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Early Social Traditions at UNM

 Circa 1930

During the early years of the University of New Mexico, there were many traditions that were set up. These events were a big deal, and both the faculty and the students were happy to share in the festivities. What marked early UNM traditions was that they did not make a clear distinction between faculty and students. Both groups had a very positive relationship at this point in time, perhaps because of the small numbers at the university.

Many social groups had different traditions for different events, but they sometimes shared the same traditions. For example, engineering students worked most of the year except for one day, St. Patrick’s Day, which for them became their “play day.”  They would hoist up a big, green flag and sit on the roof of their and watch the Kappas sunbathing on the roof of Kappa House (across the street at 221 North University) with a telescope. Looking back on it today, that is something that we would see and immediately question. This is exactly the kind of behavior that we would consider sexual misconduct in contemporary society. One year, a non-engineering student switched their Saint Patrick flag with a pair of oversized green boxer shorts. “Stunt Night” was another UNM tradition that many different students and student organizations attended. Stunt Night was not for any one particular group, but it was a collective effort to have a fun party. There would be singing, costumes, dancing, and the party usually struck a theme. The dance was usually held in Carlisle gym because of the amount of people that would come. Another tradition was the “Letterman’s Initiation.” Letterman’s had to dress up in weird outfits and wear them all day. The good humor extended to jokes about a special class called “Mesaology,” code for students going to a nearby mesa to make out, and a sense of openness and friendliness meant that if students found themselves near University and Central, they would usually catch a lift up the hill. You rarely see that in contemporary society because of the dangers that come along with meeting people you do not know. In the early days of the University, there was never a real threat that you may get robbed or kidnapped because it would have been harder to do back then. Today it is very easy to hide behind a screen and trick people that way, which in turn makes people become more weary wherever they go.