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STUDENT SURVIVAL GUIDE '08: College legends

Campus confidential: Secrets and legends you might not hear about on the orientation tour


The ghosts of SUNY Brockport

In 1888, Edward B. Rowley fell through a wooden plank placed over a cistern containing almost eight feet of water in the Brockport Normal School -- a building on the spot where Brockport's Hartwell Hall now stands. The BrockportRepublic, the local newspaper at the time, reported that "it was some 10 minutes before the remains were recovered by means of a hook."

            One-hundred and twenty years later, SUNY Brockport students still wonder if his is one of the spirits that reportedly haunt Hartwell Hall.

            Of the many traditions and legends attributed to the school, the Hartwell ghosts stick out in the minds of many, including College Archivist and Reference Librarian Mary Jo Gigliotti.

            "A ghost has been seen by faculty and after-hours cleaners in Hartwell Hall," Gigliotti says. "They have reported seeing both a shimmering woman in a blue skirt and high-neck blouse, and a man dressed in black."

            Former Brockport teacher Kathy Hunter told the school's student newspaper, The Stylus, in 2003, that she "look[ed] back... and there's this shimmering thing down at the end of the hall. She had no feet... Her hair was dark and I couldn't see her face."

            Sightings of a headless man were also reported to The Stylus, this time by a former member of the housekeeping staff, Natalie Glick. Glick said a math teacher would leave problems on a board in his classroom and come back to find them solved. Other men would visit the restroom and hear footsteps and flushing toilets.

The bells of MCC

For today's college students, iPod headphones usually provide background music to everyday life. But at MCC, a musical gift that sits atop the library might just make students stop to listen.

            A digital chronobell carillon on the library roof plays an assortment of musical pieces, ranging "from Gregorian Chimes to an all-bell version of Elvis' 'Love Me Tender,'" says College Relations Specialist Janet Ekis.

            The instrument was a gifted to the school in 1986 by former chemistry professor Myron Cucci, a founding faculty member. At his request, the bells chime in honor of James P. Walsh, the college's first dean of faculty, who died in 1986. The carillon was erected shortly after his death.

            Cucci died in October 2002, and his death was memorialized by the playing of patriotic tunes on the carillon, in recognition of his service in World War II.

            The carillon music continues to relate to the lives of MCC students today, 22 years after its construction. For example, holiday tunes play during wintertime festivities and, in honor of a national day of mourning for Virginia Tech students, the bell tolled 32 times on April 24, 2007 -- once for each student lost in the school shooting.

Going underground at NazarethCollege

You're probably looking forward to wearing pajamas to class. But did you ever picture wearing shorts during the Rochester winter? At Naz, students can do just that by traveling through the underground tunnel system, which connects most of the 19 buildings on campus.

            First built in the 1930s, the tunnel system was built to connect the boiler room to the motherhouse, the living quarters of the Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who founded the college. (The motherhouse is now the GolisanoAcademicCenter.)

            The college, which began in a mansion on Lake Avenue called the "glass house," moved to its present location in 1942 and was adjoined to the motherhouse. The tunnels expanded accordingly to connect the college buildings as they were erected, the first extension connecting Smyth Hall and Medailles Residence Hall. The most recent addition was reportedly made in 1959, connecting the tunnels to the Lourdes dorm.

            Kearney, a dorm that houses mostly first-year students, is not connected to the tunnels directly, but has an enclosed walkway that connects to Medailles and Lourdes and their tunnels.

            Naz senior Justin Carmel is looking forward to his fourth year using the tunnels. "The tunnel system is amazing in the winter time," he says. "It allows students the opportunity to wear flip flops and shorts in the middle of a snow storm."

            Fellow senior Mark Griffin, Jr. says the tunnels can also be a social opportunity: "The tunnels connect essentially everything. They are kind of small, but then again you always see someone you know and say hi to them."

            The tunnels are also kept lively visually -- they are painted by individuals and campus groups alike, and are periodically re-painted to allow new artists to enrich the space. The first painting, "Ruth," was done by local artist John Menihan in 1942.

            "The artwork on the walls has been added by generations of Nazareth students, and is really interesting to look at on your way to classes," Carmel says.

Dancing the night away at Fisher

People dance for exercise, for fun, to relieve stress, and even to entertain others. But for 26 years, students at St. John Fisher have been dancing for love.

            The Teddi Dance for Love, a 24-hour dance marathon, was started by professor Lou Buttino in 1982, and takes place every February. Students shake their tail feathers and raise money for Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc.

            The dance includes different themes (and costumes!) throughout the night; the February 2008 dance featured sessions devoted to Disney tunes, jock jams, and 80's music, among others.

            A Fisher assistant football coach, Gary Mervis, founded Camp Good Days in 1979 for his daughter, Teddi, then age 12, who was dying of cancer. Today, the camp serves more than 1000 children afflicted with cancer every summer. The Teddi dance raises funds for a specific division of the charity, which arranges for children to make trips to Disney World and other Florida attractions.

            Mervis describes his daughter's suffering, and how that memory enriches the hard work and generosity of the dance: "When Teddi died," he says, "she was completely blind, as a result of the brain tumor which shut off her optic nerve. She had lost 70 percent of hearing as a side effect of the chemotherapy she received, and she was confined to a wheelchair because of the many surgeries and radiation treatment. To know that, 26 years later, hundreds of dancers and Dance for Love committee members feel her presence in a very special way during the dance, is amazing."

            Students -- 450 of them each year -- attend the dance for a designated number of hours, from one to the full 24. Dancers raise money by soliciting donations. There are "spirit people" and "hug people," as well, who volunteer their time to offer the dancers encouragement. Other volunteers distribute fruit and water to the dancers who are in need of hydration, and help during registration and meal breaks.

UR's legendary feast

Every year before winter break at UR, students scramble to grab tickets to the hugely popular Boar's Head Dinner -- "a snapshot from the past," as described by Nancy Martin, university archivist and Rochester collections librarian.

            The tradition originated at the University of Oxford in England. As legend has it, a student was being attacked by a boar, and, to escape being eaten, fed the boar his Aristotle textbook, on which the beast choked. The student then brought his kill back to the university to celebrate, and a feast commenced.

            According to "History of the University of Rochester," written by A.J. May in 1969, the dinner was adopted by students in 1934, and is the school's longest-running tradition. The celebration takes place now as a medieval-themed dinner event just before winter break, and includes students, professors, administrators, and other members of the university community. Martin attributes its popularity to that community aspect.

            "I think part of the charm of it is that you have people participating from every part of the university, and every level of the university," she says.

            However, not every student thought it was charming. Carol J. Adams, class of '72, saw the all-male Boar's Head Dinner as an "obstacle to human liberation."

            When she attended the university, the only Boar's Head roles open to women were serving wenches, complete with "bubble bosom" costume, as she puts it.

            "There was a perception," Adams says, "that the women who wore the outfits and had to serve the meal were being sexualized."

            Adams created a leaflet, and wrote that she did not condemn the Boar's Head Dinner as an all-male event, as "it is important for all of us to have contact and meaningful relationships within members of our own sex." However, she "found this role degrading because it reinforces a typical stereotype," referring to the role of women as servants.

            Even though she was a notorious activist on campus in her day, the men (professors and students included) who encountered her at the door of the December '71 dinner were shocked that she would protest what had become such a deeply rooted tradition.

            Thanks in part to Adams and her fellow protestors, today the Boar's Head Dinner includes women in every role of the event, and also offers vegetarian options to its modern-day guests.

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