Brown University traditions
- 1 Opening convocation
- 2 Commencement
- 3 Josiah S. Carberry
- 4 Midnight organ recital
- 5 Spring weekend
- 6 Naked Donut Run
- 7 Notable parties
- 8 References
|This section requires expansion. (December 2007)|
The Van Wickle Gates, the grand entrance to campus, are opened only twice a year. At the beginning of the academic year, the incoming freshmen process in through the gates, and are welcomed by the University president in a convocation on the Main Green. On their way to the Main Green, they are applauded by fellow Brown students and professors, and greeted by the University President. They then proceed to the Main Green where a convocation speech is held.
Another important part of commencement weekend is Campus Dance, which is a university wide dance held on all three greens: College Green, the Main Green, and Lincoln Field.
Similarly, the gates are opened for Commencement on graduation weekend, this time to let the graduates out after a general graduation ceremony on campus. During the ceremony of the 2010 graduation, Nelson Mandela and Morgan Freeman received an honorary PhD from Brown University—Mandela chose to be represented, but American actor Freeman was present.
It is also the second time in a Brown student's college career that they are supposed to walk through the gates. The graduates follow a procession around the main green preceded by alums who have come back, eventually ending once they pass through the gates.
According to the Encyclopedia Brunoniana, it is considered bad luck to pass through Van Wickle's gates more than the required two times. Thus, some seniors who have been accepted to Brown's graduate school, have been known to pass through the gates backward, so as not to tempt fate. Undergraduates who participate in this procession, such as members of the Brown University Band, often cross their fingers (or other body parts) when passing through.
Each spring, for over two centuries, faculty and the graduating class proceed through the gate and down the hill, in academic dress, to the grounds of the First Baptist Meeting House (erected in 1774, "for the publick Worship of Almighty GOD and also for holding Commencement in") to publicly confer the bachelor's degree. There, the president of the university employs the following formulary:
"Socii honorandi: Juvenes quos ad gradum Baccalaurei idoneos comperimus, vobis praesentamus, et eos ad hunc gradum promovere liceat rogamus. Candidati ad gradum Baccalaurei auscultabunt. Auctoritate mihi commissa vos ad gradum Baccalaueri admitto, omniaque jura ac privilegia ad hunc gradum pertinentia, vobis concedo. In huius rei testimonium diplomata vestris conlegis in Collegii Gramine tradam."
Translation: "Honorable fellows: The youths whom we have found to be qualified for the bachelor's degree we now present to you, and we ask that they may come forward for the awarding of the degree. May the candidates for the bachelor's degree listen attentively. Through the authority entrusted to me I admit you to the bachelor's degree, and all the rights and privileges associated with this degree I confer upon you. In testimony thereof I will presently deliver your diplomas to your representatives on the College Green." 
Josiah S. Carberry
One of Brown's most notable traditions is keeping alive the spirit and accomplishments of Josiah S. Carberry, the fictional Professor of Psychoceramics (the equally fictional study of cracked pots), who was born on a University Hall billboard in 1929. He is the namesake of "Josiah's", a University-run snackbar, "Josiah", the University's electronic library catalog, and the chemical stock room in the GeoChem building.
Midnight organ recital
Every year at midnight on Halloween, students cram into Sayles Hall to listen to the University organist play a selection of death-themed music on the largest remaining Hutchings-Votey organ in the world. The main program of musical selections are always followed by a masterful performance of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
Starting in 1950, Brown replaced the traditional Junior Week and Junior Prom, which were discontinued during World War II, with Spring Weekend, which featured athletic contests and dances.
Musical and comedy acts
Other events and features
In recent years, Spring Weekend has featured a number of other recurring events:
On the Thursday before Spring Weekend, the Special Events Committee organizes a carnival featuring free food, bouncy castles, mechanical bulls, and other carnival fare. The Sigma Chi fraternity has also begun the tradition of placing a large water slide on Hughes Court in front of the main dining hall, the Sharpe Refectory.
|This section is empty. You can help by adding to it. (April 2010)|
Spagfest is an afternoon all-you-can-eat spaghetti, garlic bread, and wine party held by the Zeta Delta Xi co-ed fraternity at the start of Spring Weekend.
On the Sunday of Spring Weekend, for over 20 years, musician Dave Binder has played a concert on Wriston Quad featuring oldies, contemporary hits, and children's songs in a sing-along format. This event is organized each year by Brown's Greek Council.
E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex
The tumultuous tenure of former Brown President E. Gordon Gee has been commemorated annually since 2007 with the "E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex," a collection of portable toilets that appears during Spring Weekend. The Complex is the only feature at Brown named in Gee's honor.
Naked Donut Run
At the end of each semester, towards the end of the Reading Period that precedes exams, a group of students walks naked through student libraries such as the Rock, the SciLi, and the CIT and offer donuts to students who are studying in an attempt to alleviate stress. The Fall 2010 run was interrupted by security guards who were apparently unaware of the tradition, but Brown's Department of Public Safety has since indicated that there will be no attempt to stop the run in the future.
