Title

Exhibit - Traditions at Michigan State University

Michigan State University Traditions



Class Rivalry

Class rivalries were nothing to be messed with. Originally unorganized and often violent, the class rivalries were a face-off between the sophomores and the incoming freshmen class. They caused the university a great deal of property damage each year as they swept through campus. Class rivalry posters were put up around campus to intimidate the other class. In 1898, a group of freshmen were caught by sophomores and dunked in the Class of 1893 Fountain. As the school grew, so did the numbers in each class, giving way for rivalries to get out of hand. Eventually, the games were organized with and annual contest, later called the Frosh-Soph Daze. It included canvas pulls, wrestling, football scrambles, capture the flag, sack races, find the garter in the haystack, and of course the traditional tug-of-war across the Red Cedar (just to name a few). The organized games did not mean all the rough-housing was gone, but it gave the rivalry more of a focus. As rules continued to be set, the freshmen's brown caps were mandatory, preps had to wear gray, and smoking was forbidden on campus (another tradition that Spartans used to take pride in). The presidential tree-sighting contest had the two class presidents "out sit" one another in trees by the Union Building, a later addition to class rivalry games.  In the early 1900s, "Cap Night" was a ceremony at the end of the year in which freshmen could throw their hats into a large bonfire and seniors (dressed in cap and gown) could toss in their textbooks. This bonfire turned into another Michigan State tradition when it became the annual barbeque to "mark the end of hostilities" (Wolverine, 1920). As the decades continued, class growth again caused the rivalries to adopt new rules. After injuries in 1931, throwing freshmen into the river was reserved for those that refused to wear their caps or smoked on campus, but even those traditions soon faded. The class rivalry eventually became just a one day event. As the school grew more, class rivalry games declined, and we no longer see events such as these outside the fraternities. (The First Hundred Years)



May Morning Sings and Lantern Night

May Morning Sings were a tradition for the ladies at Michigan State. Early in the morning, women gathered at the Beaumont Tower to receive recognition for their leadership and service to the university. Parents were invited and arrived early and bundled up as they watched their daughters honored. The event announced the members of the upcoming Tower Guard and Mortar Board members. Mortar Board was first established in 1933 at MSC, membership was based on scholarship, leadership, and service to campus. Tower Guard was for sophomore women who showed outstanding qualities during their freshman year. They would be "tapped," or initiated into, the honorary societies at the May Morning Sing. In addition to May Morning Sings, Lantern Night saw women in their cap and gowns on a winding path of campus with lanterns. They would pass their lanterns down from class to class. Another opportunity for honorable women to be recognized, the new president of Tower Guard was announced at this ceremony. May Morning Sing is still a practice with the Tower Guard in recent years.



Water Carnival

The Water Carnival was part of the end of the year festivities. Each student group, class, or organization designed a float that went along with that year's theme. During the event, the floats would parade down the Red Cedar River. Professors and instructors would judge the floats and name a winner. The Water Carnival lasted a few nights each year, as dozens of floats went down the Red Cedar. Its largest year had a turn-out of almost fifty floats. The tradition lasted from the 1920s through the 1960s, in which some students are said to have failed courses due to the time spent on these floats. The Water Carnival was presented to spectators by the senior class and everyone from sororities to residence halls each showed pride for the hard work they put into the floats. The tradition was brought back to life in 2005 for the university's 150th anniversary but, though thoughtful, did not match up to the glorious work done in the past.



Junior 500

Established in 1948 by Lambda Chi, the Junior 500 was another group-oriented event to look forward to at Michigan State. Inspired by the Indianapolis 500, teams crafted push carts for the race. The course went around West Circle Drive, a total of 1.1 miles. Beginning as a competition between men's dorms, fraternities, and co-ops, the race grew to include the various living units associated with the university. The event drew national press coverage.



