Compared to the freshmen of a century ago, this year's class of 2012 has it relatively easy.
Unlike their forbearers, they face no threat of violence or hazing if they forget to wear "freshmen beanies," walk on "sacred spaces," or are seen with a member of the opposite sex - just three of the many regulations listed on the broadsheets on display at Van Pelt Library's exhibit, "Oh Fresh! Sophomore Proclamations of Freshman Rules, 1866-WWII."
The display features documents culled from Penn's Archive, and the collection of primary contributor and exhibition curator Peter Zinman, who documents the nearly universal freshman-sophomore rivalry at campuses across the country between 1866 and World War II.
Posters listing freshman regulations pervaded colleges including the University of Michigan, the University of Vermont and the University of Pennsylvania.
Although the posters at the Oh Fresh! exhibit come from a number of institutions, they display common themes and motifs, including references to infantile behavior and "cartoonish violence."
Freshmen would often vandalize the posters or make retaliatory broadsheets directed against the sophomores, although these were usually cruder in nature, according to exhibition designer and coordinator Andrea Gottschalk.
Punishments for infractions by freshmen ranged from "being molassessed and feathered at Penn State to being dunked in a river, having half their head shaved, or made to wear women's clothes" by their sophomore counterparts, Gottschalk said.
Web coordinator and University Archives historian Mary McConaghy added that the rivalry at Penn was expressed through these broadsheets, inter-class sports competitions and class fights.
Two particularly vicious fights were the Pants Fight, in which freshmen tried to remove sophomores' pants, and the Bowl Fight, a complicated game that revolved around a wooden bowl with rules that changed every year.
In 1916 the Bowl Fight, a ticketed event attend by alumni, was discontinued after freshman William Lifson was trampled to death in the mud during the fight, explained McConaghy.
Lifson did, however, manage to touch the bowl, a goal of the game.
Zinman received his first Oh Fresh! poster from his father as an undergraduate at Dartmouth.
He only began collecting posters seriously five years ago when he realized the broadsheets were not specific to his alma mater, but rather a forgotten yet ubiquitous part of higher education's history.
At a reception last night, Zinman explained that he currently has the largest - and possibly only - collection of posters of this sort.
College freshman Kambiri Cox, who came to see what all the fuss was about, thought the posters were "funny but intimidating."
Her friend Angela Feria, also a College freshman, agreed. "Today, many people don't make a big deal about class rivalries."
Although the tradition died out as universities grew and cracked down on the violence, this integral part of Penn's past will be on display until Dec. 19.Comments powered by Disqus
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