By Taylor Combs>Junior>University of Missouri
Attending a university is somewhat like joining a cult. Any Saturday football game is proof, full of students wearing the uniform of college colors and singing old chants. Coming into the fold of a university reveals some interesting rituals as well. Campus superstitions remind students of the history of their school as well as provide a mystical confidence boost in the classroom.
At The University of Texas at Austin students keep their eyes peeled for flashes of white fur on campus. The superstition says that catching a glimpse of an albino squirrel guarantees an A on your next test, said UT junior Matt Wrench.
“I think it’s a dominant mutation so it always gets passed on to the next generation,” Wrench said.
The squirrels, most of which are actually rare white fox squirrels and not albino, are protected by a campus organization known as the Albino Squirrel Preservation Society.
At Tufts University in Medford, Mass. students turn to a concrete cast of their mascot Jumbo for good luck. The original Jumbo was the prize elephant of the Barnum and Bailey circus and was donated to the school by P.T. Barnum in 1885 after its accidental death. A 1975 fire destroyed the stuffed animal, so a concrete replica was made to replace it.
“We put pennies on its trunk before finals to ensure that we pass,” said, Lenora Smith, a freshman at Tufts.
A superstition at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge comes with a much darker history. The story goes that a LSU law student named George shot himself on the steps of the Law School after failing the bar exam multiple times. The stone where he shot himself is painted green or sunk in, depending on the version you believe. After students started painting multiple stones as a practical joke, the marking on the spot was moved to a grate. Legend has it that if you step on “George” you will fail your next test.
“Some people know about George but it’s not a huge thing on campus,” said junior Taylor LeMay.
At the University of Missouri-Columbia, students go silent while walking under an archway near the journalism school guarded by two stone lions that once guarded a Confucian temple in Nanking, China. Although the lions have been there since 1931 when they were donated by the Chinese government, the source of the superstition involving the archway is much less mystical. The legend says that two students talking about cheating on an upcoming test were overheard by the professor in his office overhead; he failed them both.
“So now it’s said that you shouldn’t speak at all under that archway or it’s bad luck and you’ll fail your test,” sophomore campus tour guide Chelsea Drake said.
Finally a word of warning to any student planning a visit to Harvard University: Tour guides often tell visitors to rub the left foot on the statute of John Harvard for good luck. The brassy sheen may come from something else entirely though, students regularly make a point of peeing on the statute at night, before the tours arrive.