There are certain rites of passage once must complete to become a University student: write essays, take the SAT, go on campus tours, then wade through knee-deep water in a fountain.

Jessica Boullion
The fountain in front of Burton Tower. At freshman orientation, new University students walk through the fountain toward the Graduate Library to represent their journey toward knowledge. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)

The fountain walk is perhaps one of our strangest rituals. During orientation sessions, groups of confused freshmen are made to wade through the fountain in front of Burton Tower near the Modern Languages Building.

The origins of the tradition, like the water in the fountain, are murky.

Orientation groups have been leading freshmen through the fountain for countless years, and each year orientation leaders continue the tradition because it’s what groups did the year before.

But orientation coordinator Drew Tinnin said where the tradition came from is unknown. It’s been part of orientation for longer than he can remember.

Still, there is a reason for the watery ritual.

As freshmen cross the fountain, they are walking toward the Graduate Library.

Tinnin said this is to represent the journey toward knowledge that begins freshman year.

Then, after graduation, students are supposed to cross the fountain again, this time in the opposite direction. By walking toward Rackham, students signify their commitment to lifelong learning.


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