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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Homecoming and Tradition: Advice for the Class of 2009

I was scared. I gripped the rails and looked across the field. Officers scanned the stands menacingly. Upperclassmen yelled and chanted ceremonially, as if performing a magical ceremony to compel a demon -- or a freshman -- to rush the field. I was the freshman class president, and I felt some responsibility for ensuring that the old tradition of rushing the field during halftime of the homecoming football game continued. I anguished, trying to weigh the benefits of rallying my class against the costs of possible college punishments. Hesitation ended up making the decision for me: the team came back onto the field and my class became the first to break the tradition.

By entering this college we have all become part of a great and ancient tradition that is older than our republic. Excellence in undergraduate education is the hallmark of a Dartmouth education, but that's not all. There's also the unbridled, daring spirit that has made Dartmouth graduates not just outstanding academics, but that has also forged great leaders and resolved pioneers. Traditions are our connection to the past, our way of making the past present. Not all of Dartmouth's past has been positive, but we shouldn't let that erase or diminish all that is good and right with this place.

For those who have experienced Dartmouth, we know there's no place on earth quite like it. It's hard to put into words what makes our college so unique. At Dartmouth we students talk to everyone who will listen about how amazing out school is; we wear obnoxious shirts emblazoned with our class year; we compete to be tour guides; we protest by the hundreds when a sports team is cut; we get sunburned playing frisbee on the Green; we fundraise to send relief to disaster areas. When grasping for a description of our college, we often speak of the absurd fun of DOC Trips, our open Greek system, the madness of the freshman bonfire, the tons of snow we shovel and carve into funny monuments during winter carnival.

These are our traditions. They make us different and proud.

Traditions are bonding moments, and Dartmouth's community relies on them. Homecoming weekend is full of traditions that bring us closer together. Dartmouth students and alumni are proud of their class. Throughout our lives we will always be asked and asking of Dartmouth people, "What year are you?" Freshmen, your identity will start to form this weekend, as you count the number of times you go around the bonfire and realize the Class of 2009's distinctive place in Dartmouth history.

Redemption comes in strange places. My sophomore year, I again stood against the rails at the homecoming football game, counting the officers surrounding the field. Dozens of upperclassmen had pledged to support the fledgling '07s and rush the field with them. Two friends and I debated whether to run, weighing the almost certain incarceration against certain glory. Only two of our number made the jump, and I won't say who the odd man out was.

That day, nearly a dozen students ran across the field -- some upperclassmen, some freshmen. As the pack of runners reached the middle of the field, the crowd exploded in admiration. In an absurd way, those students were saluting the Dartmouth community and the community loved them for it. They were proud that day. They felt the support of every student there, as they ran for and after the Dartmouth spirit. The group rushed the field not out of rebellion or hate for the administration or even disdain for the opposing team -- they rushed because of their love for this college

This homecoming season, think about what makes Dartmouth special and how you can add to that. I wouldn't recommend rushing the field for everyone, but to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, it has worked for some.