Merriam-Webster defines “tradition” as “a way of thinking, behaving or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group for a long time.” But when it comes to a college tradition, a better definition would be: a not-particularly-intelligent action done by a bunch of young people that often involves a lot of beer and very little clothing. With that in mind, here are seven of the greatest traditions in all of higher education. Maybe they’ll inspire you to create your own tradition. Just remember that it has to make very little sense.
Mirror Lake Jump at Ohio State University. Every November, Ohio State plays Michigan in football. But the night before those Buckeyes and Wolverines do battle on the gridiron, thousands of Ohio State students trek down to a watering hole known as Mirror Lake, shed most of their clothes (or all of their clothes), take one last sip of an adult beverage and jump in. Then, when the exhilaration of sloshing around in a freezing-cold body of water wears off, they exit the lake and dry themselves off. Most likely with an “I Heart Urban Meyer” beach towel.
Marathon Monday at Boston University. Some of the best marathon runners in the world compete in the Boston Marathon every April. And on that same day, Boston University students pay tribute to these disciplined athletes by… partying as hard as possible. They wake up at 5:30am, begin drinking when the marathoners start running, and they don’t stop celebrating until the last runner finishes or they pass out, whichever comes first. Sometimes they even dress up like a red party cup. But this part is really optional.
Naked Quad Run at Tufts University. Every December, on the night before final exams begin, students at Tufts University near Boston strip off their clothes and run naked around the quad. Incidentally, Tufts students are known as Jumbos, but based on the fact that these guys are running around buck-naked on a December night, “Shrinkers” would seem more appropriate. (Note: not to be outdone by an East Coast school, there’s also an indoor naked run tradition at UC Berkeley.)
Hash Bash at the University of Michigan. On the first Saturday of April on the University of Michigan’s Diag (a.k.a., large open space), thousands of students and townsfolk come out to smoke pot, listen to music, enjoy baked goods and advocate for the legalization of marijuana. Considering the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has some of the most lenient laws on marijuana possession in the United States, Hash Bash seems to be working. Well done, Wolverines.
Pumpkin Drop at MIT. Every Halloween, the brilliant young minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology head to the tallest building in Cambridge, the Green Building, and drop pumpkins off the roof. Because even people who earned perfect scores on their SATs are fascinated by the sight of a large gourd smashing on the sidewalk at full velocity. Hell, Will Hunting himself would probably enjoy seeing this.
The Little 500 at Indiana University. As depicted in the 1979 Academy Award-winning movie Breaking Away, the Little 500 is a bike race held every April in Bloomington, Indiana. Teams of four race relay-style around a quarter-mile cinder track for 50 miles, and there’s also a women’s race and a whole week of other activities. For what it’s worth, Lance Armstrong called the Little 500 the coolest event he ever attended. And that guy never lies.
Spring Fling at the University of Pennsylvania. Dubbed the largest college party on the East Coast, Spring Fling takes place on UPenn’s campus and is basically a mix of alcohol, carnival games, carnival food and legit musical acts like Busta Rhymes, Ben Folds, Kid Cudi, Janelle Monáe and Girl Talk. Oh, and beach balls. There are also a lot of beach balls.