All Traditions Are Invented

Traditions come and go, sometimes slowly and sometimes all at once. The abrupt beginning of the college system in 1957 uprooted decades of traditions that were based on class rivalries–the sophomores versus the freshmen in particular. Other traditions quickly sprang up in the wake of the change, but there’s one  tradition that seems to have appeared only relatively recently. I hear campus tour guides earnestly explaining that ancient Rice tradition has it that freshmen enter Rice through the sallyport and then may not go through it again until graduation at the risk of flunking out. Trying to pin down the origins of this has proven difficult.

It’s hard to see how it could have existed in early days. For many decades what is now Founder’s Court was one of the main student parking lots so they were coming in and out through the sallyport all the time. The sallyport was, in fact, a preferred and often crowded hangout, a hub for student government electioneering, the exchange of gossip, flirting, gambling, and other assorted tomfoolery. This activity was actually called “sallyporting.” There was no notion at all that if you walked out to your car your graduation was in danger.

I think it must date from after commencement moved from the front side of Lovett Hall to the back side in 1986, else wise it makes little sense.I can’t really figure it out, though, without help. Could I ask you please to chime in on when you were here and whether this was a tradition then? I’d really appreciate it!

Bonus: We really like to jump the gun around here. High spirits, I suppose.


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22 Responses to All Traditions Are Invented

  1. Rob LaVohn says:

    It was definitely NOT part of the oral traditions of campus in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I think I did hear it in a campus tour at some point before my son started in 2015, but like “The Traditional Running of the College Flags” at football games, it would appear to be a retrotradition.

    • almadenmike says:

      There was certainly none of this “don’t go back through the Sallyport” silliness in the late 60s, either. I’m glad to hear Rob say is wasn’t there in the 90s, too. That should help narrow down the number of culprits. Maybe the freshman orientation coordinators or their materials would be useful. I see no value in its continuing. The Sallyport is a grand place that should be celebrated, not avoided.

  2. Emily Kennedy Hague says:

    I was Class of 1999 (matriculating Fall 1995) and we were told this.

  3. That was never mentioned in the early 1980s. We were encouraged to study all the carvings, especially the four classes.

  4. Caroline Conn says:

    Lovett ’93 here. That was not a tradition that I recall from my time at Rice. The Sallyport was a popular meeting place, “home base” (and where you got OtterPops) during capture the flag, and an integral part of the campus Frisbee golf course.

  5. Greg Marshall says:

    I graduated in 1986, and returned to work at Rice in Feb. of 1992, at which point I was very surprised to hear from them-current students that this was “a tradition.” I mentioned this to A friend who graduated in 1988, and she also had never heard of the supposed tradition, so my official guess would be that the rumor blossomed between about 1988 and 1992. That matches up well with the brief return of the “matriculation on the Founder’s Court Lawn” experiment of the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s.

  6. Gloria Meckel Tarpley '81 says:

    I was there from ’77 to ’81, and there was no such tradition.

  7. Bob Toone says:

    I graduated in 1967, and never heard of that. Good thing as I’m sure I walked through the Sallport many times !

  8. dnorton2015 says:

    Graduation was in the front of Lovett Hall in 1974. Matriculation was in the RMC in 1969 (perhaps it was raining…I don’t remember). Walking through the Sallyport (either direction, graduation or matriculation) was not something I remember doing.

  9. Eric says:

    Asked my brother who matriculated in 1992 amd confirmed he was taught this tradition. When I matriculated later in 1996, I too was told about it during O-week.

  10. Galloway Hudson ;60 says:

    I matriculated in 1956, and I remember a promotional movie shown at my high school called “Through the Sallyport”. I do not remember that tradition, but I can assure you that my “graduation was in danger” for five years (required for a B. S. back then) no matter what I did or did not do. That applied to about 95% of the student population back in the day. I hear that Rice is much more user-friendly these days.

  11. George Webb says:

    It looks like we’ve narrowed down the origin to the early 1990s. The next question is: what can we do to stamp out this bloody nonsense? As many of you know, I am a big fan of quirks and esoteric customs, but this particular one is too precious to be admired, and our students seem childish when they mention it. It needs to go!

  12. joecwhite says:

    I may be conflating this with things I heard while around campus in the late 90’s and early oughts, but I could have sworn I heard this around the time of my matriculation in ’85.

  13. Terry Gaschen says:

    I matriculated in 1965 (WRC). Matriculation that year was in Hamman Hall. I actually remember the precise seat I occupied when they told me to look to the left and right and that one of those people would be gone before graduation, little realizing at the time that the one leaving would be me. If there was a tradition about walking through the Sallyport the wrong way at that time it escaped my notice. I saw my first graduation from Lovett Hall one evening when I was working the Rice Switchboard before the switchboard moved to the basement of Allen Center. I still remember the Speaker mispronouncing all the Latin Cum Laudes attached to high graduates. This was either the 67 or 68 graduation and yes, it was at night on a Friday. Rice girls were known to many as TRGs and there were no College cheers or anti cheers. Plenty of intercollegiate animosity (beanie stealing) and the Slime parade had just been discontinued before we got there in 65. I did see a Volkswagen beatle race through the Sallyport one drunk Saturday night and do wheelies around the Willy statue before racing off just ahead of campus police. Now that’s a tradition to uphold!

  14. Bryan Domning says:

    Wow Melissa! You really hit paydirt with this post. Hope you and all of the Rice clan enjoy a peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.

  15. johnq_sf says:

    I’m starting to think we might need to reorient how we think about this. This “traditions” might be one of the greater pranks ever played on the student body.

  16. Leigh Straughn says:

    I matriculated in ’91 and graduated in ’95. Sounds like some people from my era remember being told this tradition, but I don’t. I do remember being shown the statues and how to tell which one represented which class. I also remember being told that you walk through the Sallyport after the ceremony concludes to make your graduation official. And we were supposed to turn our Rice rings from inward facing to outward facing (so that the owl droppings would no longer fall on us but be released onto the world).

  17. Ashli Horton Simmons says:

    I graduated in 2004 and by that point this tradition was a firm one. I didn’t follow it and miraculously still finished, but there is something to be said for bookending your first and last times as a student with a trip through the Sallyport as a class. It’s definitely silly, but a school with such seriousness needs some whimsy to keep everyone from going insane! Plus it’s a great moment to look back at how for you’ve come.

  18. Stephen Kaplan says:

    Interesting that Princeton University has a similar “tradition” (see for their version) and that Dr. Lovett, who came to Rice from Princeton, had nothing to do with either of them.

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