A variety of groups at Brown, both organized and not, throw regularly occurring naked parties. Most are distinctly anti-sexual, while others may not take as strong of a stance. Most notably, every year, the Brown Association for Cooperative Housing (BACH) throws an invitation-only "naked party" where all guests remove their clothes upon entry. The hosts aim to create a comfortable setting where people of all body types can celebrate the naked human body. In contrast to the sexually suggestive dancing that can be found at many college parties, dancing at a "naked party" is paradoxically much more tame and devoid of physical contact.
SexPowerGod is an annual Fall party, thrown by the Brown Queer Alliance in the university's Sayles Hall, though in 2006 the venue changed to Alumnae Hall and again to Andrews Hall in 2010. SexPowerGod, while drawing a large segment of Brown and RISD's heterosexual population, also draws a large gay crowd from a number of other New England universities. It was cancelled indefinitely by the Brown Queer Alliance in 2014.
The event is promoted across campus with an often controversial poster and flyer campaign. The posters took on a more graphic feel in 2004, depicting sex acts and BDSM. Publicity featured actual Brown students for the first time the next year. Tickets are sold for $20. The first set of tickets for 2005 was sold out in ten minutes, a line of nearly 200 people remaining. Admittance to the event is limited by the 590-person capacity of Alumnae Hall. Until 2005, tickets came as temporary tattoos that were applied on the body. In 2005, some clever students gained admittance to the party with fake tickets, made from scanned tattoos printed on mailing labels. Since the 2005 debacle, the tickets have been replaced by a guest list to avoid fake tickets and resale of tickets.
In 2009, tickets were sold for $20 each over a period of three days. Ticket sales began at 9 AM, but students who want a chance to buy them typically spend the night in Alumnae Hall. This tradition of camping out to get tickets helps increase the anticipation for the party and guarantees that only those students who have a deep desire to attend are present.
One source of SexPowerGod's fame and notoriety is its unique use of multimedia. Traditionally, partiers have been provided with identifying numbers upon entry, and a large projector screen publicly relays messages by number, typically comments on costumes and propositions for sex.
On November 14, 2005, SexPowerGod was featured on Bill O'Reilly's nationally televised, Fox News show The O'Reilly Factor. Jesse Watters, a producer of the show, gained admission to the November 12 party and shot footage of the attendees.The following day, O'Reilly talked about the party on his radio show, The Radio Factor, saying, "You would have been safer in Baghdad than on the campus of Brown University," and calling Brown president Ruth Simmons and other university leaders "pinheads." On campus, student reaction to the broadcast was generally marked by outrage at what happens at the party mingled with pride at being featured by O'Reilly.
On September 22, 2014, the Queer Alliance announced that the 2014 iteration of the party would be cancelled, and that its status for the future would be determined by the organization's future leadership boards. In a statement, the board announced that the party had diverted from its original intent of "a celebration of sex positivity for queer people, a celebration of body positivity, a safe space free of assault and unwanted contact and a space open to all with a queer focus” and had instead become a "violent space."
- Brown University Admissions : Traditions
- Mitchell, Martha. (1993). "Spring Weekend." Encyclopedia Brunoniana
- Brown Concert Agency: A History of Spring Weekend[dead link]
- "BCA prepares for Spring Weekend" Brown Daily Herald April 21, 2005
- "OK Go and Edan final acts added to Spring Weekend lineup" Jonathan Sidhu. Brown Daily Herald April 4, 2006
- "Ted Leo & the Pharmacists to open for Wilco at Spring Weekend" Jonathan Sidhu. Brown Daily Herald March 15, 2006
- "Barbecues, block parties and campus events make Spring Weekend 2007 a success" Lydia Gidwitz and Lindsey Meyers. Brown Daily Herald April 23, 2007
- "Crazy and loud, weekend concerts generally a hit" Caroline Sedano. Brown Daily Herald April 14, 2008
- "A campus mainstay, Trolleys soon to leave this station" Franklin Kanin. Brown Daily Herald April 18, 2008
- "Sunny, warm Spring Weekend delights" Sydney Ember. Brown Daily Herald April 20, 2009
- "Snoop and sun fill Spring Weekend with fun" Suzannah Weiss. Brown Daily Herald April 26, 2010
- "Alright, Spring Weekend is a mastermind..." Blog Daily Herald March 22, 2012
-  Blog Daily Herald March 22, 2012
-  Blog Daily Herald March 11, 2014
-  Blog Daily Herald March 16, 2015
- "High On Life" Fred Milgrim. Post- Magazine (Brown Daily Herald) April 22, 2010
- "Creative Control" Collen Brogan. Post- Magazine (Brown Daily Herald) April 17, 2008
- Brown A-Z 2009-2010 by post- Magazine Staff, post- Magazine, September 4, 2009. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
- Danielle Cerny Brown Daily Herald. November 15th, 2004.
- "From A To Z: Your Unofficial Guide to Brownspeak" Brown Daily Herald September 3rd, 2004.
- "Across Campuses Groups Bare It All" Danielle Cerny Brown Daily Herald. November 15th, 2004.
- "Black Tie Optional" Rachel Aviv New York Times. January 7, 2007.
- Promoting a Dance Party One Pile of Naked Students At A Time November 10th, 2005. Brown Daily Herald
- "Chaos and Management Failures Marred Sex Power God" Eric Beck. Brown Daily Herald April 27, 2006