J-Hop

The Junior-Hop or J-Hop was one of many dances put on at the school, but with a very longstanding tradition. First given in 1891 by the class of 1892, the J-Hop tradition was a large part of MSU history, even during war times. This was no informal dance; rather attendees dressed up very nicely, paid handsomely for their ticket, and enjoyed a beautifully decorated affair. Held in such places as the Armory, Gymnasium, and Auditorium, it was bound to be an elaborate night. Those that could not afford a ticket could watch from the balconies. This was also the event to crown Miss MSU. The last J-Hop Dance was held in 1964, but alumni have not forgotten this big social event. (See http://archives.msu.edu/collections/step.php for more information)



Kedzie's Old timers Stick

The "Old Timers" stick is a continuous MSU tradition since 1931. Dr. Frank S. Kedzie donated a coffee wood cane that his father (Robert Kedzie) got during a trip to Mexico. He gave it to the earliest graduate of the university. A graduate from the class of 1867 was given the cane in the first year of the tradition. Today, there is still an event to pass down the cane to the earliest male and female graduates. Though they do not actually receive the cane, they are able to hold it and instead receive an award. (MS First 100 Years, MSU Alumni Association)



Beal Botanical Gardens

The Beal Botanical Gardens are both beautiful and educational. Established by William J. Beal in 1873, they are the oldest continuously operated botanical gardens in the United States. First used as an outdoor lab, Beal wanted students to understand more than just words on a page and instead delve deep into learning. They represent MSU's continuous push for active learning. Old traditions had freshmen males taking their ladies on a stroll through the garden on a nice evening. Always and still used as a place to study, think, or practice music. People often find themselves in the garden for its scenery as the perfect backdrop to a photo-shoot. Today, students, alumni and families visit the gardens. It is not uncommon for a Spartan to go out of their way to walk through the gardens when crossing campus.



College Bell

The College Bell was a very old tradition at the college. Originally in College Hall, and later move to Williams Hall, the bell was the "alarm clock" of the campus. Its sound rang the students out of bed. An easy source for pranks, students would set up the bell so that water would pour on its puller or even steal the clapper so that the schedule on campus was thrown off. During WWI, the bell was donated to a high school. There were no more bells on campus until Beaumont Tower, whose chimes we still hear today.



Farmers' Week

Farmers' Week was a proud tradition held by this agricultural school. Known also as Round-up week, the festivities included live-stock auctions, a grain show, and educational sessions. Farm families came from around the state to learn about the newest advances in agriculture. All programs at the university that were associated with agriculture would present a lecture during the week. This tradition continues today, though with the more modern name of ANR Week.



Co-Eds and Dating

Women at Michigan State also have their own set of traditions. Showering an engaged or newly pinned girl with ice cold water was an unpleasant honor. The act was not official until the co-ed was drenched. Another tradition is kissing in the shadow of Beaumont Tower at midnight. A co-ed was not considered a true co-ed until this tradition was accomplished. Near the Beaumont Tower sat the Class Stone of 1873, now known as "The Rock". Sitting at the bench by The Rock was reserved for engaged or married couples only. And of course, the round table at the Union Grill is meant for men only. However, that did not stop the traditional Union Grill dates. It is not uncommon for couples, still today, to take bread or crackers down to the river and feed the ducks, a tradition unique to our beautiful campus. Curfew led to the traditional "curfew kiss" seen in the iconic Williams Hall Kissing picture. (For more information on "The Rock" and its traditions, please visit: http://onthebanks.msu.edu/Exhibit/1-6-1D/the-rock-at-msu/)



Old Buckskin

"Old Buckskin" is a tradition that is not heard of much anymore. The name belonged to the cavalry horse of Lt. Baker, who served in the Civil War. Baker could not part with the horse after the war and bought him from the government. He later rode Old Buckskin during the capture of John W. Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln. Old Buckskin lived in Lansing until his death in 1888, when his remains were given to the college to be put on display. He had many homes, and at different times could be found in the old Museum, then Administration, and also the Library. Eventually, the moths got to him and he was taken off display. The tradition for students was to visit Old Buckskin, but when alumni sent their Spartan children to visit the old horse, the hero was nowhere to be found.



International Festival

The annual International Festival began in the mid-1940s. The event was open to the public and showcased the cultures of International students from around the world. Nations would set up booths to display information about their country including traditional dress, art, weavings, pottery, and even glass blowing. Some years included a foreign car exhibit and some screened foreign films. People came from all over the state to watch the folk dances and other performances, all which were part of the festival. One year even had 17,000 attendees. In later years, the school hosted similar events, such as the Global Festival in 1974 with a fashion show and dances.



