First-Year Student Traditions IntroductionIn the fall of 1871 Syracuse University admitted its first students: 34 men and 7 women. Today first-year students number in the thousands. Regardless of class size, their experience has always been one of acclimation and excitement. This time has long been steeped in tradition, helping new students to feel part of campus life.
Freshman BeaniesStarting in the 1890s, first-year students were required to wear green or orange caps known as a beanies or lids during their first semester to distinguish themselves from their upper-class peers. When told by an upper-class student to “Tip it, Frosh,” a first-year student was expected to tip his or her beanie in respect. While at times demeaning, beanies did help build class camaraderie. A group of upper-class students known as the Goon Squad enforced the wearing of beanies. Transgressors repeatedly caught without their lids were punished through public humiliation at the Penn State Pep Rally. By the end of the 1960s though, the tradition of the beanie began to fade out.
The Goon SquadEstablished in the 1940s, the Goon Squad has historically served as more than just beanie enforcers. They were also known for helping bewildered first-year students adjust to college life and spreading school spirit throughout campus. Today the Goon Squad helps first-year students move into their dorms.
Over the years, students have easily identified Goon Squad members by their Jiminy Cricket buttons, elaborately decorated hats, or T-shirts.
Other First-Year Student TraditionsOrientation and convocation are among the more enduring traditions that first-year students experience today. They also participate in Home to the Dome, where Otto’s Army teaches the newest members of the campus community cheers and other spirit traditions.
In the early decades of the University, upper-class students, especially sophomores, relished putting first-year students in their place. But students also have been responsible for ensuring certain campus traditions were handed down from one class to another.
Handbooks provided first-year students with helpful hints and rules, including traditions, curfews, office locations, and songs and cheers for football games.