There’s no denying it — students at the College of William and Mary love traditions. From the very unofficial triathlon to the very official Convocation, traditions play a huge role in students’ experiences at the College. At a college that celebrated its 319th birthday just this past weekend, students cannot help but be connected to the past. We are excited that Charter Day is being added to the College’s long list of traditions and hopeful that it will boost school spirit.
We attend the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and the celebration of our Royal Charter seems like a no-brainer for the history TWAMPs who make up a large portion of our student population. So while it may have been created just to add another tradition, we can all at least enjoy the fact that it’s fun and classically William and Mary.
Last year, Charter Day received mixed reviews. Students thought the 318th birthday celebration was too political and too forced, even in spite of the resounding success of The Roots concert. This year, however, the celebration was more organized and more prestigious. Students who turned out to see former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates invested as Chancellor of the College and receive the robe which he described as a “unique blend of medieval academic regalia and Lady Gaga” were not disappointed. Gates delivered a speech that was humorous, inspirational, well crafted and well received by students.
The celebrations were not limited to Friday, as students packed into William and Mary Hall on Saturday night to attend Third Eye Blind’s performance. Lead singer Stephan Jenkins rocked the stage and provided students with an exciting and engaging show.
The student body’s enthusiasm for Charter Day made the celebration feel like a real tradition. The events allowed students to loosen up during the time of year that, frankly, isn’t too exciting. The new tradition encourages the College to bring big names, while celebrating something completely unique to the College. Which other schools are celebrating their 319th birthday and their Royal Charter?
The weekend also serves as an example of what we want future celebrations to look like: Although past commencement speakers have given insightful and inspirational speeches, we haven’t had a big-name Commencement speaker since Tom Brokaw in 2009. We hope this will pave the way for more prominent speakers to come not only for Charter Day, but for Commencement as well.
Charter Day brought about a surge in spirit to the College community. The statues were covered in green and gold, campus food improved for a split second, and the students on campus had something about which they could be excited. As students, we’re always looking for another excuse to celebrate, and this is what Charter Day really provides. We applaud the students and administration who worked to make Charter Day success, and we’re eager to see what’s in store.