As the newest class of freshmen filed into the Sir Christopher Wren Building during the Opening Convocation ceremony, upperclassmen standing on the other side of the building resisted the strong urge to yell at their newest classmates “You are going the wrong way!” While traditionally freshmen have walked from the Sunken Garden toward Colonial Williamsburg, this year the ceremony took place in reverse.
According to a campus-wide email from College President Taylor Reveley sent out earlier that week, the change was initiated because the tradition of unfurling the new freshman class banner had been compromised. The west balcony facing the Sunken Garden was deemed unusable, causing a shift in the entire ceremony.
After the initial reason, Reveley pointed out that it may make more sense for the ceremony to take place in reverse because the freshmen would be walking toward the campus as they enter the College community and walking out toward Colonial Williamsburg and the rest of the world as they graduate. The change does make sense. The idea behind Convocation is to welcome the freshmen into our warm, Tribe community arms, and what better way to do that than by high-fiving them all the way down the brick path toward the Sunken Garden, where a band and dinner celebration await?
One small detail, like hanging the freshman class banner during Convocation, can shift an entire tradition. Because an aspect of the greater tradition was compromised, we were forced to view the entire ceremony in a different light, and after looking at it again, Reveley and whoever else makes important decisions about sacred College traditions realized it would just be better to turn the whole thing around. Permanently.
Of course, the classes that have walked through the Wren Building toward Ancient Campus as freshmen will still walk toward Old Campus on Commencement, Reveley affirmed in his email. Traditions at the College are sacred because of the heavy superstition they carry with them, and sticking the remaining three classes in a never-ending loop of exiting the College the same way they came in won’t work. The old tradition stands for classes of 2013, 2014 and 2015, but the class of 2016 and every class from here on out will enter the College in a way that just seems to flow better.
The decision to alter this tradition may seem minute to some students. After all, when your College has so many traditions, how can you be expected to remember and care about the details of every single one? But Convocation not only marks the beginning of the academic year, it is the greatest and biggest welcome we give to the newest members of our community. As a freshman, it was the moment I started to believe I was at home in Williamsburg. When a tradition with such meaning can be altered and everyone can just go along with it, high fives and happiness included, we can see that flexibility wins over confinement when dealing with the meaning behind our traditions and that traditions do not have to continue exactly as they have in the past. The fact that we can change our traditions so easily speaks to the strange combination of old and new interwoven throughout our campus. With ancient traditions come modern compromises and that is a quality I am more than happy to share with the new members of the Tribe.
Ellie Kaufman is a Confusion Corner columnist and decided against warning the incoming class that they were going the wrong way.