Tufts Traditions: How much do students know about Tufts?

Jumbos spend a good four years on the Hill, but just how much do Tufts students really know about their campus?

Many students feel that they and Tufts students in general, do not know enough about Tufts’ traditions and history. “I think that Tufts in general doesn’t do a good job of teaching people about trivia or engaging them in Tufts traditions,” junior Erin Baldinger said. “People don’t always take an interest in Tufts traditions — it’s too bad.”

For instance, the cannon is a Tufts landmark that students often pass several times a day, but most can only speculate on the intricate story behind it. Some students cite that they’ve heard that it is pointed at Harvard. Others think that it was involved in a past war.

Students’ lack of knowledge about the stories behind campus landmarks is widespread: many admit that they do not know as much as they would like. “I know a little bit, but not as much as what I feel like I should know,” Baldinger said.

Other students are more confident in their knowledge of the campus. “I think I could give a tour, maybe not tell you how many books are in the library, but I think I know a fair amount,” senior Flori Engler said.

Interest and knowledge levels may simply vary from individual to individual. “I think it depends on the student,” Engler said. “I think most people, if they don’t know about Tufts traditions, have [created] their own traditions.”

Snider agreed that the knowledge level depends on the student. “I think most people know a little bit, like about the cannon, but there are some people who know a lot — every trivia question,” she said. “I think they [Tufts administration] could emphasize traditions more. People should be proud to be at Tufts.”

“Tufts students don’t know about Tufts trivia. I don’t think it’s correlated with a lack of school spirit — the spirit just is not grounded in anything,” junior Alexis Gerber said. “I don’t know how we could convey traditions, you have to know them to pass them on.”

Bowen Gate
You kiss and what…?!
Alexis Gerber, junior: “If you stand under it and kiss someone, you’ll get married.”
Choloe Snider, sophomore:”I don’t know [who Bowen is] — maybe it was someone who kissed under it and got married?”
An alumnus’ gift
Bowen Gate is actually named for Tufts alum Eugene Bucklin Bowen (Class of 1876). Bowen gave several gifts to Tufts; along with Bowen Gate, the Bowen Lions outside of Barnum Hall and the Bowen Chimes in Goddard Chapel are his donations.

What you think you know…:
Snider: “I know it’s a replica of some cannon used in some war.”
Erin Baldinger, junior: “It was donated by somebody a long time ago. … I don’t really know much about it. I know about the tradition of painting it, though.”
Flori Engler, senior: “You paint it at night and you have to stay out and guard it.”
and the real deal:
The cannon was given to Tufts as a gift by the city of Medford and the Medford Historical Society in 1956. It is a replica of a cannon taken from the deck of the USS Constitution. The tradition of painting the cannon began in 1977, when students painted in protest of a controversial honorary degree.

The Rez
What’s in a name?
Engler: “It’s that little coffee shop in the campus center. Maybe it stands for Residential Cafe?”
Snider:”It’s named after a reservoir. There used to be a reservoir where the Residential Quad is.”
A reservoir on the Hill
The reservoir was located where the Residential Quad currently is and was constructed to provide water for Boston, Chelsea, Charlestown and Somerville. It was featured in several Tufts traditions of its time: dates made at the reservoir could not be broken, and a senior asking for a date at the top of the pump house could not be refused.

The reservoir was used as an emergency water supply from 1914 to 1944 when the plot of land was sold to Tufts… for all of $1. It was drained and filled in 1948 and used as a parking lot until Carmichael was built in 1950.

Library scroll
Decoding a mystery
Gerber: “I always thought it was a piece of artwork that was supposed to represent what is in the library.”
Baldinger: “It’s something in binary code, but I always wonder what it is.”
Engler: “It’s a poem about the library in binary code. There’s a plaque on the wall that says what it’s about.”
The sculpture was installed in 1997 and was designed by then-Museum school students Sarah Hollis Perry and Rachel Perry Welty. It is a binary-code translation of the poem “New Eyes Each Year” by Philip Larkin. A translation of the poem is located on a plaque under the sculpture.


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