Why Campus Traditions Matter

With very few ways of acknowledging adulthood in American society, campus traditions serve as important coming-of-age events, argues Simon J. Bronner, a professor of American studies and folklore at Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg and author of Campus Traditions: Folklore From the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University. We look at three college traditions below, but we need your help to document more. Find out how.

The Rat Funeral: How a Shocking Ritual Evolved Into a Touching Rite of Passage

Students at Gallaudet University take part in a decades-old tradition marking the end of their freshman year – they bury rats. The funerals started when the Washington, D.C., institution for the deaf and hard of hearing had a preparatory program, with students known as “rats.” The details have changed over the years, but the ceremony remains central to the student experience.

One College’s Traditional Rough-and-Tumble Welcome

The storming of the arch is a Juniata College tradition in which first-year students prove their worth by literally fighting their way through a scrum of upperclassmen. One freshman finds that it helps to be slippery.

At Sweet Briar, an Old Tradition Finds New Meaning

In her will, Indiana Fletcher Williams called for the creation of a women’s college on the family’s rural Virginia plantation in memory of her deceased daughter, Daisy. The near-closing and rescue of Sweet Briar College gives this year’s Founder’s Day a fresh poignancy.