Winning football team, no ‘panty raids’ surprise alumni

Nathalie Tadena

Alumni returning to Northwestern for Homecoming last weekend may have noticed a lack of panty raids, marshmallow throwing and dry alcohol policies.

For many of them, NU has become a different campus, with an increasingly diverse student body, new traditions, and, at the very least, a better performing football team.

“We won eight games in my four years in college and this season we’ve already won six games – that’s definitely changed,” said Kenn Ruby, Weinberg ’93. “We used to bring marshmallows to throw them at the football team, that was how we passed the time since we certainly weren’t watching football.”

Dave Owen, Weinberg ’93, was surprised students didn’t tear down the goal post after the team’s victory, a tradition he said was popular when he attended NU.

“We were 0-11 my freshman year, so whenever we scored a point, the whole student section would cheer ‘Rose Bowl,'” Owen said.

Returning graduates participated in various class reunion events over the weekend, including reunion parties Saturday night at Norris University Center and a farewell brunch for the class of 1958, celebrating its 50th anniversary Sunday morning at the John Evans Alumni Center.

The class of 1993 spent Saturday night reconnecting with old friends in Louis Room at Norris as pop music from the ’80s and ’90s conjured feelings of nostalgia. Entertainment even included the live band Left on Red, apparently a class favorite 15 years ago.

In the ’80s, Norris housed an on-campus bar, which was controversial because Evanston was a “completely dry” town at the time, said Leslie Allen, Medill ’83. To get alcohol, students often ventured to Paulina Street in Chicago on the weekends, she said.

Even when Evanston lifted its alcohol ban, alumni said there were only two bars off campus.

Students from the class of 1958 didn’t even have their own student center. They congregated at a coffee shop in the basement of Scott Hall. The graduates, many of them now in their 70s, spent much of Sunday morning reminiscing about traditions long gone.

Attendees could recall when female and male dorms were segregated on campus. Decades ago, females lived on South Campus, primarily in Shepard Residential College and Willard Residential College while men resided on North Campus. Male students would participate in an annual “panty raid” every spring by sneaking into girls’ dorms to steal undergarments.

“You could find panties and brassieres hanging from chandeliers in the fraternity houses,” said Carolyn Robson, SESP ’58. “The dean was most horrified that men actually could get into the girls’ rooms.”

Also in the ’50s, female students were subject to dress codes. They could only attend dinner in a skirt and were not permitted to wear Bermuda shorts, longer shorts considered reserved by today’s standards, to class. Girls who chose shorts would cover themselves up by wearing trench coats to class, Robson said.

Alumni also noted students honored the Rock very differently 50 years ago.

“The Rock is painted so often you can’t tell what kind of rock it is,” said Casey Bukro, Medill ’58. “The Rock was a place where people met but it’s not being treated with the respect it was treated with in my days on campus. You don’t respect the rock by painting it all the time.”

Even the city of Evanston has seen its share of major changes, including the development of chain stores and a bigger movie theater, she said.

Despite the changes, alumni still feel at home when they come back.

“I can just walk around on campus and get back into my old routine,” said Matthew Savard, McCormick ’93. “It’s like I’m a student again.”

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