A sea of brown and white flooded stadium stands the morning of Oct. 31 as students, parents and alumni cheered on the Mountain Hawks during the Family Weekend football game against Georgetown.
When the Marching 97 took to the field for its half-time performance, they played fight songs and the Alma Mater, two of Lehigh’s long-lasting traditions. But while alumni proudly sang along, the voices of current students were muted.
For a university that prides itself on the preservation of rich traditions that define the school community and add to the Lehigh experience, some students have become apathetic to Lehigh’s traditions, with many having no knowledge of the fight song or the Alma Mater.
While some of Lehigh’s traditions have diminished over the past few decades, potential new traditions have emerged. One of these is MoCos, or morning cocktails, where some students choose to dress up in crazy clothes and drink before attending the football game.
“Sadly, I don’t think any of my three daughters who have attended Lehigh really know much about the traditions from my time,” Pam Timmerman Mousseau, ’79, said. She said traditions are what tie alumni to current students and adds to the “Lehigh flavor.”
Daniel Beadle, ’18, the historian for the Marching 97, said there is a huge tradition gap between alumni and current students. He recalled many old traditions the band once held onto, but are now just an interesting read in the archives.
“The members of the band know most of the lyrics to most of the fight songs, and they certainly are great fun to bellow at the top of your lungs after leaving a football game or another event, but are the songs really a part of Lehigh culture?” Beadle said. “At this point, I don’t think so. The band knows them, I know the choir knows them, and I’m told some people learn the songs while pledging fraternities, but I have no source on that.”
Beadle said he doesn’t believe in carrying on traditions just for the sake of having them. He said if Lehigh plans to celebrate a tradition every year, it should be because the community enjoys and appreciates it, not because the preceding class did it.
Beadle explained older traditions, such as building a bonfire by both schools during the Lehigh-Lafayette football game. The fire was protected by freshmen, and schools raced to light each other’s bonfires first. He said bed races used to be significantly bigger, far more dangerous and downhill. Freshmen would wear dinks — the bucket hats that band members now wear — and took part in team traditions until the rivalry game.
A lot has changed through the years, as current students may not be able to explain the origins of a dink. Some traditions that once rallied students have lessened throughout Lehigh’s history.
According to Lehigh Police Chief Edward Shupp, first-year students were once welcomed onto to campus with a beer truck and pizza. The university has changed significantly since then and has adapted other traditions.
“I think 30 years ago, you couldn’t turn on the Internet on your phone,” Beadle said. “Students don’t prioritize traditions any longer.”
On the other end of the gap are alumni who can recall some of their fondest memories at Lehigh, and can see how things and traditions have changed over the years.
“One of my favorite traditions was tailgating outside the former on-campus football stadium and then attending the game,” Mousseau said. “Yes, students actually went to the games then. Most students went to the games, stayed for the whole game, and cheered the team on – it was fun because you saw all your friends there.
“At the Le-Laf game, temporary wooden goal posts would be erected because students would storm the field at the end of the game and tear them down.”
The popular tradition of ripping wooden goal posts out has been long gone due to safety reasons. Alumni who now have children who attend Lehigh can see the gap first-hand.
First-year students are exposed to Lehigh traditions during orientation, but that brief experience often becomes the extent of their participation in them. But many current students feel that traditions are important to have.
“Traditions are very important, I think if we had more of them there would be more school spirit,” said Jhon Dilone, ’18.
Students also feel there isn’t anything concrete that connects them to Lehigh or other Lehigh students.
“The school hasn’t done anything to connect you to Lehigh,” said Jese Camilo, ’17.
There’s no telling what traditions will look like years from now, but as classes enter and years go by, it has become increasingly harder to connect students to the historical traditions Lehigh held.