The College of William and Mary is a place of tradition. Becoming a member of this community means that you will be bombarded with stories and events that all bear significance to the College. But to truly experience all that the College has to offer, students must take the opportunity to actively participate in these traditions. These traditions form the bonds that hold the Tribe together.
Most of the traditions at the College encourage unity among students. Look at Convocation. Every student is excited the welcome a new class to their alma mater. Suddenly, the freshmen are transformed into movie stars — and everyone loves them. This makes up for all of those times when freshmen try to register for classes, only to realize that everything except a handful of 8 a.m. classes is full. At the Yule Log ceremony, the students are once again united as they toss their holly leaves into the fire, hoping for good luck. The feeling of togetherness this moment creates continues well past the ceremony and into the delightful days and merry nights when students move into Earl Gregg Swem Library to in squeeze just a few more hours of studying before finals.
Of course, some traditions at the College are more infamous than others. For students in serious need of a break — or excitement — there is the triathlon. While this is sure to give students a thrill and a shot of adrenaline — one that did not come from drinking cans of Red Bull — it builds friendships in the form of an inside joke. After all, nothing says “best friends forever” like jumping into a pond full of feces.
As new students, when you embark upon the great pilgrimage that is a late-night Wawa run in a desperate search for food, remember all the people who have made that trip before you — which you will probably have plenty of time to do when you are waiting in a gigantic line at 2 a.m.
And yet, is unity really that important on a college campus? As Jon Stewart ’84 pointed out in his 2004 commencement address, “The real world is not surrounded by a three-foot brick wall.” It is a cut-throat world, as many high school students discover when they are applying to colleges. My answer to this question is that unity has come to be an essential aspect to the College because it defines us as members of the Tribe: Students at the College actually do care about their peers.
As members of the Tribe, we are unified by our love of traditions and malarial swamps. Take time to enjoy all of the experiences that come with being a member of the Tribe, because our four years will pass by more quickly than one would think during those first few days of orientation. Take time to pose for pictures with statues of Thomas Jefferson, and try not to get injured when you trip over bricks. These moments provide a feeling of collective empowerment that stretches far beyond graduation. Pittsburg Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin ’95 described the College the best in his comments in an Alumni Association article on the football center dedication, commenting, “This is an awesome place.”