By Robin Lancaster
Some of us wanted to take the time to tell you about a few of the many traditions we have here at St. John’s. This post has been co-authored by Robert Castle, Aristotle Tsakos, Richa Battarai, and me.
Both campuses enjoy active Waltz Committees! These active dance enthusiasts hold dance lessons and host waltz parties. Lessons are held each week and may include swing, waltz, polka, lindy hop and other styles depending on the time of year. Some of the popular waltz party themes include: The Masquerade Ball, Polka Competition, Fasching, and Homecoming Waltz. Johnnies enjoy dressing up for these themed parties according to the theme.
Every year in April the Annapolis campus hosts the Annapolis Cup. This croquet match is held between St. John’s and the Naval Academy. Throughout the year, we can see our croquet team proudly wearing their white overalls around campus and practicing for the big day in spring. The event is special not just for the two colleges but also for the entire town of Annapolis. The event gathers upwards of 5000 people each year, including car-fulls of student from the Santa Fe campus that drive across the country to partake in the festivities. While the Midshipmen wear their white sweaters for the match, Johnnies’ apparel changes every year and is kept a secret up until the hour of the match.
Some say that where reason is, there must also be madness. Never was this more true than in the end of the academic year, where Athenian Reasonball (another unique St. John’s sport) gives way to one clash of insanity. Mean and Extreme collide in glorious contest, and madness rules back campus. In order to know truly what Spartan Madball is, you must take the field.
The primary evaluation process here is oral. Near the end of every semester students spend 20 minutes meeting with all of their tutors at once; this special meeting is the Don Rag. Tutors speak openly and frankly about the student and their performance at the college. The gist is this: It’s a transparent and holistic evaluation that gives each student an idea of how to move forward at the college. Don Rags occur during “dead week” (a week in which classes are canceled). This would be the equivalent to midterm and finals weeks at other schools. Students can be seen together lamenting and proclaiming respectively all the blame and praise their tutors gave in their Don Rags
The Senior Essay
Each member of the senior class, as a culmination of his or her work at the college, is afforded the opportunity in their second semester to produce their most serious essay. Because these essays are meant to be the crowning achievement of the undergraduate program, there is a special ceremony surrounding their submission. At the end of essay writing period, seniors turn in their papers to the President’s house, and each senior may ring the bell that has measured their days for four years. At the President’s house a celebration is held. In Santa Fe, each senior and their paper is announced one by one, each signaled by the ringing of a gong. Often made up titles are also announced as a joke. Seniors shake hands with the President, the Dean and the Assistant Dean. In Annapolis, the seniors ascend one by one to the top of McDowell Hall and ring the bell. On the descent, they are given a bottle of champagne to celebrate. As the seniors emerge from the building a crowd of other seniors, underclassmen, and occasionally even alumni, cry out in affirmation, commendation, and elation on behalf of the accomplishment.
After the seniors have submitted their essays, they each have a conference with three members of the faculty using their paper as the foundation. This is a public event; friends, family, peers, coworkers, and even people from town can come and observe this hour-long conference. The audience arrives early, so as not to interrupt the conversation. At the start, the audience stands upon the entrance of the committee and the senior in full academic regalia. The audience must remain silent (though laughing when appropriate can be appreciated by the senior at the table) for the entirety of the Oral, until, as at the beginning, all rise while the four participants exit the room. Once they’ve gone, the audience erupts into applause and praises.