Diminished Ursinus Traditions

Isabel Wesman (iswesman@ursinus.edu)

Could you imagine a Billboard-charting musician performing at Ursinus? Well, that was a reality for students who graduated from Ursinus just a few years ago. Bear Bash, or May Day as it was once called, was a school-wide celebration of music, school spirit, and the upcoming graduation. But after a number of organizing issues in 2018 and 2019, May Day was completely eliminated from students’ social calendar and now remains an experience that is completely unknown to current Ursinus students. Bear Bash used to be a staple of Ursinus’ student life, but at this point it has essentially turned into folklore—and it is not the only formerly renowned campus tradition to find itself in this position.

The cancellation of such a huge event like Bear Bash points to a wider and more serious pattern at Ursinus. Having been “on campus” for almost four years now, I have observed Ursinus becoming increasingly inattentive towards what once was. On paper, the campus has been witness to the death of a number of clubs/chapters, campus-wide philanthropic traditions like Relay for Life, and countless graduation traditions like a class-wide trip to Mad River, or sliding down the fountain on campus (Oh – did you know there used to be a fountain on campus?). Many social traditions are also on their way out, such as Airband, which made larger waves in 2016, Greek Week, and Greek life in general after countless barriers to rushing have been established by administration. And everyone knows that a night out at Reimert has never been the same since the fall of 2019, despite many other colleges in the area bouncing back quickly after returning to campus. 

So, the question is, why? Obviously COVID-19 hindered a lot of activity hence why Mad River closed down, but is that really the overarching reason for all of this instability and decay? Obviously, the campus lacks some type of glue that holds the community together with consistency from year to year — maybe a leader, or a feeling of pride for the community — something that would encourage people to stay involved in student activities, and branch out of their own friend groups. Or maybe some students just care less about picking up where previous peers left off? It’s not necessarily always the administration’s fault, but it does beg the question, who is there for us, who is defending the den? Especially in recent years, the student body has seen an abnormal amount of changes in the school’s administration — from the death of a beloved president to an interim and permanent one all within a short time span. A lack of consistent leadership and changing regulations could definitely be blamed in part for this issue. But students need things to look forward to in order to be content, and we need them now. You hear us, Ursinus?