A Deed for our Old Mother

Mene (pictured on the right in the ’14 shirt) and others rushed the field at this year’s Homecoming, breaking a long dry spell for that tradition.Initiate a conversation with a friend from off campus on the subject of the College, touching on the benefits of its wealth of opportunities, uniquely rich history, and strong commitment to teaching, and nine times out of ten you will be rebutted with equally passionate criticisms of the workload, the weather, and our remote location. Although in what has been for many of us a brief period of time at Dartmouth we have nearly universally acquired an unshakeable pride in our school and the town in which it stands, it is remarkable to note that even we who ultimately chose to enroll here most likely dedicated a good amount of thought to same negative aspects before our arrival in Hanover. It is a wonder 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 did not 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 is with this truth in mind that I chose to rush Memorial Field during the 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, Jay Dumanian, Sebastian DeLuca, and Freddie Fletcher — had all arrived at much 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 dwindled, our determination to revive the tradition and generate a spark of excitement for ourselves and for our school 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 Harvardoccupied side. Wommack, at the point of the charge, quickly seized the Harvard cheerleaders’ capital “D” sign (used to spell out their college’s name) in accordance with an idea hatched recently by Dumanian to reclaim a precious symbol of the College from our dreaded 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, and both Fletcher and DeLuca fondly described similar congratulations from alumni and students in the following hours and days. In the absence of a win from the football team and under a dreary sky, we had revived a storied College tradition, and potentially created a new one: it is my hope that chants of “Steal the D” at competitions against Harvard will someday take their place alongside hollers of “Touch the fire” and “Rush the field” at Homecoming in the Dartmouth annals.

“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 believe Ramsay may have overreached in his choice of language to describe the endeavor, I assert 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 toward the administration’s and Hanover Police’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, though having spent a short sliver of their lives at the College, have accepted their role as stewards of tradition, willing to risk arrest to demonstrate to the entire student body (at the most historic and sentimental time of the year) exactly how much Dartmouth means to them.

Mene Ukueberuwa