50 Crazy College Campus Traditions: Part 2

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Occidental College: The Birthday Dunk

Original photo at oxy.edu
Original photo at oxy.edu

Used to be your birthday was a secret but to your nearest and dearest. But now, thanks to Facebook, every person you ever met once at a party and friended eight years ago wants to wish you a Happy Birthday.

And that's great.

What's less great, if you happen to be a student at the Occidental College, is that your classmates will also almost certainly know that it's the anniversary of the day you blessed this earth with your arrival. To show you just how much this means to them, your closest friends will distinguish the occasion by kidnapping you and hurling you into the Lucille Gilman Memorial Fountain.

Fortunately for birthday celebrants, Occidental is based in Los Angeles, so it never gets too cold. However, if it is your birthday, you might do well to travel with empty pockets and a life vest.

Getting soaked is kind of a thing at Occidental College as it happens. You may be taking the plunge all by yourself on your birthday, but everybody gets in on the act at the end of commencement rehearsal. This is when the students and the university president face off in an epic water balloon fight called Last Licks.

Speaking of presidents, Barrack Obama studied at Occidental from 1979 to 1981. One wonders whether the leader of the free world ever celebrated his birthday from the bottom of the Lucille Gilman Memorial Fountain.

Virginia Tech: Cadet Versus Civilian Snowball Fight

Photo by Zoe Scopa/Collegiate Times
Photo by Zoe Scopa/Collegiate Time

War is the scourge of humanity. Snowball fights are, by contrast, awesome. So persists the glorious tradition at Virginia Tech. It is pertinent that this public land grant university was established in 1872 as a military institute. Though the college was offering traditional educational options well before the turn of the century, it has always maintained a proud military training heritage.

It is in the shadow of this heritage and the cold winter sun that Virginia Tech's Cadets challenge the university's civilian population to an annual and epic snowball fight on the occasion of the season's first frosty precipitation.

Virginia Tech makes its home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Standing, as it does, on the crest of the Eastern Continental Divide, this elevated campus sees an average annual snowfall of about 25 inches.

This is great news for the university's well-trained and meticulously organized military trainees. The news is less good for its civilian populations, who undertake a far more chaotic and decentralized approach to snow-trenched warfare. In fairness, the event will take place on the campus Drill Field, where cadets naturally enjoy home team advantage.

The icy melee will usually begin when a freshman cadet sounds the fire alarms of the nearby civilian residence halls. It will traditionally end when the cadets have outmaneuvered their campus mates and flanked them into submission.

Dartmouth College: Winter Carnival Keg Jump

Image Courtesy of Rauner Library Special Collections
Image Courtesy of Rauner Library Special Collections

Man, is it just me, or does every tradition at Dartmouth involve a keg? Okay. In fairness, this is one tradition that has been discontinued, but when you hear about it, you should probably be surprised that it took as long as it did to earn its ban.

So the story of the Keg Jump begins with Dartmouth's Winter Carnival. It gets profoundly cold in New Hampshire during the nether months, a fact which ranks Dartmouth's winter sports teams among its most competitive athletics programs. Starting in 1911, the campus has traditionally held a three-day festival celebrating the achievements of these athletes as well as Dartmouth's unique culture of academic excellence and gleeful intoxication.

Legend has it that the Keg Jump became a fixture of the carnival in the early ‘80s when two Psi Upsilon brothers emptied their fifth keg. The momentous accomplishment coincided—as such accomplishments often do—with the viewing of a televised monster truck rally. When they witnessed legendary stuntman Evel Knievel soaring over a line of cars on his motorcycle, inspiration was born.

Conveniently, the Psi Upsilon house had iced its front lawn for the Carnival since as far back as World War II, largely for the purposes of an ice hockey match. When the brothers laced up their ice skates and lept heroically over their recently conquered kegs, a new and greater purpose was born.

By 1984, the Keg Jump had morphed into a charity event, wherein brothers either paid the entry fee or earned sponsorship from an area business. Competition was limited to only brothers of the Psi U house for insurance reasons. Indeed, it is well understood among the event's participants that broken arms and collarbones are a natural hazard of athletic competition.

But, then, so is glory. Just ask David Mace, who owns the world record (assuming that Dartmouth is the only place in the world where this event took place in any organized fashion) for traversing no fewer than 14 kegs in 1998. Obviously, the most amazing thing about this feat is that somebody drank 14 kegs.

Much like Cal Ripken's streak, Mace's is one record which will never be challenged. This is because 2000 marked the final year that Psi U was able to convince the university's insurance company to cover a house that held an annual charity Keg Jump. Apparently, mentioning that Evel Knievel was an inspiration for the event did nothing to help.

Though Dartmouth's student body looks forward to February's Winter Carnival with great anticipation each year, it sadly lacks the element of reckless self-endangerment that Psi Upsilon's Keg Jump helped to make an annual tradition for 19 spectacular years.

Miami University of Ohio: Green Beer Day

Can't think of anything more revolting than drinking cheap beer at 5AM? What if it was dyed green? Anybody else have reflux just thinking about it?

