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 Tuesday, Mar 10, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Traditions come and go, spirit remains strong
by Monica Ly, junior, broadcast media and political science

This spring, CU-Boulder began a new tradition called “Spirit Fridays” that invites all students, staff and faculty to celebrate CU and show their positive school spirit in any way they choose. Traditions involving CU faculty, staff and students go far back.

With over 100 years of history under its belt, the University of Colorado at Boulder developed traditions that were practiced during certain eras and also shaped traditions that can be observed today.

Students were once allowed to ring the bell in the tower of Old Main. Freshmen or sophomore students could pull on the rope to ring the bell on special occasions. For football game victories, there was a ring for every point scored. As a standard practice, a custodian who worked in the building would ring it on the hour.

Now the bell is controlled by a switch and rings for special events. It rang this past Feb. 12 when Boulder celebrated 150 years as a city, and graduating senior student ambassadors who work within the Office of Admissions ring the bell for commencement ceremonies.

Students create their own traditions, some quirky and all in good fun. In the early years, freshmen students were required to wear green caps with “CU” on the front because they were considered “green” and not fully mature. They were required to wear them until homecoming but had the opportunity to shed them earlier if they won a tug-of-war against the sophomore students. Today, students wear all black during designated black-out football games and strip down for the Nearly Naked Mile to donate clothes to the less fortunate.

Many traditions are affected by the passage of time, as the student population grows and attitudes shift. From 1900 until 1972, an outstanding graduating male was elected by his student peers to be the cane bearer for commencement. Women were eventually included in this honorable tradition but carried a bouquet of flowers for a time before receiving a cane for their gender to bear. As the university population increased, it became difficult to select just one male and one female to be recognized with this honor, so the tradition ended.

When Colorado School of Mines was CU-Boulder’s big rival, students used to paint the letters “CU” on one of the flatirons to show school pride. However, the tradition phased out and is now deemed environmentally unfriendly.

Ralphie the buffalo is probably the most visible lasting tradition we see today. Back in 1934 when CU-Boulder decided on its nickname, students chose a buffalo calf to be their mascot. President Norlin’s charge is still read at commencement 74 years after it was first proclaimed, and the Shakespeare Festival and Conference on World Affairs continue to bring arts and information to people around Boulder.

Whether or not these traditions will last depends on who is willing to carry them into the future. "Traditions change over time with the people," said Kay Oltmans, director of the CU-Boulder Heritage Center.

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