Connecting on Campus: Furman Traditions
College traditions happen throughout the country on all campuses. They range from the serious to the silly and everywhere in between. While each college campus celebrates milestones and events in its own way, there are some common attributes to college traditions. Traditional celebrations on campus help people feel connected to the campus culture in much the same way as family and community traditions. They unite and gather people together to provide comfort and belonging.
Since Furman was founded in 1826 and is the oldest private university in South Carolina, it has had a long time to gather traditions. One of the most meaningful traditions is the walk along the tree-lined mall. As incoming students, we walk from the PAC (Physical Activities Center) to McAlister Auditorium for commencement. Then at graduation, we walk in our full graduation regalia from McAlister back down the same path to graduation. As a legacy student, I have watched my older siblings take that final walk with joy and tears as they marched with friends that final time.
The homecoming carnival is another long-time tradition that is part of the fall homecoming weekend. Homecoming includes pep rallies, bonfires, and a carnival on the mall. It is a favorite event for students and alums. FUSAB (Furman University Student Activities Board) and SAC (Student Alumni Council) sponsor games, rides, food, and music. Since it is a fall event, the weather can be unpredictable and range from cold to comfortable. While jeans and purple are popular attire, many students dress up for the homecoming game and events on the Furman Mall.
Furman has its share of silly and superstitious traditions along with the more traditional traditions. Kissing under the Bell Tower is supposed to ensure the couple gets married. Many birthdays have been celebrated by being tossed in the lake, and seniors’ last day of class is celebrated with a swim in the fountains with decorative pool floats. During orientation week, Orientation Staff have been known to organize a group of freshmen to gather and sing to the balconies of SOHO (South Housing) in exchange for handfuls of candy being tossed to the vocalists.
Perhaps the most superstitious and quirky tradition happens at the freshman tour of the President’s house. While much of the lore revealed on tour cannot be shared outside of the house (what happens at the President’s house stays at the President’s house), there are rumors of slides, zip lines, and secret passages that extend as far as downtown Greenville. The fainting couch and other knick-knacks have hosted several US Presidents, and a particular chandelier inspired an iconic horror movie. First-year students are warned not to touch particular items to prevent a campus-wide curse and to protect their class.
As an outsider looking in, I listened to my sibling’s tales of campus traditions as silly and perhaps even trivial, but now I am beginning to realize these traditions’ unique role in connecting students and the greater Furman community. They make me feel part of something bigger and longer lasting than myself. I am connected to the Furman spirit and bonded to all those that came to Furman before me.