Proving once again that there are some things in life that you can only do when you're in college, the students of Miami University (which is suspiciously located in Oxford, Ohio some 1100+ miles away from the city of Miami) notch the final Thursday before each Spring Break by binge-drinking from sunrise to sunset.

The local watering holes open their doors at the crack of dawn to already-waiting revelers. Since 1952, students have gathered in swarms during the wee hours to initiate celebration of the St. Patrick's Day season (yes, at some of the more enthusiastic colleges, it's kind of a whole season). So old is this tradition that Miami University may actually have been instrumental in popularizing the greening of beer on the occasion.

Like most any university tradition that revolves explicitly and entirely around drinking, this is one that has seen a bit of push and pull between students and administration. Indeed, though Green Beer Day is largely tolerated (because honestly, what can you really do?), the university has never officially sanctioned this culturally entrenched event.

Purdue University: The Breakfast Club

Photo by Snebtor
Photo by Snebtor

Purdue University has long enjoyed a rich gridiron tradition. Three graduates of its program went on to become Super Bowl winning NFL quarterbacks (Bob Griese, Len Dawson, and Drew Brees). This kind of success is bound to inspire a dedicated and eccentric fanbase.

So dedicated are supporters of the Boilermakers that every home game is greeted as a holiday. Specifically, the holiday is Halloween. Indeed, each Saturday is an occasion to wake up with the sunrise, dress like cowboys, cartoon characters, or caped crusaders, and line up to hit the bars at 6AM.

The Breakfast Club is less a club than a motley gathering of Purdue's loyalest spectators. It owes its start to the ingenuity of Pete's Bar and Grill, which dreamt up the early morning pep rally in the late ‘80s to get a jump on the competition. As the tradition caught on with students, every bar in town began offering its own pre-tailgating specials.

Historically, the Breakfast Club has been the site of a fair amount of mayhem, as is likely to accompany pretty much any occasion where drinking begins before dawn. It is also not untrue that fisticuffs were, for some years, a semi-regular occurrence among the Breakfast Club's members. Most accounts say that, as the Club has grown, its vibe has mellowed considerably.

Today, the Breakfast Club feels a lot more like a festival than a fight club. And if you haven't gotten your fill during the football season, the Breakfast Club makes one spring semester cameo for the Purdue Grand Prix, which is held in April.

University of Chicago: Scavenger Hunt

Since about the time that Duran Duran was popular, students at the University of Chicago have orchestrated and competed in what is among the world's greatest and most elaborate scavenger hunts. Starting on Thursday at the stroke of midnight and ending on the Sunday of Mother's Day, the students at this private research institution face off in a frantic scramble to gather items, complete challenges, win competitions, and drive untold miles to best their schoolmates.

On four days in May, it's a mad, mad, mad, mad campus.

The official archives date back to 1987 for an event which has gathered in participation and complexity with each passing year. Some teams can be as large as hundreds of students while others may be an army of one.

The event is inaugurated at a raucous ceremony where students are presented with their first challenge; finding the scavenger hunt item list. In past years, said list has been buried beneath the sand at a local beach, transcribed on the body of a team captain, or transmitted in some other sadistically creative manner. Once the list is acquired, students have until the Judgement Day ceremony that Sunday morning to acquire the items and complete the tasks outlined within.

Items to be acquired, as per 2015's event, might include “A misleading metronome,” “a team member's genome, sequenced and aligned to 30x coverage,” and of course, “Microhenge” which is “like Stonehenge, only made out of space age polymers using multi-photon lithography.”

From 2011 to 2014, the event held the title as the world's largest scavenger hunt, an achievement most likely facilitated by the Road Trip portion of the contest. Here, an unspecified number of team members must complete a road trip not longer than 1000 miles' distance from campus and must be returned thereto by Saturday night.

And lest you should think this event is sheer chaos, be assured that the university and its students take their scavenger hunt very seriously. Behold the rules for 2015's contest, which note that “all items on the List can be obtained and performed legally--the judges take no responsibility for getting thrown into the clink--be it local clink, state clink, federal clink, or Colonel Klink. If you end up there, it is your fault.”

Rice University: Beer Bike

Photo by Jan Buchholtz
Photo by Jan Buchholtz

A relay race involving both chugging beer and racing on bicycles in excess of 40mph? Don't worry. It's not as dangerous as it sounds. There are, of course, designated “chuggers” and designated "bikers". And the rules state pretty explicitly that the two roles are not at all interchangeable.

Still, as opposed to most of the college traditions with the word “beer” in their name, this one is actually officially sanctioned by the university. This Houston, Texas campus is gripped by excitement during each spring semester with the arrival of Willy Week. This is the week leading up to Beer Bike and seems largely designed to help students hone their chugging chops through events such as the Beer Debates and International Beer Night.

Any number of peripheral traditions and festivities have come to accompany Beer Bike since the inaugural ride back in 1957. Among these traditions, a massive water fight is one of the more popularly attended.

Still, beer really is the linchpin of the event, especially for competitors. The way it works is, a designated chugger must complete a full beer (24 ounces for men, 12 ounces for women) before his or her corresponding cyclist can begin a lap. Naturally, the next chugger down the line cannot begin drinking until said cyclist rounds the final curve.

