DAVIDSON – Long-standing traditions often define a college campus.

Davidson College stands proud of its traditions, some of which originated at the time of the school’s beginning in 1837.

Through such rich history and traditions, students maintain a personal connection with not only their peers but also the school.

“A number of Davidson’s traditions revolve around acclimating freshman into the culture of the school,” said Heidi Gruber, Davidson College senior. “From the minute their parents put the car in park when they arrive on campus, they are literally and figuratively integrated into campus.”

All incoming freshmen must prepare themselves to run the annual Cake Race. Pete Whittle, Davidson track coach, started the race in 1934 to recruit new students into the program. It used to be that the race was carried out sporadically, but over time, the race became a yearly event.

Whittle knew that not every student was fit to be a track star, but the incentive he used to get students out there became a success. Winners of the race receive an entire cake to themselves at the finish line. Members of the Davidson community bake the cakes for the winners. 

New students automatically become part of not only Davidson College but of the larger community as soon as they sign the Honor Code, the most honored and celebrated tradition.  The Honor Code is more than just a written statement. It is an academic pledge that the student will not lie, cheat, steal or commit any unethical action. Students and faculty take the Honor Code very seriously as the document remains relevant in students’ lives far beyond college.

“We do not have security cameras on campus. Students will just leave their laptops sitting out in the union,” said Cameron Joe, Davidson College senior. “It really creates a community of trust among the students. It makes it easier to build relationships because you know people on campus have all pledged themselves to these higher standards.”

Students have been signing the honor code since 1837. Even Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, signed the code. Pledges are hung in the Chambers Building on campus.

“The Honor Code is like a constitution to join the Davidson community where you feel like you are a part of Davidson at that moment,” Joe said. “You are privileged with everything that comes with it. That is what makes you feel a part of something larger than just yourself.”

Davidson College Archivist Jan Blodgett said students walking up on stage to officially sign the Honor Code book “fosters a sense of shared values, shared activities and shared ideas.”

A tradition known for its anticipation and vigor, Eu and Phi Halls of Davidson College presidential election debates remain a popular tradition occurring over Family Weekend. The tradition which has been a part of the college since the 1800s takes place each time a United States president takes office every four years. The College Republicans and Young Democrats debate current issues, shouting across halls.

“Lots of people come to observe. The Eu and Phi societies were the earliest student organizations on the campus. The buildings still date way back to the earliest years of the college,” said William Brown, director of College Union and Student Activities.

Students at Davidson College not only shout over politics, but they also let their emotions run wild in times of final exams. The “midnight scream before finals” is a tradition where everyone opens their windows at midnight on reading day, screaming as loud as they can. This is sort of a natural way for students to release stress and anxiety from all the studying. Of course, seniors are more involved with this tradition, considering they have spent the past few years dealing with the ongoing pressure of finals. 

Other important traditions include flickerball, a variation of football; the major concert, which has featured the likes of Maroon 5; and spring frolics, in which students celebrate incessantly right before exams take over their lives.

“This is the one time of year where students hang out and party. On Saturday night, there is a Patterson Court Lawn party with bands and food. It becomes a weekend of debauchery,” Joe said of the spring frolics. “Faculty knows about the frolics because they hear so many stories.”

Traditions play an essential role in the college experience.

“I think traditions are largely reflective of the culture,” Gruber said. “The traditions here communicate our sense of inclusivity, support within the community and genuine compassion and respect of individuals.”

While many schools have their own set of traditions, the traditions specific to Davidson provide students with a feeling of camaraderie. Traditions bring character and personality to the school.

“A lot of the traditions here at Davidson are good for the community,” Joe said. “Everyone comes to Davidson for all sorts of reasons with different backgrounds. We all get to experience these traditions and this is why we are able to build a community.”

The traditions have lasted a long time because students and faculty, along with the Davidson townspeople really enjoy them – a true benefit for the college.

“The traditions like the Honor Code are a sign of pride,” Blodgett said. “You move on and the school still holds a place emotionally and those traditions help create that.”



Want to learn more? For details about Davidson College traditions, go to www.davidson.edu/about/history-and-traditions.