains intact.

Equally ambitious, students at the University of Chicago annually participate in a four-day scavenger hunt. Although the university is often referred to as the place ‘where fun goes to die’, its own students enjoy scavenging for such items as a homemade nuclear breeder and/or a live elephant. Other list options include: ‘get circumcised’. Mazel tov!

Students at the University of Colorado at Boulder prefer a more chill university tradition. Every year, on April 20th (for the British: ‘4/20’), students and Colorado residents occupy the campus quad for a communal joint sesh. Campus police are so considerate as not to intercede.

Finally, at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, students aspire to paint a fence on campus as their tradition. Strict rules must be followed, though: 1) painting must only occur between midnight and sunrise, and 2) paintbrushes are the only paint-applicators allowed – no rollers or sprays. Some students are so proud of their work that they actively guard the fence to prevent new paint jobs.

Congratulations to all competitors in this unofficial university tradition competition.  (But we all know that Raisin is the richest and most beloved university tradition around.)


Photo credit: Ben Goulter and Wikimedia Commons


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