The competition will typically feature a men's, women's, and alumni squad for each residential college as well as the Graduate Association. The official rules say that each team should plan on fielding ten bikers, ten chuggers and two alternates for each position.

The annual event known as Hash Bash may qualify the University of Michigan as one of the ‘greenest' campuses in the U.S. And no, we're not referring to the school's record on environmental conservation.

Considering the dicey legal ground on which this event stands, Michigan's yearly celebration of marijuana has achieved a surprising longevity. Students have gathered in substantial numbers for this highly conspicuous smoke-out nearly every year since 1972. The original event was inspired by a March 9th, 1972 Michigan Supreme Court Decision which deemed unconstitutional the law used to jail leading protest figure John Sinclair for possession of two joints.

The decision meant that for one hazy month, the state of Michigan lacked any laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. The students on University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus determined to exercise their newfound freedom with an April 1st, 1972 celebration. By the following year the Hash Bash not only drew an estimated 3000 cannabis enthusiasts, but it witnessed state representative Perry Bullard attending and indulging.

Though the event transpired without incident in its first several years, the late 1970s saw increased police vigilance. By the mid-80s, the party was in serious decline. In the years since, however, Michigan and Ann Arbor alike have authored increasingly lax marijuana laws. Indeed, public possession will generally amount to a fine no greater than the average parking ticket.

The Hash Bash was truly revitalized in 2009, when Michigan officially decriminalized marijuana for medical use. In the years since, the Hash Bash has grown in scope and visiblity. Gathering on the university's aptly-named Diagonal Green, students are met with a colorful Shakedown Street, flanked by tie-dyers, paraphernalia vendors, and music performers.

2015's event set a record with somewhere between 8000 and 15,000 attendees, many drawn by the appearance of one of history's best-loved stoners, Tommy Chong.

North Carolina State University: Krispy Kreme Challenge

Photo by Kevin Oliver
Photo by Kevin Oliver

How is it possible to run five miles and still gain ten pounds of fat? Well, North Carolina State University's Krispy Kreme Challenge is one way.

If waking up early, running two-and-a-half miles to a donut shop, scarfing a dozen crullers (or 2,400 calories), and running an additional two-and-a-half miles, all in loin-chilling temperatures, somehow doesn't sound like the worst idea in the world to you, you might be a candidate for the Krispy Kreme Challenge.

In fact, as horrendous and bowel-rattling as it sounds, the annual event has actually come to attract thousands of participants in recent years. The very first Krispy Kreme Challenge was attempted on a dare. As legend has it, NC State basketball player Chris McCoy conceived of the idea but conveniently overslept on the morning of the actual event.

Though the original challenge was by no means a formally organized event, it actually managed to attract national coverage, landing on the Sports Illustrated: On Campus list of 102 More Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate.

Encouraged by the attention, the challenge's organizers picked up considerable steam by the time of the first formal undertaking in 2006. This also began the event's relationship with the North Carolina Children's Hospital, which is the beneficiary of all charity moneys raised by participants.

Speaking of participants, you'd be surprised how many people actually want to do this to themselves. The Parks Scholars, who organize the event, enjoy full support from the civil authorities. Indeed, now that an estimated 8000 people will take on the challenge, local police officers must close the road to vehicular traffic and assure safe passage to destination-donut.

If you don't think you can cram a dozen glazed breakfast pastries down the hatch halfway through a mini-marathon, try to remind yourself that this is all for a worthy cause. Amazingly, 2014's challenge, the 10th Annual, garnered more than three-quarters of a million dollars for the Children's Hospital.

Reed College: Renn Fayre

Photo by Gina Collecchia
Photo by Gina Collecchia

If you're the type of person that likes frocks, bodices, or cod pieces, may we humbly beseech you to join the merrymakers who hold court at Reed College's annual Renn Fayre. Although students at this Portland, Oregon campus are more frequently spotted in skinny jeans and flannel shirts, Renaissance fashions are in full flare during the last few days of class each spring semester.

What was once a one-day celebration has blossomed into a three-day affair complete with 17th century traditions like the softball, fireworks, and of course, that grand Age of Enlightenment custom, lube wrestling. The event begins each year with the Thesis Parade, wherein graduating seniors symbolically march from the front steps of the library to the registrars office to submit their work. Here, the university president will congratulate students on their efforts.

It is thus that the celebration is officially underway. As per its name, the inaugural event was an actual Renaissance Faire in which students embraced their inner-Tolkein with a display of post-academic euphoria. Royal courtesans, dames, smithies, elves, and dragon-slayers wandered the campus in search of a good time.

In the years since, Renn Fayre has become something more of an honorary title for an event which sports a new theme each year. For instance, 2014's Renn Fayre theme was “Close Encounters.” Thus, traditional Renaissance activities like bicycle jousting and minstrel performances swam in a sea of alien invaders and spacemen.

Other features include a free 24/7 PB&J stand, a glow-in-the-dark opera performance, and frequent sightings of swarming ‘picts,' which are basically like a naked, non-musical equivalent of the Blue Man Group.

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