Web Exclusives:PawPlus

September 2002

This fall PAW will feature excerpts from Elizabeth Greenberg '02's senior thesis about Princeton rituals and student traditions. Greenberg, who plans to publish a book based on her thesis, seeks further anecdotes and memories from alumni and hopes these excerpts will prompt readers to write to her about their experiences. Readers can email her at eagreenb@alumni.princeton.edu or write to her c/o PAW — Princeton Alumni Weekly, 194 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08542.

Elizabeth Greenberg ’02 on her project, as mentioned in PAW From the Archives:

September 2002

Dear Alumni,

Hundreds of books have been written about Princeton University, but minimal attention is devoted to the subject of student life. Even less space is dedicated to student traditions, though these spirited events constitute many of the most colorful and amusing anecdotes in the university's history. When described in official literature, rites of passage from freshmen hazing to the Nude Olympics are usually represented by a picture and short paragraph, leaving many fundamental issues unresolved: Why did the traditions start? Why did they end? How did they change over time, and why?

Last year, I attempted to answer these questions in my senior thesis. I wrote about four notable Princeton rituals that began in the nineteenth century — freshmen hazing or "horsing," the Cane Spree, stealing the Nassau Hall bell clapper, and the Poler's Recess — as well as the recent phenomenon of the Nude Olympics. During the course of my research, I interviewed and emailed hundreds of alumni who experienced and influenced these events. Their overwhelmingly supportive and informative responses formed the backbone of my research, and I once again thank everyone who has contributed so far. Now, I am continuing my work so it may be published, and I need your help.

For the next few months, the PAW will print abbreviated excerpts of my thesis, which I hope will revive memories and prompt you to contribute your own anecdotes so they can become part of an accurate and balanced historical record. Anything you can tell me, no matter how trivial, may be useful. Please contact me at eagreenb@alumni.princeton.edu or care of the PAW mailing address. I will assume your response signifies permission to fully quote or cite recollections unless told otherwise, in which case I will respect requests for anonymity.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers and locomotives,

Elizabeth Greenberg '02


September 11, 2002:


Hazing was a part of Princeton student life since the earliest days of the College of New Jersey, though the practice had multiple names and forms over the years. Sophomores taught freshmen their place in the social hierarchy by forcing them to perform degrading acts, awakening "newys" with cold water, head shaving and occasional physical abuse. Though hazing was technically forbidden by the twentieth century, the nearly identical practice of "horsing" rose in its place. After horsing was similarly abolished, freshmen were still subjected to extensive restrictions on their behavior and dress, such as mandatory "dink" wearing. Though these customs eased up during the Second World War, postwar classes attempted to revive some of the traditions, resulting in "dink wars" and a revival of head shaving. By the mid-1960s, however, freshmen hazing fell out of popularity and practice.

How were you hazed when you came to Princeton? What was your view toward restricted behaviors, dink wearing and head shaving?