Initiation and Traditiation

Posted by - - Revelers

One of the most enduring memories for many graduates is of their first weeks at Whitworth, when they became members of the student body through the shared experience of initiation and its later version, “Traditiation.”

Through the 1940s, freshman initiation involved students wearing green ribbons, nametags and frosh caps. Male students acted as shoeshine boys and carried bags of foodstuffs for their sophomore superiors, wore feminine costumes, and walked on four-foot stilts. The women had to wear their hair in pin curls.

Among the more infamous initiation rites are those that arose in Mac Hall during the 1970s and ’80s. To become “Mac Men,” freshmen were forced to run a nearby sand hill, sit in buckets of ice until they told a joke that induced laughter from stone-faced upperclassmen, and march endlessly in military cadence at night while wearing minimal clothing. Mac Hall alumni were known to return to campus to take part in these September spectacles, but by the late 1990s, many thought the “games” had been taken a step too far.

In 2000, initiation was replaced with “Traditiation.” Initiation conflicted with Washington state hazing laws, which ban degrading or humiliating actions, forced physical effort, and exposure to the elements. “We had to look at initiation and say, ‘What does not fit within the frame of the mission statement of our college?’” said Dayna Coleman Jones, then assistant dean of students. “And ripping another hall, or being abusive, or denigrating others based on where they live or their gender would not fit with our mission statement.” That year, Traditiation was launched during a revamped Orientation Weekend. New students bonded with each other and developed dorm pride and identity through chants, songs and activities that retained some of the longtime traditions specific to each residence hall.

The new and improved Orientation Weekend included an evening skit and a dance routine performed by campus leaders; the event concluded with freshmen running a gauntlet of clapping and cheering sophomores, juniors and seniors. Ensuing days featured bonding activities such as a formal dinner known as “Fancy Feast,” a yell-off between cheering dorms, and the annual Mock Rock competition.