University Traditions

First-year fire. A “quad of fire” might sound like a part of a horrifying hellscape, but it’s just part of the University’s annual Candlelight Ceremony. Since 2008, incoming freshmen have surrounded the Eastman Quad with lit candles to learn about the University’s traditions, iconic symbols, and history. And a “fiery furnace” might sound like something from “The Burbs,” but it’s just a metaphor University Dean Paul Burgett ’68E, ’72E (MA), ’76E (PhD) has used for more than 30 years to inspire new classes of students.

The collegiate arts. Somewhere in the ethereal plane, Francis Scott Key is consoling T.T. Swinburne, Class of 1892. Like Key’s anthem for the U.S., only part of Swinburne’s original song for his alma mater is used today. The University only sings the first and third verse of “The Genesee.” In regard to the visual arts, many of the University’s painters can be found underground. Students have been painting the tunnels under the Eastman Quad since 1970. Today, most of the artwork is done to raise awareness for special events or causes.

There is a season, party, party, party. “It’s the [anything] of the school year! Let’s party!” Traditionally, this seems to be the attitude at the University. The school year kicks off with Yellowjacket Weekend. Then there’s homecoming: Meliora Weekend. Since 1934, December has been the time to celebrate boars choking on Aristotle. And more than 60 years ago, the University’s celebration for the end of classes looked a lot like the end of the movie “Grease.” Today, Dandelion Day features activities like live bands, paintball, and rock-climbing walls.

Like benefactor, like student. Joseph C. Wilson ’31 and George Eastman are the unofficial captains of the University of Rochester’s All-Time Super Engaged Rochester Volunteers Interested in Community Enrichment (SERVICE) All-Stars. Everyone knows that. It’s why every year students participate in Wilson Day and the George Eastman Day of Service—both are part of undergraduate orientation.  Rooted in their respective namesake’s civic spirit, each day gives students the opportunity to engage in community improvement and outreach projects.

Burying “burying calc” and others. Like the calculus books that were ceremoniously destroyed and buried out of consuming hatred, several University traditions have been put to rest. Among these bygone customs are riding down the hill of Susan B. Anthony Halls on a lunch tray and a brutal contest—similar to capture the flag—that involved a greased pole and the use of rotten eggs and manure as weapons. And there was even a time where yelling “Eighty-fi-yi-ki-yi-zip-boom-Ro-che-ster” was totally normal.