With intense rivalries against several other colleges, University of Michigan students are quite accustomed to sports rivalries. What we haven’t experienced as much as past Wolverines though is the interdisciplinary rivalries – “Lits” “Laws,” and “Medics”- that used to stir up students.
University Day was established in 1869 to bring about a closer relationship among students of different departments, specifically the Medical class, the Law class and the Literary Class. The result was quite the opposite.
The first University Day parade on Nov. 17, 1869 went quite smoothly. The second parade, though, resulted in a fight when the Lits attacked the Laws. Several students were injured and the Law department’s banner was left in threads. University Day was cancelled as a result of the bitter feelings.
In 1872, a group of Meds attempted to play football on the same field the Lits had scheduled for their freshmen and sophomores to compete.
The scene erupted in a brawl as the Lits chased the Meds off the field marched into town singing songs of victory.
In 1894, the Lits decided to wear academic gowns to their commencement, but Law and Medical Students rejected the idea. The senior Laws plotted against the Lits and when the dean of the Law School caught wind of his students’ planned shenanigans, he scheduled an exam to keep them out of trouble.
The junior Laws took over the coup and waited outside the chapel door for the Lits to exit the service. The Laws fled the scene though, as University President James Angell and Dean Martin L. D’Ooge were walking out of the service with the Lits.
Later that night, the Lits were formally challenged to a sort of rumble. They accepted and met the nightshirt clad Meds and Laws. After a long fight, the Lits emerged victorious.
The following morning, the lawns of the fraternity houses along State Street were littered with white strips of the nightshirts the Lits had ripped from their rivals’ backs.
In 1900, the Laws sought revenge on the Lits who raised their class banner on the top of the University flagpole. Not taking any chances, the Laws called on a sharpshooter from the west to shoot the banner down.
The nasty rivalry continued with hazing until some the Law professors took actions to abolish the dangerous aspects of the rivalry.