A “tradition” is defined as a ritual, belief, or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Here are a few of the most beloved Carleton College student traditions.
Broomball is a game played on ice on the Bald Spot rink, kind of like ice hockey but with shoes instead of skates, brooms instead of hockey sticks, and a ball instead of a puck. Elbow and knee pads are not technically allowed, although some players wear them secretly under their clothes in order to make spectacular diving plays without breaking anything.
In 1971, at President Swearer’s inauguration, students began the tradition of blowing bubbles on faculty members at formal chapel events from the balcony above. This tradition lives on at the special convocations at the beginning and end of the academic year.
The weekly convocation series is a shared experience that is at the foundation of Carleton values. Students, faculty and staff from across campus gather for one hour for a lecture, presentation or performance from specialists in a variety of disciplines. The goal of the convocation series is to stimulate thought and conversation outside the classroom on a broad range of subjects.
Founded (as Ebony II) in 1973, Synchrony II is a student-run dance troupe open to all Carleton students regardless of previous dance experience. Each term the group performs student choreography in a performance open to the entire campus (and attended by most of campus too). Synchrony II shows are some of the most popular performances on campus. Dance pieces range from the sublime to the ridiculous — the latter including the now-traditional Man Dance segment, which has even inspired Man Dance apparel.
Freshman Frisbee Toss
This ceremony is the official beginning of one’s four years at Carleton. During New Student Week all freshmen are given free Frisbees, line up along the edge of the Bald Spot, listen to a stirring speech by the college president, and then toss their Frisbees into the center of the Bald Spot. From then on, they are Carleton students.
Every Friday, the campus mailboxes turn into a flower show as students buy flowers in the Sayles-Hill Campus Center and “mail” them to their friends.
The International Festival features food, music, dance, and cultural workshops from countries around the globe in Spring Term. Anyone can sign up to cook for the festival, and many of the school’s international students take the opportunity to share foods from their home countries with the Carleton community.
Mai Fete is one of two islands located on the Lyman Lakes. The island earned its moniker for playing host to the annual Mai Fete pageant, a Carleton tradition that began in 1918. Each Wednesday evening of Spring term, the Senior Class gathers on Mai Fete Island to celebrate their final term together.
Glitz and glamour at Carleton! Midwinter Ball is held on the Saturday night of Mid Term Weekend during Winter term. Started in 1981 as a Viennese Ball, this event has consistently provided the campus an opportunity to don formal attire and mingle with friends and colleagues. Three different rooms within one connected complex provide guests with a variety of music genres, including jazz, swing, big band, salsa, and modern music from student DJs.
At 10:00 p.m. the night before finals start, Carleton students lean out their windows and let out a collective unearthly wail of anguish and despair. Then they go back to studying.
Rotblatt is the world’s longest college intramural sport. Played each Spring term, this marathon softball game begins at sunrise and involves live music, good food, and of course softball.
Rotblatt was created in 1964 by a group of sophomores living in Burton. This long-standing Carleton tradition is named in honor of Marvin J. Rotblatt, a professional baseball pitcher with the Chicago White Sox. Marvin’s ERAs of 1948 (7.85) and 1950 (6.23) were the highest in the majors, however his batting average for all three seasons was .000.
Silent Dance Party
A relatively new Carleton tradition, the Silent Dance Party occurs at 11:00 p.m. on one of the two reading days preceding final exams. Armed with an hour-long playlist of dance music chosen by the party organizer, party-goers gather on the first floor of the library, don their headphones and press ‘play’ on their MP3 players at the exact same time. The dance party then moves from the library to a variety of locations around campus.
Celebrating its 39th anniversary in 2018, Spring Concert is an annual outdoor music festival, and possibly the most widely-attended student event of the year. It typically falls on the 8th weekend of Spring Term and features both professional and student bands.
The professional bands are selected by the Spring Concert Committee (which anyone may join), while the student bands are the first and second place acts at the annual Battle of the Bands competition, held just two weeks before Spring Concert. Past Spring Concert headliners include De La Soul, Wilco, Blue Scholars, Wale, Brother Ali, Run the Jewels, and T-Pain.
Dating back to 1957, this Carleton tradition involves “stealing” and periodically displaying a plaster bust of the German poet, Friedrich Von Schiller. The exact meaning of this tradition is unknown; some believe it represents a subconscious desire to mock the seriousness of Carleton’s academic pursuits.
The guidelines that govern Schiller’s “keepers” are somewhat vague, however the modern world has dictated two simple safety precautions, including: 1) No motorized vehicles may be used in displaying Schiller (due to the chase that typically ensues); and 2) Tradition dictates that if the keepers are touched while holding Schiller, the bust is relinquished to the next keepers. A struggle over Schiller should never occur, nor should he be physically forced away from his keepers.
Schiller has been shattered several times, glued back together at least twice, and replaced with a new replica on occasion, but the tradition lives on. Schiller flew on Air Force One, dangled from a helicopter, signed by President Bill Clinton, even made an appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.
Senior Week is a week-long series of events for members of the Senior Class. Coordinated by the Student Activities Office, these events immediately follow finals and last through Commencement.