Daft University Traditions

Some students (and universities) do the silliest things…

Lots of universities have bizarre traditions which their students sustain year after year or in some cases disappear into oblivion. My eye was recently caught by a collection of “Princetonia” including this rather odd event called Poler’s Recess:

One of the more peculiar Princeton traditions was an exam-time ritual known as the Poler’s Recess, which began around 1900 and continued for several decades. A “poler” was a Princeton epithet for someone who was thought to study too diligently, perhaps in reference to the laborious poling of a boat.

Every night during the final examination period, as the 9 p.m. bell began to ring, all dormitory windows on campus were thrown open for a riotous, 10-minute cacophony. Students blew horns, beat drums and tin pans and set off firecrackers — producing a din loud enough to disrupt the studies of even the most zealous poler. An undergraduate writer observed in 1918 that it was “probably the most juvenile of all campus customs, but it brought a welcome break for everyone in a long night’s hard work.”

Firecracker exploding

The 1949 Poler’s Recess was a rousing success, but by the following year, opinion was split as to the benefits of the event and the necessity of yet another study break, and a well-enforced ban on firecrackers further dampened enthusiasm. After a few sporadic attempts to resurrect the tradition, it faded from student memory within a few years.

Closer to home we have the strange tradition of the Raisin Weekend celebrations at St Andrews University:

Historically, first year students would thank their academic parents for their guidance with a pound of raisins, although sinec the 19th century, the giving of raisins was substituted for a derivative – usually alcohol, setting the benchmark for the tradition today.

Usually held annually during the last week in November (or earlier, dependent on academic calendar), first years – known as Bejants and Bejantines – are entertained by their academic parents, starting with a tea-party hosted by the academic mother and a pub crawl or house party led by the academic father. Due to the lack of stringent rules on the number of academic parents a first year may have, it is not unusual for Bejants and Bejantines to attend more than one party or pub crawl, with many families joining together towards the end of the weekend.

St_Andrews_Quad

Traditionally, the parents give their children a ‘Raisin receipt’ in return for the pound of raisins/alcohol. Throughout the years, the receipts have become more and more ludicrous, with livestock receipts banned in the 1960s after a particularly unsavoury moment involving a donkey and laxatives.

There’s more too. The Telegraph has a selection of rather odd university traditions of which this one is perhaps one of the strangest:

…the Time Ceremony undertaken by Merton College students who in the early hours of the last Sunday in October walk backwards around the Fellows’ Quad drinking port. The purpose is to maintain the space-time continuum during the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Meantime.

Sounds pretty much like an excuse to drink more port.

Does your institution have any similar daft traditions?

Firecracker picture by ABF (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

St Andrews quad picture via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:St_Andrews_Quad.jpg#file

Advertisements

A movie about Admissions in HE? Yes please!

But when will it be released in the UK?

There really just aren’t enough HE related movies about. And even fewer which cover professional services rather than academic or student matters (which are, let’s face it, much more likely to be entertaining). So in the university movie desert which we have been through since ‘Starter for Ten’ imagine the excitement on learning about this new film. About admissions! Starring Tina Fey! What’s not to like?

Admissions is just like this. All the time

Inside Higher Ed delivers the background:

It would be easy for people who really know admissions to focus on elements of “Admission,” the film that opened Friday, that aren’t quite right. In the movie — starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd — Princeton University’s admissions office seems woefully behind the times when it comes to technology, with applicant records kept in folders (orange of course). Admission or rejection is accompanied by a dramatic checking of a box (or in one case where an admissions officer is angry at an applicant’s false claim, stamping the rejection twice on the folder). Princeton’s admissions dean (played by Wallace Shawn) is traumatized by a drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings (when the only rankings indignity real-life Princeton suffers is being tied for the top spot with Harvard University).

Admissions experts have been buzzing about the movie for months, wondering how their profession would be portrayed by Hollywood — and whether the film would add to the hysteria of many high schoolers and their families about the admissions process.

They also get a couple of Admissions experts to assess the truths and fictions of the film and the overall view is surprisingly positive. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t a UK release date yet. Don’t understand why -there must be literally dozens of people as keen as me to see it.

Princeton curbing grade inflation

Princeton has been tackling grade inflation

According to a news article from the University the proportion of A grades awarded has fallen from 47.9% in 2002-03 to 39.7% in 2008-09 following the introduction of a new grading policy:

The policy, adopted by the faculty in April 2004 to curb grade inflation across the University, sets an institution-wide expectation for the percentage of grades in the A range and provides clear guidelines on the meaning of letter grades. Grades have been coming down steadily since the policy was established.

princeton_university

“These results confirm once again that with clear intent and concerted effort, a university faculty can bring down the inflated grades that — left uncontrolled — devalue the educational achievements of American college students,” the committee’s statement said. “The Princeton faculty continues to make successful progress in its determined effort to restore educational content and meaning to the letter grades earned by the highest-achieving students in the United States.”

Interesting development this and shows what can be achieved with what sounds like a sensible and measured approach to tackling grade inflation.