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Freshman Day, Hazing Day and Disorientation

 
Freshmen dance on Skinner Green dressed as teacups as part of Hazing Day courtesy MHC Archive
 


Three seniors watch a freshman drip water from a cup onto steps as part of Hazing Day, 1941 courtesy MHC Archive

 
 
 

Freshman Day - An early Mount Holyoke tradition was that of Freshman Day. While the name implies that this would be a day mainly for the freshmen, it was more of a day of interaction between the freshmen and the other classes, in which an odd combination of fighting fiercely or yielding humbly to the upperclasswomen marked the day. In the early 1900s, Freshman Day included games between the sophomore and freshmen classes, in which the freshmen attempted to prove their skill and sophomores sought to maintain their superiority through such friendly competitions, such as basketball games. Seniors, undisputedly reigning over the other classes, had the privilege of having the freshmen aid them with little tasks throughout the day.

Hazing Day - After the rather strict President Marie E. Woolley retired in 1937, students (namely, seniors) took advantage of her absence to go a little wild with their freshman interaction. In the early 1940s, Freshman Day began being known as Hazing Day, and in 1946 this had become the official new name. Now solely a freshmen-senior interaction day, with the freshmen "serving" the seniors, Hazing Day carried on until 1950, when it went on a brief hiatus for unknown reasons. It began again in 1955. Hazing Day was often themed, either by residence hall or as a whole. 1941 saw Mead seniors ordering their freshmen, or "Drips"/"Drizzles", to complete water related tasks, as well as dressing in bathing gear and singing a song about their positions as lowly drops of water. Seniors went about the day in their academic robes, while the freshmen were often costumed. After dinner, the snobbish superiority of the ruling seniors was dropped and the day's ranking was forgiven as the seniors took the freshmen out to the movies and an evening snack. Towards the 1970s, Hazing Day was beginning to be a longer event than simply the daylong tradition of earlier years, but it varied year by year.

DisOrientation - In the late 1980s, the state of Massachusetts passed an anti-hazing law. While Mount Holyoke's Hazing Day didn't qualify as hazing, based on the definition set forward by the state legislature, the name of the tradition was changed to "DisOrientation," or, as it became familiarly known, "Dis-O." Out of caution of the new law, official regulations were set down by the class board. 1989's senior class board set down rules that were adopted as the basis for future DisOrientations. Additional rules, added each year, continued to regulate the now week-long event. In 1992, the senior class (the Class of 1993) protested against what they considered over-regulation. The trigger of this protest, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, was that the administration had added new rules only a week prior to the scheduled start of DisOrientation, without consulting any students. This going above the seniors' heads as well as the rules themselves, the seniors claimed, made them feel as though they were being treated like children. MacGregor hall began the protest, opting to do their own activity to insure that there was still the cherished senior-firstyear interaction. Safford was next to follow suit as debates raged across campus. A few other halls continued, and Dis-O was sparsely celebrated. With more time to settle the issue before the next DisOrientation, more democratically discussed rules were set down between the administration and the students.

Today's DisOrientation - Today, DisOrientation is one of the more eagerly awaited of the traditions. The seniors plot and scheme in secret full class and hall class meetings. Firstyears are often tipped off by the signup sheets (firstyears must sign up as willing members, and there is no repercussions for opting out of participation) and by the signing anti-hazing acknowledgement forms, as there is still a paranoia of violating the hazing laws of Massachusetts. At an appointed hour, seniors across campus quietly gather in the hallway of the uppermost floor of their residence hall, wearing their academic robes and, often, accessories in their class color. The chant goes up, a repetition of "Holyoke, Holyoke, Holyoke," and the seniors gather the firstyears, who often try to hide out of startlement and a hopefully irrational fear inspired by the many pounding feet and loud chanting. Once gathered, the firstyears are often given costumes or some DisOrientation regalia to mark them as belonging to their respective hall. The groups of seniors and firstyears gather for a boisterous opening of DisOrientation, with hall songs and chants and general loudness. After some parading around campus, students return to their halls to discuss the seniors' plans for their firstyears -- tasks, activities, whatever the hall's seniors decided to do to mark Dis-O. The week is full of these specific events, until a culmination party ends the week of DisOrientation.

 

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This page was created by Jennifer Loomer '04 and Katherine Underwood '05 in History 283, Fall Semester 2003
jmloomer@mtholyoke.edu and kaunderw@mtholyoke.edu