Woven into campus culture here at the University are a number of popular traditions embraced by students.
Never step on the bronze “M” on the Diag before take you a blue book exam. All new students have to walk through the Ingalls Mall fountain in bare feet before they start classes. And every student has to spin The Cube at least once while at the University.
But some University traditions, like Cap Night, which once thrived on campus near the turn of the century, simply don’t survive the test of time.
The earliest mention of University students and their class caps came when the class of 1872 opted for caps made of blue broadcloth with small tassels and the class numerals inscribed in silver braid.
In 1880, seniors chose a new style with maroon mortar board fez caps.
A year later, underclassmen joined in on the cap-wearing tradition. While seniors wore maroon fez hats with gold tassels, juniors and sophomores wore different styles of white caps and freshmen wore black mortar board-style caps with cardinal tassels.
In the early 1900s, all freshmen classes began wearing grey caps with a colored button designating their school or department.
Although the tradition of wearing caps was long established, the first Cap Night was celebrated on June 11, 1904.
A mass student meeting was held around a bonfire near the Medical Building where students sang songs and made speeches.
The current freshman class decided to burn the grey caps they had worn all year as a symbol of their “graduating” from the lowest rank to sophomore status.
In 1906, Cap Night was officially assigned to take place on the first Saturday in June.
Under Student Council’s direction, students marched to a location east of the main hospital building referred to as “Sleepy Hollow.”
There, commendable athletes were awarded “M” letters, and songs, cheers and speeches honored the occasion.
As the University’s enrollment grew and class sizes increased, class spirit dwindled and classes became more reluctant to wear their own caps.
In September 1934, Class Council put an end to Cap Night because of a lack of class spirit.