While formal traditions may seem sparse at AU today, not all traditions are “traditional.”
AU welcomed freshmen to their new home on Aug. 24 at convocation, a custom that has occurred for almost a century.
Freshmen sported blue class of 2016 shirts at convocation this year. But in earlier years, some freshmen wore beanies, according to an exhibit in Bender Library called “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle: The Campus Scene 1925-2000.”
“It was a time-honored tradition on college campuses to develop a set of rules which freshman had to follow for a set period of time. Wearing a beanie and/or a sign was among the most common,” according to the exhibit.
However, not all rules were conventional.
“Some of the rules for AU freshmen included carrying your personal belongings in a pillowcase (women) or wearing your pants rolled up 6 inches from the ground (men).”
At AU’s 1926 convocation, David Robertson, then associate director of the American Council of Education, “advised that a tradition of courtesy be established — courtesy of men toward women students and not mere ‘codes’ … even courtesy of sophomores toward freshmen,” The Eagle previously reported.
The AU campus also has a tradition of service-themed activities, according to University Archivist Susan McElrath. Archived AU photos show students painting poles and gardening during the 1950s.
Community involvement efforts like Campus Beautification Day are similar to celebrations of Arbor Day in the 1930s and Campus Day in 1955, according to the exhibit.
The Freshman Service Experience (FSE) is a way in which students carry on that tradition today. FSE is a way for freshman to “meet other students. Get oriented. See what volunteerism at AU is all about,” according to the AU website.
More than 600 students participated in FSE this year, according to the Center for Community Engagement and Service.
“Some of the people in my dorm participated [in FSE],” School of Public Affairs freshman Joshua Llodrat. “They thought the volunteering was cool.”
The University still has a “rich sports tradition” even though AU does not have a football team, The Eagle reported in 1996.
AU eliminated its football team in 1941, The Eagle reported in 1959. “After the outbreak of the Second World War, the sport was discontinued.”
“A lot of our traditions recently sort of revolve around the basketball program,” McElrath said. “Things like Midnight Madness and Phil Bender are meant to build spirit and camaraderie. That’s kind of what the Bender White Out and Phil Bender are doing, building support for the athletics program.”
Although the University does not have many defined traditions, students on campus have been driven by activities involving social change for years.
“Student participation in ‘traditional’ traditions died out in the 1960s,” a 1997 edition of The Eagle reported. “But this led to the creation of other traditions, including one which is held very dear to students today: the organized protest.”
AU students have always a tendency to be engaged in politics.
The University was recently recognized by the Princeton Review as having the “Most Politically Active Students.” AU also held the title in 2010.
“AU students are very much interested in causes, being a politically active campus,” McElrath said. “Looking all the way back to the 60s, there’s been student protests.”
A group of students protested a speech earlier this year given at AU by Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz. The students protested Arizona’s immigration laws.
“And, even further on, if you look at the kinds of groups and clubs that were here on campus, there’s always been sort of that political mind set,” McElrath said.
In April 2007, AU students were served warrants for arrest after they “participated in a protest following Karl Rove’s speech to the AU chapter of the College Republicans,” an edition of The Eagle previously reported. “The protesters attempted to make a citizens arrest of Rove after alleged violations of the Presidential Records Act of 1978.”
For all of its love for politics, AU also has had a strong tie to the Methodist community since its earliest years.
“The University’s largest residential hall was named for AU’s Honorary Chancellor and eighth president, Hurst Robins Anderson,” a 1994 edition of The Eagle reported. “Anderson strengthened ties with the Methodist Church in order to receive financial support from its board of education of the Methodist Church.”
While few traditions have carried on, former AU students can be assured that one custom that has stuck: the pride AU students and faculty take in being part of the AU community.
“A sense of belonging” is what Vivek Supnekar, a recent MBA graduate of the Kogod School of Business, said he felt during his time at AU.
Current students agreed the tradition of courtesy is still practiced on campus.
“I feel like everyone at this school has a sense of country,” School of Public Affairs junior Mitchell Rosenstein said. “We may all disagree with each other to the edge of the earth. But at the end of the day, we all care, which is why I respect the people a lot on this campus.”