Throwback Jack: Senior Week Shenanigans

April 28, 2011

In a few short weeks, the graduating seniors of the Class of 2011 will happily abandon campus in pursuit of exciting summer plans, relinquishing all of their Georgetown territory to the rising senior class. But before they leave, they’ll spend their last days on campus drinking, dancing, and partying their way through one last University-sanctioned event—Senior Week. While underclassmen stress about finals and summer internships, seniors will be kayaking at Jack’s Boathouse, revisiting freshman dorms to reunite with old floor mates, and raging at a Harry Potter themed keg party at McDonough Gymnasium.

The tradition began in 1923, a rare instance of Georgetown being ahead of the game—even as late as the 1980s, most universities only afforded a day or two for graduating seniors’ revelry. An article published on April 29, 1923 in The Washington Post declared that “a great throng [was] expected,” for the first senior week in Georgetown’s history, as alumni from all over the country were to return to campus to join in the celebration. At that point, though, Senior Week appears to have consisted of little else than open houses held by fraternities, baseball games, and a dinner attended by the entire faculty.

By 1925, the event had already expanded significantly, according to an article in the Post on April 19 of that year entitled “Student Activities Flourish on the Hilltop.” The dinner had been upgraded to a “tea dance” followed by a prom, both of which were to be held at the impressive Mayflower Hotel that had opened earlier that year. By 1962, Senior Week included trips to amusement parks, boat cruises, a parent-faculty cocktail party, and a Luau on Kehoe Field. In 1975, activities shifted to a hayride, scavenger hunt, block party, and the “Georgetown Crawl” in which, according to an article published in the Hoya on April 25, 1975, participants were “required to drink two beers at each of fifteen stations that [would] later be set up on campus.” But believe it or not, some people were displeased with the increasing importance of alcohol in the week’s events. Bill Gillett, a 1980 graduate complained in an article in the Hoya on May 24, 1980, “Why do we have only a very narrowly-focused celebration based on drinking and getting drunk?”

All these festivities, not so different from our own, were met with some more serious challenges along the way. While Senior Week is traditionally a time of shared camaraderie between alumni and graduating seniors, the return of alumni to campus presented conflicts.  In mid-February of 1960, the University announced that during Senior Week, seniors would be required to surrender their rooms on campus to visiting alumni who would be simultaneously celebrating class reunions. In a letter to the editor published in the Hoya on March 3, 1960, an understandably unhappy student from the Class of 1960 protested, “the news of our not being able to remain in our rooms until graduation…came as a shock to the entire class. … A profound lack of consideration was evident in the indirect manner in which the seniors learned that they would not be permitted to use their rooms during Senior Week.”

All of this commotion occurred before seniors in the School of Business or the School of Foreign Service could partake in the fun. Senior Week was organized by and for seniors in the College until discussion of integrating members of the other schools into the experience began in 1963. According to a January 17, 1963 article in the Hoya, those in favor of integration argued that “the University would benefit from closer relations between the undergraduate schools,” while those opposed to integration sought to “preserve the tradition” and make merry with members of their own division of the University. Finally, after a two hour debate, the proposal to include all undergraduate divisions of the University in Senior Week was passed by a vote of ten to three.

This rite of passage, once considered a privilege, has become standard protocol for outgoing seniors. Hopefully, the class of 2011 will make their Senior Week one that goes down in history as well. That is, if anyone can remember it.

Email Sadaf at squreshi@georgetownvoice.com if you need to find room and board for some drunk alums.

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