Columbia University traditions

Columbia University Traditions

Columbia University traditions

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Columbia University has developed many traditions over its 253 year long existence, most of them associated with its oldest undergraduate division, Columbia College.

First Year March

During orientation week before their first classes, freshmen exit Lerner Hall through its back doors, turn right and enter campus again through the main gates to officially become Columbia students.

Alma mater

Legend has it that the first freshman to find the owl tucked within the folds of the Daniel Chester French sculpture of Alma Mater that sits on the steps of Low Memorial Library will graduate as valedictorian. A bawdier alternative holds that the first freshman to do so will be the first member of the class to lose his or her virginity. In more recent years, this version has been modified to indicate that the lucky freshman will be the first to have sex on campus.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Annual Bad Poetry Contest

Beginning in 1986, the Philolexian Society has hosted this open-to-the-public event in honor of Alfred Joyce Kilmer (Class of 1908), vice president of the society and the author of "Trees." Contestants read their wittiest and worst original poetry, hoping for cheers and the title of Poet Laureate. The event, which regularly draws 200 people or more, generally takes place a week or two before Thanksgiving.

Only one student has won the competition twice: Everett Patterson, Columbia College '06, who...
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