Penn has formed quite a few traditions in its nearly three centuries of existence. From midnight screams to outdoor concerts, there are plenty of opportunities each year for students to get involved in the Penn community and celebrate with their peers.
No alcohol, no problem. When Franklin Field banned alcohol in the 1970s, Penn students vowed to preserve their time-honored tradition of toasting and downing their drinks at the end of the third quarter of football games, a practice inspired by the song “Drink a Highball.” Students opted for a literal interpretation of proposing a “toast to dear old Penn” by throwing actual pieces of toast onto the field.
The tradition is still alive today, sometimes necessitating the use of a “toast zamboni” to remove the thousands of pieces of toast thrown onto the field.
At midnight on the night before the first ECON 001 midterm, hundreds of freshmen gather on the Lower Quad balcony to let out a cathartic scream. Students enjoy loud music, dancing, and plenty of snacks as they transform their test-day jitters into a collective howl.
College senior Elena Hoffman explains what the Econ Scream means to a lot of students.
“For many students, the first ECON 001 midterm also happens to be their first college exam at Penn. I think the Econ Scream is a great way to remind other freshmen that they’re not going through this alone.”
College sophomore Bryce Nguyen enjoyed participating in the tradition when he was a freshman.
“I loved Econ Scream because having a freshman event in the Quad was such a great experience, and it was nice to take a quick study break and just go right outside my dorm and relax for a few minutes.”
Are you a new student? Check out some of our other stories designed just for you, from a list of the biggest controversies on campus last semester, to a guide on professors you should know before the first day of school.
Glee Club Valentines
Each Valentine's Day, Penn Glee Club members split up into quartets and deliver singing valentines across campus. These musically inclined students spread messages of friendship and love through performances of barber shop classics between classes. All of the proceeds from last Valentine’s Day went toward funding free health screenings in medically underserved communities in Philadelphia.
Celebrated since the 1970s, this annual music festival held near the end of spring features carnival attractions, lots of food, performances by student groups, and a nighttime concert.
Many view Fling as a time for Penn students to come together as a community and celebrate for the sake of celebrating.
R&B singer Miguel and rapper J.I.D performed at the concert this past spring. Students protested Miguel's performance because of a 2017 sexual assault allegation against the singer. The Social Planning and Events Committee, however, said they were unaware of the allegation when they booked Miguel, and stood by their choice.
Although Fling used to last two days and occur in the Quad, in 2018 the festivities were shortened to one day and moved to Penn Park. Some students were unhappy with this change. Wharton junior Gowtham Balaji felt that “Fling being moved [from the Quad] took the fun out of it being more compact and communal.”
Hey Day marks the official “moving-up” in class ranks from junior to senior. Juniors parade down Locust Walk wearing matching red T-shirts, brandishing canes, and biting into styrofoam hats for this rite of passage, which has been celebrated since 1916.
Last spring, the Class Board of 2021 launched U-Night, Penn's newest tradition, to bring the sophomore class together. Sophomores received free t-shirts and lanterns and participated in a ceremony where they were asked to turn on the lanterns for symbolic milestones, such as meeting a professor they look up to or joining a student group that pushed them outside their comfort zone. Over 1000 sophomores attended the inaugural event, surpassing Class Board 2021's expectations.
“It’s a really cute tradition, [and] it’s fun that we get to be part of the first class to do it,” College junior Kelli Jackson said. “I think seeing the [questions] where everyone’s [lantern] was lit up was pretty cool.”