A Deed for Our Old Mother

Soon after packing into the front row of the stands, we began to plot the logistics of the rush. As the game slowly progressed and the prospect of victory over Harvard dwindled, our determination to revive the tradition and generate a spark of excitement for ourselves and for the crowd only intensified.

Soon after packing into the front row of the stands, we began to plot the logistics of the rush. As the game slowly progressed and the prospect of victory over Harvard dwindled, our determination to revive the tradition and generate a spark of excitement for ourselves and for the crowd only intensified.

Editor’s Note: I penned the following essay after my own first Dartmouth Homecoming, as a freshman in the Class of 2014. As it happens, it was my very first submission to The Dartmouth Review, so I hope you’ll find it as relevant today as it was back in Old 10F.

Try initiating a conversation with a friend from off campus on the subject of the Dartmouth, noting our wealth of opportunities, uniquely rich history, and strong commitment to teaching. Nine times out of ten you will be rebutted with equally passionate criticisms of the workload, the weather, and our remote location. To be fair, even we who ultimately chose to enroll here most likely dedicated a good amount of thought to these same negative aspects before our arrival in Hanover. It is a wonder, then, to note the speed and boldness of our transformation from hesitant prospees into sturdy sons and daughters of Old Dartmouth. And although we may not have recognized our metamorphosis as it occurred, it is important to understand that it didn’t happen on its own. Our affection for the College is a direct result of our deep and immediate immersion in the many ancient student traditions that define the Dartmouth experience. We create and perpetuate all that is worthwhile about our school because if stripped of our customs, nothing will remain other than the tough schedules, scathing winters, and lackluster setting of which we were once afraid.

It was in this mindset that I chose to rush Memorial Field during halftime of the 2010 Homecoming football game, and thereby created for myself what will long remain a favorite memory of my experience at Dartmouth.

The four fellow freshmen with whom I collaborated — Reed Wommack ‘14, Jay Dumanian ‘14, Sebastian DeLuca ‘14, and Freddie Fletcher ‘14 — had all arrived at the same conclusion as I had in the days leading up to the game. Soon after packing into the front row of the stands, we began to plot the logistics of the rush. As the game slowly progressed and the prospect of victory over Harvard dwindled, our determination to revive the tradition and generate a spark of excitement for ourselves and for the crowd only intensified.

When halftime finally arrived, the crowd began to heckle and the Crimson band took the field. We hardly hesitated before breaking from the stands and taking off in a line across the field toward the Harvard–occupied side. Wommack, at the point of the charge, quickly snatched the Harvard cheerleaders’ capital “D” sign (used to spell out their college’s name) in accordance with an idea we’d hatched to reclaim the precious symbol of the College from our opponents. As we made off with the prize, however, we found ourselves trailed by members of our opposition’s band, one of whom overtook Wommack and recaptured the letter. In a state of heightened intensity, and with a determination not to be outdone, DeLuca and I wrestled with the Harvard student for possession of the sign until an athletic security officer arrived to put an end to our struggle and return our “D” to Harvard.

Though we returned to the stadium exhausted and empty-handed, our spirits were lifted by the immediate and overwhelmingly positive response that we received from alumni we encountered along the way. In the absence of a win from the football team, and under a dreary sky, we had revived a storied College tradition; only one ’12 and not a single ’13 had rushed the field in the years before, but now the continuity seemed assured.

“Our motivation was well beyond goading. We had prior intent; we had motive; we had a cause. And so, damn the consequences, we ran to gain a few feet against those who favor change for change’s sake; we ran to strike a blow against the administrative Leviathan,” recalled Alston Ramsay ’04, my predecessor of ten years, in an article published in The Dartmouth Review in 2000. While I hope you’ll agree that Ramsay may have overreached in his choice of words to describe the act, I’d say that his description does not go far enough in its justification of its continuance. Not only must we continue to rush the field as an act of defiance against the administration’s efforts to dismantle the rich culture that Dartmouth men and women have spent centuries constructing, but also to contradict the common assertion of misguided students that we ought to reevaluate our customs, and eliminate or reform those with no “functional” purpose. Many of our country’s most sacred patriotic traditions — from launching fireworks on July 4th to flying fighter jets over sporting events to commemorate our armed forces — cannot be said to produce any tangible benefit to our nation.

But just as Americans are moved by the underlying meaning of these displays, I hope that Dartmouth students are inspired by the sight of their freshman peers who have accepted their role as stewards of tradition, willing to risk arrest to demonstrate to the entire student body exactly how much Dartmouth means to them.