For the Record: Penn student traditions

During their years at Penn, students participate in many traditions that allow them to show their school spirit. Some of the rituals have come and gone, and others have evolved into new traditions.

Penn student traditions

Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

During their years at Penn, students participate in many traditions that allow them to show their school spirit. Some of the rituals have come and gone, and others have evolved into new traditions.

For many years, up until the mid-1960s, freshmen were required to wear black caps, known as “dinks,” every day except Sunday. In the early 1900s, at an early season football game, upperclassmen shouted, “Freshmen on the field,” to bring the students, wearing their dinks, onto Franklin Field. Penn abolished the tradition after 1947, following a fight with band members from Columbia University.

Freshmen, the youngest and newest members of the Penn community, were often the target of playful hazing.

One tradition required freshmen to perform a “snake dance” before the season’s first football game, or face what was called “drastic action” from members of the sophomore Vigilance Committee.

The 1946-1947 handbook states, “All Frosh must kiss the boot of Ben Franklin’s statue in front of Weighman Hall during Freshman Week” to pay homage to Penn’s founder before they received their freshman buttons. In this photo, in a twist of the handbook’s directive, a member of the Class of 1955 reaches to kiss Franklin’s shoe on the statue in front of College Hall.

Skimmer, the annual gathering on the banks of the Schuylkill River, began in 1949 as a one-day event to encourage the Penn crew team. It expanded into a weekend-long party along the riverfront and on campus, with music from area bands. Skimmer was eventually replaced in 1973 with Spring Fling. Recently, students resurrected the Skimmer tradition with special events on campus.

Ivy Day started when the graduating class of 1873 planted ivy and placed a stone tablet at College Hall to commemorate the event. Women placed their own Ivy Day stones from 1926 to 1961. Beginning in 1962, senior men and women placed a single Ivy Day stone for the entire graduating class.

For more information on this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at www.archives.upenn.edu.

Originally published on October 13, 2011