There are many things about KU and Lawrence that every KU student knows. The glory of games in Allen Fieldhouse, the concerts that come through town, and the nightlife on Mass Street are next to impossible to escape. However, there are many elements of KU culture that law students don’t often encounter. This list is by no means comprehensive, and I encourage KU Law students to venture on to main campus whenever possible to learn more about the KU outside of Green Hall.
The history of the Jayhawk.
KU’s Jayhawk is one of the country’s most unique college mascots. The term “Jayhawker” originated as a name for guerilla abolitionists in Kansas in the late 19th century. The Lawrence Journal-World traces the name’s history to a combination of two local birds, “the blue jay, a noisy, quarrelsome thing known to rob other nests, and the sparrow hawk, a stealthy hunter. The message here: Don’t turn your back on this bird.” KU fans have held on to the spirit of the name through the evolution of the Jayhawk’s image. If you want proof, head down to the Free State Brewing Co. and see modern Jayhawkers supporting their favorite cause. More on the Jayhawk
The museums are a lot of fun.
KU’s museums are a great place to plan an on-campus outing. The Spencer Museum of Art has more than 36,000 works of art, ranging from medieval to contemporary. Touring exhibits supplement the art museum’s permanent collections, so you can go as often as you want and always see something new. The Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Research Center boasts the world’s largest diorama of North American mammals in the world. On top of that, you can get up close and personal with taxidermied grizzlies, check out the hanging mosasaur skeleton, or visit Comanche, a horse ridden at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
There are words to the fight song.
The most dedicated sports fans at KU Law have undoubtedly learned the special clap to the fight song. Far less common is a student (in law school or elsewhere) who knows the words to the song, or that the song even has words. If you want to get the most out of your KU athletics experience and impress all of your friends, you can find the lyrics at http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/songs.shtml.
The allure of the steam tunnels.
Running underneath the university is a network of tunnels that connects buildings all over campus. These tunnels are big enough for groups to wander through and have captivated the imagination of students since they were made. Generally, exploring the tunnels is something that is talked about more than actually done, and for good reason. These hundred-year-old tunnels are undergoing renovations because of their decayed state and can be extremely dangerous.
You can get cultured for free just across the street.
The Lied Center is a wonderful venue for internationally known artists, and half-price tickets for students make attendance affordable. Even more affordable (as in free), are the student and faculty recitals just across the street from Green Hall in Murphy Hall. The performers often have graduated from or will later in their careers attend some of the best conservatories in the country, and the frequency of the recitals offers more variety of works than other venues in town. While you can see a world-famous string quartet at the Lied Center once a year, Swarthout Recital Hall in Murphy is the place to find everything from a tuba and euphonium choir to Yoko Ono’s music written for bicycles.
If your friends are any good at all, they will dunk you in the Chi Omega Fountain on your birthday.
To be fair, this tradition hasn’t been consistently observed for a long time, but older generations took it very seriously. Even if you don’t take a dip in this fountain on your birthday, you would be well advised to try it some time before you graduate. It’s a familiar spot to all campus dwellers, and there are few more traditional Jayhawk pastimes out there.
Spencer Research Library has the best view on campus.
Tucked behind Strong Hall (the administrative building) on Jayhawk Boulevard is a building most KU students never realize exists. The Spencer Research Library hosts rare book collections and an extensive variety of useful primary source documents. Its collections include everything from photos of Langston Hughes as a child in Lawrence to books in the ancient and medieval manuscript collection that are over a thousand years old. Students are welcome to study in the North Gallery, which has what I believe is the best view on campus and overlooks Memorial Stadium, Potter Lake and the Campanile.
The Campanile myth.
The myth around campus is that if you walk through the Campanile before graduation, you won’t graduate at all. This only applies to walking in one door and out the other, so if you want to see the inside but you aren’t interested in risking your degree, walking out the door you came in is a safe bet. If you follow this advice, it naturally leads to the next item on the list.
You don’t graduate at KU. You “walk down the Hill.”
At KU, we don’t call it “graduating.” It’s called “walking down the Hill” and it’s definitely unique to KU. All graduates from all schools line up at the top of the hill and process through the Campanile into Memorial Stadium. Students in the procession carry creative signs, favorite pets and the occasional baby.
The history of the Rock Chalk Chant.
I have heard more stories about where the Rock Chalk Chant came from than I can count. I hesitate to believe any of them fully, but I trust the history that KU offers on its Web site the most. This retelling traces the chant to a science club cheer that got mixed up with the words “chalk rock,” which is a nickname for limestone. Regardless of its origins, the Rock Chalk Chant is the best chant in the world. Teddy Roosevelt agreed with me, calling it the best he’d ever heard, and the U.S. Olympic team used it to show the world what a model American college yell sounds like. With all due respect to President Roosevelt, he only knew the half of it because nothing compares to getting to say the Rock Chalk Chant as a real Jayhawk. More on the chant
Alyssa Boone, 1L