The "Half-Way" Rock

"Half-Way" Rock can be found today on campus, outside the southwest lawn of the Union Building. Though many students today do not even notice the rock's presence, early Spartans had a special relationship to this marker. Once home to the "half-way" point between campus and Lansing, the "Half-Way" Rock was a meeting and resting point for students making the journey to and from campus. It has been debated exactly how a seed found its way into the crack of the rock, but regardless, a tree sprang up and split the rock down the middle. The resting point became more comfortable as its cherry tree provided some shade. As the city grew, a building was to be erected where the rock sat, so Kedzie (the school historian at the time) decided to save this landmark and brought it to campus – its final resting place – with a plaque to commemorate its special meaning. Only about one-fourth of the original "Half-Way" Rock remains, but its significance has not left MSU.



The Senior Swingout

The bittersweet event of the "Senior Swingout" was one to look forward to as the school year came to a close. The tradition started in 1910 when co-eds were actually pushed on swings outside of Morrill Hall. The following year, they added caps and gowns to the event and eventually there was only one swing present at the event, just to symbolize the original tradition. Instead, seniors would gather outside their college's hall and the band would parade around campus collecting all the colleges as they passed. The walk to Fairchild was the last walk seniors would have all together, with just the students, before graduation that following weekend. It would be the last time their class would be as one before they became individuals who looked back fondly on their time at State. The end of the parade was a time to gather and reminisce on their memories and share a final goodbye to classmates.



Dairy Store

Another marker of MSU's dedication to active learning, the Dairy Store is more than just a tasty treat on campus. Undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and College of Natural Science will utilize the Dairy Store to help prepare them for their future. In addition to being a educational tool, the Dairy Store takes pride in our Big Ten name, with flavors that represent other Big Ten Universities. The Dairy Store uses local cows to make their ice cream. There is a common rumor that Dairy Store ice cream cannot be sold off-campus due to its high fat content, but according to the 2013 Red Cedar Log, they are actually trying to expand business throughout the state. Whether you tasted it at a Resident Assistant's event, in The Gallery, or because you received a free scoop at Freshmen Orientation, every Spartan knows Dairy Store ice cream.



The Midnight Scream

Finals exams are no one's favorite college tradition. Michigan State students, however, practice a tradition that helps them to find relief and comradery during these stressful times. As many students are up late hours studying, there is a special study break that comes only during this one week per term. At the stroke of midnight each night of finals week, a person unfamiliar to campus could suffer quiet the fright as echoes of screaming can be heard in every neighborhood. The Midnight Scream is a tradition practiced and loved today. Just do a quick search on the internet to find videos and posts about this odd event. Even though our campus has grown large and many traditions have fallen, the Midnight Scream continues to bring this campus together.



Sources:

The Wolverine

The Red Cedar Log

Michigan Agricultural College: Campus Life 1900-1925, Stephen Terry

The First Hundred Year, Madison Kuhn

Michigan State University. Information Files. MSU Alumni Association

The State News



Exhibit written by Laura Williams, October 2014 University Archives & Historical Collections

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Class rivalry poster postcard, 1912
Class rivalry poster postcard, 1912
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Class rivalry poster postcard, 1913
Class rivalry poster postcard, 1913
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Class rivalry poster postcard, 1913
Class rivalry poster postcard, 1913
1913
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Class rivalry, 1912
Class rivalry, 1912
1912
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Couple sitting in front of the Rock, circa 1947
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Cows at Farmers' Week, 1935
1935
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Cows being judged inside Demonstration Hall, 1933
1933
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Freshman tears a "flag" from a tree during Class Rivalry, circa 1916
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Girl sits on Lily Pad in Beal Gardens, 1938
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Half-Way Rock, date unknown
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Hearse Class Rivalry Poster, 1914
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International Festival, 1953
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Log Cabin in the Beal Botanical Garden, date unknown
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May Morning Sing ceremony, 1950
May Morning Sing ceremony, 1950
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May Morning Sing, 1991
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May Morning Sing, 1991
May Morning Sing, 1991
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Push Race, 1962
1962
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Robert C. Kedzie
Robert C. Kedzie
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Senior Swing Out Procession, 1956
1956
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Senior Swing Out, 1921
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Senior Swing Out, 1926
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Student tears a "flag" from a tree during Class Rush, circa 1916
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Water Carnival Hawaiian float, 1950s
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Water Carnival floats, 1958
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