24 Off-the-Wall College Graduation Traditions

You can probably tell that graduation is on my mind; this is two straight blog posts about graduation. Yesterday I offered words of advice to college grads fro the Wall Street Journal.

Today while I was not so randomly surfing the web I started reading about what commencement is like at Harvard, which got me thinking about graduation traditions at other colleges, particularly ones that might be considered a little odd.

I cam across multiple examples, and I thought I would compile those examples into the most comprehensive list of off-the-wall graduation traditions.

from The Quad :

  • The University of Texas in Austin has Foam Sword Friday, an end-of-semester tradition where students are invited to gather at the university’s East Mall to either receive a school-furnished foam sword or to submit their own for inspection. Once all foam sabers, cutlasses, and scimitars have been formally approved, students will gather on either side of the campus main street, brandish their swords, and charge at one another with the fury of a hundred entry-level job applicants. Students meet in the middle for an extremely brief, Braveheart-style melee before quietly dispersing.
  • For seniors approaching graduation at Wellesley College (just outside of Boston), rolling a wooden hoop down Tupelo street has been an annual tradition for more than a century. Back in the day, the winner of this race was preordained to be the first from her class to land a husband. Of course, times have changed. The winner is now guaranteed the far more abstract prize of personal happiness.
  • During each year’s commencement at Williams College, a watch is dropped from the 80-foot spire of the College’s Thompson Chapel. Should the watch break upon impact with the earth, it is said that the graduating class in question will be blessed with good luck. The tradition started in 1916, and unfortunately, the watch survived the fall. The following year, The U.S. entered WWI…
  • Graduates of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture adorn their mortarboards with miniature scale models of the Taj Mahal, the Gateway Arch, the unmistakable edifice of an International House of Pancakes, or any number of immediately identifiable architectural structures.
  • Graduating seniors at Yale urinate all over the toe on the statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, a graduate from the Yale class of 1820 and a subsequent president of the University. What adds to the tradition are that unsuspecting freshmen are told that rubbing the toe will bring them good luck…
  • Butler University is graced by five gorgeous fountains. It is said that one thing you must do before you can graduate from Butler is befoul each of these cherished water features by taking a dip in all five during one single mad dash. It is also advisable that students of the private Indianapolis university do so in stark nakedness.
  • At West Point, if you are the lowest academic performer among the cadets in your graduating class, you are recognized as “the class goat.” This honorable title actually comes with recognition from your fellow students. During graduation, your ineptitude will be treated with wild applause. And then, presumably because you suck and you really need the help, every single classmate will gift you a silver dollar.
  • Senior nursing students gathering together at the home of Liberty University’s nursing school dean for a bonfire. The students celebrate freedom from their studies by flinging their nursing scrubs into the flames.
  • It is said that in order to graduate from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, a student must perform five distinct rites of passage.
    • Dome the Baldwin Auditorium: Climb to the top of the campus auditorium and behold the stunning vista of East Campus;
    • Drive the Circle Backwards: Hop in your car and rearview your way around the circle connecting Chapel Drive and Campus Drive near the West Campus entrance;
    • Go Tunneling: Explore the maze of underground corridors spanning the campus, preferably with a flashlight;
    • Have Sex in the Sarah P. Duke Garden
    • Have Sex in the stacks of the Perkins Library

from the Bustle:

  • Oxford University has the tradition of “trashing.” After a person’s final exams (which, in Oxford tradition, grads take in “sub fusc,” or full academic dress including a white bow tie and academic gown), they’re often showered with champagne, whipped cream, confetti, sprinkles, glitter and more disgusting substances such as milk.
  • The University of Lund in Finland explains that doctorates must wear “the officially certified civilian sword of the independent Republic of Finland,” which is precisely 87 centimeters long and weighs 1.6 pounds, and must be carried on the left side. Women graduating, they note, “should include a belt or other similar aid that matches the outfit,” so that they can carry their sword appropriately.
  • At of the Kanazawa College of Art in Japan students are encouraged to wear whatever they like to their graduation ceremony, the crazier the better. The 2014 ceremony, for instance, included giant cellos, Iron Man, hand-made armor, and a very well-done Snoopy.

from ShareAmerica:

  • Before 1912, graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis needed the hats they’d worn at the academy during their first two years of service in the Navy. The end of this requirement meant the 1912 grads would get new officers’ hats at graduation, so after they each were given a diploma, the entire class spontaneously threw their old hats in celebration. The tradition continues at the Naval Academy and has spread to countless other colleges in the U.S and beyond.
  • Students graduating from Smith College in Massachusetts, a women’s college, are handed a diploma with someone else’s name on it. Since 1911, Smith grads have gathered just after the ceremony to circulate the diplomas to their rightful owners. Once a student finds the one with her name, she steps out of the “diploma circle” until every diploma has been given to its matching graduate.
  • In 1978, Kirkland College, an alternative women’s institution, merged with Hamilton College, which had been a men’s school until that time. The two student bodies together became Hamilton College, but ever since, the progressive influence of the earlier Kirkland College is honored by all Hamilton grads, who present a green apple (Kirkland’s old emblem) to the Hamilton College president before receiving their diplomas.
  • Since the early 1990s, all graduates of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, after receiving their diplomas, also receive hemlock-tree saplings that they vow to plant in the next place life takes them.

from Graduation Source:

  • I like this one. In Sweden, graduates don matching sailor hats. They start the ceremony by singing songs with their classmates. Next, the parents come to the ceremony with embarrassing childhood photos posted on large signs. Parents give their children special gifts tied with ribbons, then hang the ribbons around the children’s necks. Finally, the students take part in a citywide parade. There are floats and music, and the townspeople come to show their support.
  • In Argentina, observers pelt graduates with food, including ketchup, dressing, and syrup. It might seem like a one-sided food fight, but students look forward to this strange rite of passage. A similar tradition takes place in Italy.

from listverse:

  • At graduation ceremonies at Yale, students are given a clay pipe and a small bag of tobacco. After a brief smoke, students are expected to smash the pipes, an act which symbolizes the end of their carefree college lives. Another tradition that dates back to 1851 sees students burying a sprig of ivy on the campus, a metaphor for the individual’s enduring connection to Yale.

from Brit+Co:

  • During December commencement at the College of Charleston, women wear black dresses and men wear black tuxedos. During May commencement, women wear white dresses and the men wear summer tuxedos. It’s also been tradition since the 1930s to carry flowers onto the stage: Women carry bouquets of six red roses in a red bow and men wear a single red rose boutonnière.
  • One of Colgate University’s oldest traditions, the torchlight walk is something the entire senior class participates in. At the end, students throw their torch in the fire pit and then enjoy some pizza and fun.
  • Wearing a lei during graduation is a flowery, fun tradition at CSU Bakersfield.

from College Express:

  • Furman Moseley, an Elon University alum, inspired the school’s tradition of giving each graduate a sapling after he gave the graduating class of 1991 a redwood sapling, commemorating their future growth…as well as his career in timber.
  • The Wacky Walk is an integral part of the procession at Stanford’s graduation ceremonies. Undergraduates walk onto the football field throwing rugby balls, cooking breakfast on a small grill, proposing marriage, and engaging in an array of unusual activities.