The Importance of Importing Traditions into Macalester

By Christy MacGillivray

The Fiddler pretty much had it right with the importance of traditions–they bind us together, ascribe roles and give us points at which we can mark and look forward to the passage of time. Traditions give a culture character, a life, and a dynamism that jumps out beyond the plain confines of the calendar year. This isn’t limited to the confines of the cabootz. Regardless of where these traditions come from, and who buys the decor, each event breathes life into a community that might otherwise fall into the mid-year slump. And this is exactly what we need to prevent in the context of Macalester’s cultural life. It’s easy to fall into the patterns of the 1-2:30 class, 2:45-4:15, practice, dinner, homework, exams, tests AGHh! Thanksgiving, Finals and BAM! You’re out and already sipping your nog and taking a match to this years yellog en route to your family vacation.

The traditions we are brought up with mark that time–they tell us when we can get excited (Christmas morn presents for some) when to be fearful (coals for others) when to be nervous (your bar/batmitzvah recitation) and when as young chaps, we can be–as the old adage goes–“crunk in the club” (with a grip of tooth fairy cash flow). The point is, traditions make the ordinary passage of time extraordinary.

And this is exactly what we lack at Macalester: a strong cultural tradition–not for bag pipes and study abroad, but the quirky individual practices that forge a college’s identity.

When I began my college career at UMich there was one tradition that struck me. When we first came to Ann Arbor, we had to enter this particular fountain walking east, and were instructed to walk in the opposite direction at graduation. If we failed to comply with this simple instruction, we would have to run nude across campus, starting at the clock tower’s first strike of midnight, and be back before the last chime or blue books be damned, no amount of study could save our academic lot.

Now, walking in a straight line across a fountain is not a formidable task and is easily accomplishable to say the least, but the lure of the test caused many to defy the simple directions and instead opt for the Indiana Jones-inspired streak across campus. Blue book blues or not, the richness of the tradition and the continual calling for a late night nude runs kept quick-flick porn downloads low.

Now Mac isn’t the Big House, and I am not saying that a small liberal arts college ought to have the same types of traditions as the Big Ten. But I think there are plenty of ways we can spunk up some character around here either by reviving some old traditions or inventing some new ones of our very own.

For example, and not to draw upon a foe, Carleton has something called the Robatt Game which commemorates a former Carletonian by having both faculty and students participate in a drunken baseball game who’s innings every year must match the age of the college with number of beers fit to bat. There is also frosh beanies at Union, an army of black-suited ninja’s flanking a German bust, cascades of bubbles descending throughout the chapel, and last but non least, the infamous annual flight of the [fris]bees-In short, traditions up the wazoo.

Sure, we’ve got the bell. The good old bell. But, (hopefully at least) that’s more of a one-time individual thing and not so much a communal event. I purpose we bring back a few more traditions that inject the school year- especially times such as this with the upswing in stress with a little more excitement. We can even start small.

I’ve heard of an all-night breakfast from students of old where faculty came together to serve students pancakes and eggs the night before exams to lend the valuable comradely, cheering and carbohydrates students need to get through the whole ordeal of exams. I think it needs to come back, along with the quirks of QU and the wee Scottish Fest. Sure, some of the above events may have been canceled due to flagrant male commando-ing, but nudity aside, perhaps we can overcome these tribulations in name of future campus community.

Traditions are important- they compose the quirky and vivid memories you’ll have of college life along with your ability to connect with future Macalester kids. Its up to us to take some action, get creative and make up some traditions because there aren’t going to be any unless they start somewhere. And the quirkier the better. Tales of the Forties Cup aside-we need something that includes a wider section of the student body, faculty and perhaps all the staff. I challenge you to make your mark on campus- get together and start something up that could last and give people something to talk about, something to be excited about, and most of all, something to write about. Think about it, for even if it doesn’t elevate you to the status of greatness, it will cause some conversation, and that my friends, is well worth the price of a run `round campus in your longjohns.

***This opinion in no way endorses or promotes underage drinking, inappropriate nudity or other forms of hazing that could and may potentially harm students, faculty or staff.

Christy MacGillivray ’07 is a columnist for the Mac Weekly. Contact her at [email protected]