Getting your bearings on WU Traditions

Hatchet_1975_p5-backgroundPart of an occasional series exploring unusual, obscure, and sometimes near-invisible student traditions at WU. 

Presented below is the full text from the last page of the 1975-76 student handbook, Bearings. The student authors offer parting words of wisdom on some of the more unique WU traditions.  Images from University Archives illustrating such “traditions” are also included for the contemporary reader.

and one more thing…
The tradition at WU is to say that we don’t have any. There are several reasons for this. First, “tradition” has not been stylish for at least a decade. Second, no one at a progressive, enlightened, liberal university would be caught dead participating in, let alone anticipating, anything lock-step enough to be called a tradition. Third, the things which do happen with comforting regularity are not designated as the traditions they really are (see reasons One and Two), making it difficult to recognize them.

In view of all this, the following is an attempt to list, you should pardon the expression, WU traditions. Keep it handy. It will be invaluable in helping you to decide which ones to pretend don’t exist; in giving you ample time to invent an excuse for participating in something you obviously couldn’t care less about but wouldn’t miss for the world; and in helping to reveal the gaps which need filling with brand-new, never to happen again, traditions.

Flooding the swamp
Holmes Lounge
Wednesday Assembly Series
Women’s Weekend
Black Arts & Sciences festival
Red Rose Cotillion
Going barefoot as soon as the temperature hits 60 degrees
Super 8 Film Contest
Martin Luther King Symposium
Spring Thing
Anticipating the opening of the Rathskellar
Astonishment when Student Life appears on time for three consecutive issues;
Painting the Underpass
Fat Albert’s
Dogs in the Quad
New Student Orientation
Afro Ball


South 40 in 1967

South 40 in 1967


About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.