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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Editorial: Expand NIU’s traditions

Daniela Barajas
A student munches on pizza from a pizza truck in front of the Holmes Student Center. Food Truck Wednesdays are an example of an NIU “tradition” that unites students, but NIU needs to create more meaningful traditions to improve campus life. (Daniela Barajas | Northern Star)

The University of California Los Angeles has its Undie Run, Indiana University has its Little 500 bike race, Harvard has its Primal Scream event and Northern Illinois University has – nothing.

Before entering college, prospective students are often told the next four years are going to be the best of their lives. To truly make them the best four years of their lives, they must pick a university that will allow for that.

One of the best ways to ensure a student gets the most out of those four years is to pick a college bound to be fun: a college that has traditions.

College traditions are one of the most exciting idiosyncrasies to a campus. Traditions unique to a university make students feel closer to their peers and their university; they make you proud of where you go to school.

Unfortunately, NIU does not have traditions, or at least a tradition that truly stands out. 

The lack of tradition can be blamed on many reasons: our university focusing on the wrong goals, carrying a stereotype as a “suitcase school” or an underwhelming Greek Life.

NIU needs traditions. NIU needs to be fun.

“This is college, you should have fun and do goofy things,” Mike Korcek, an NIU alum said.

Yes, we have Tugs and it is unique to NIU, and yes, we have Food Truck Wednesdays. They should be cherished, and every student should be able to participate in both. But, these traditions alone are not enough.

To create traditions, it starts with students. Do not go home on the weekend. Make DeKalb your home. Start your own traditions.

Take, for example, North Carolina State’s Krispy Kreme Challenge. One day back in 2004, 10 friends ran from NC State’s Belltower to the nearest Krispy Kreme where they ate a dozen doughnuts and then ran back to the starting point. 

The story of the friends’ “Krispy Kreme Challenge” soon became a nationally known event and NC State tradition with nearly 100,000 runners who have participated, $2 million raised for charity and over a million donuts consumed in 20 years.

These NC State students created a tradition, and so can NIU students.

“One thing I can think of is some kind of a raft race in the Lagoon or something,” said senior communications media studies major Brock Whiteman. “Obviously, the fraternities would do it, but even student organizations could make, like, rafts from $200 worth of equipment from Home Depot or Ace or something. We could go from the north end of the Kishwaukee (River) by Barsema (Hall) and the engineering building, take that all the way to the lagoon and see who gets there first. I think that would be pretty cool.”

In regard to the University, align yourself accordingly. Students want to have fun. Put the money in the right places. Make NIU great again. Not funny?

“It seems like most people want to go home every weekend because there isn’t really much to do, especially when football gets out,” Whiteman said. “I think having some kind of event, some kind of a big get-together or something on the weekends could entice more people to stay. If it could turn into a tradition, it would be really cool. We have a great amount of people here; we can definitely do something, and it can definitely stick.”

One of the ways the university could do this is by expanding off a more prominent tradition such as homecoming. NIU’s homecoming used to be extravagant, spanning blocks and filling the streets and sidewalks full of students covered in black and cardinal red. 

“It was a big deal in DeKalb,” Korcek said. “I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the photos of homecoming in the past, and they’d have the parade in downtown DeKalb. You see that picture of Lincoln Highway, and there’s crowds of people on both sides of the street.”

Students even complained when their homecoming was not fitting. In a 1987 Northern Star article, students of the university were unhappy with the lack of floats during the parade.

The university needs to model other universities such as the University of Missouri who do homecoming right.

Mizzou, who claims to have created “homecoming,” celebrates with a student talent show, campus blood drive, community service projects and a parade full of floats from student organizations, Greek Life, sports teams and more.

Mizzou’s homecoming even includes a “house dec” event where Greek students created building-sized decorations to celebrate homecoming, 

Additionally, Greek Life needs to expand on NIU’s campus. Greek life promotes community and creates opportunities for even more traditions to spawn, such as philanthropic events.

NIU’s Greek Life even used to host an event called “Springfest” where fraternities and sororities would compete for trophies. “Springfest” included events like a 3k race, sports games like volleyball and soccer, and something called bed races.

“The Greeks would dress in their pajamas, and they would fit up a bed with wheels,” Korcek said. “And I think they did this on the entrance there, by Altgeld, you know, from Lincoln Highway, and they push the beds.”

Traditions are important. Sometimes universities, like NIU, overcorrect the idea college is supposed to be fun. That does not mean we don’t still have time to change. The university and the students of NIU need to come together to pursue new traditions.

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