At Sweet Briar, students participate in dozens of uniquely Sweet Briar experiences through age-old traditions and ceremonies that help everyone let off a little steam. Take, for example, paint flinging in the Hitching Post Fight, playful tap clubs and the tongue-in-cheek Faculty Show.
But our traditions are also full of life and meaning. They’re part of our continuing heritage. Sweet Briar students are united by shared experience — a bond that no amount of time or distance can break. That’s what draws our alumnae back to sing in the Quad 10, 25, 50 years after they graduate — because Sweet Briar holds a special place in their hearts.
Honor Code and Self-Governance
Ever since the first students arrived at Sweet Briar in 1906, the honor code has been enforced through self-governance. Unlike many schools, infractions of the honor code are dealt with by a panel of students, not the administrators of the college. Although honor code mediations are confidential and closed to the students at large, every student is a member of the Student Government Association (SGA) and can contribute to the policies and programs of the college.
Holla, Holla, Holla
Students sing this song when a person or group on campus has done something noteworthy.
Here’s to (insert name), Holla, holla, holla, nothing that you cannot do.
Here’s to (insert name), Holla, holla, holla, nothing that you cannot do.
Work for the good and work for the right, always doing something and doing it right.
So here’s to (insert name) Holla, holla, holla, nothing that you cannot do.
In the spring the first years put on a sketch comedy show for the Aint’s N’ Asses.
Big Sister/Little Sister
Just before returning from summer break, each junior is assigned as a big sister to a member of the incoming class. Big sisters are supposed to help their little sisters acclimate to college life and answer any questions the first year may have about Sweet Briar.
In December the first year class gathers together to sing their way up and down Faculty Row.
Pizza with Parker
The president invites the first-years to Sweet Briar House for pizza, fellowship and a tour of the historic home
Freshman Hitching Post
The hitching post located next to the bell tower is defended by the first years during the rock and hitching post fight. It is periodically painted by campus organizations.
Throughout the year, seniors receive gifts from an unknown sophomore and leave gifts for their secret sophomore in the Prothro commons or at the senior’s door. At the end of the year, the seniors find out who their secret sophomore is during a senior class/sophomore class party.
Next to the freshman hitching post is the sophomore rock, which is defended by the sophomores during the rock and hitching post fight. It is often painted by campus organizations, in matching colors to the hitching post.
Only juniors are allowed to use the semi-circular bench located between Randolph Hall and the Memorial Chapel.
During junior week, each junior gets costumes from an unknown senior, who will give her senior robe to this chosen junior. The senior reveals her identity at Junior Banquet, the culmination of junior week.
At Junior Banquet, juniors receive their class rings as well as their senior robes. Each junior has a friend write an ode in her honor, and these are read at the banquet.
In addition to the robes worn at graduation, seniors also have decorated robes that are passed down each year. Each first-year is assigned a senior and is expected to add more decorations to that senior’s robe. Seniors wear these robes once a month on the day of the month that their graduation will occur in May. The junior has to “earn” her new robe during junior week. When she receives the robe, it usually contains an interior pocket filled with the junior’s favorite candy.
Seniors sit on the front steps to Pannell during step singing.
The center set of doors to the main Prothro dining hall are for seniors only.
Seniors are invited to Sweet Briar House for a champagne toast with the college president as part of commencement activities.
The Sophomore Bonding Experience
Participating in The Sophomore Bonding Experience are new sophomore QV members and sophomores who want to become Bum Chums. The activities of The Sophomore Bonding Experience are a secret, although you’ll find out more at the end of spring semester when the QVs and the Bum Chums hold joint information sessions to help first years decide if they want to participate during the following year.
The Sweet Briar Class ring is a pinky ring worn on the left hand. Engraved on the ring is the Sweet Briar Seal. If a Sweet Briar woman is engaged or married, she switches it to her right hand. While at Sweet Briar, the student wears the ring with the Chapel pointing towards her heart. Once away from Sweet Briar, the graduate turns the ring around so the Chapel is pointing away from her. The color of the stone in the ring is determined by class colors.
To announce the engagement of a member of the senior class, the class president calls the seniors together to play the ring game. Everyone gathers in a circle, each holding onto a long piece of string. The engagement ring is put onto the string and passed around the circle three times. On the third pass around the circle, the newly engaged woman puts on the ring, informing the class of her engagement.
A variation on the ring game, the scroll game is sometimes played to announce one’s acceptance into grad school. A paper scroll is substituted for the ring.
At the start of each school year, Sweet Briar holds a convocation to mark the official start of the academic year. A community picnic, to which all staff, faculty, and students are invited, occurs in the Lower Quad after convocation.
Seniors wear their graduation robes for the first time, while all other students wear black and white. Everyone walks up to Monument Hill to pay respect to the founding family, and each senior is accompanied by one or two underclasswomen. Each student leaves a daisy on Daisy’s grave.
Hanging of the Banners
At the beginning of each year, a ceremony is held at the Houston Bistro in the Fitness and Athletic Center in which the banner for the senior class is moved to hang over the fireplace and the banner for the incoming first year class is displayed for the first time in its location by the doors.
Rock and Hitching Post Fight
In a fight to create a mess of the landmark of the other class, first-years defend the hitching post and sophomores defend the rock. At the end of the fight, the juniors determine the winner (usually the first-years) by the amount of paint worn by each class.
On the night before exams begin, everyone gathers in the quad to let out their stress in a scream as the bells chime ten o’clock, as well as pick up some study snacks.
Step Singing (Spring and Fall)
The classes gather together, and each class sings a teasing or admiring song for each of the other classes and one bragging song of themselves.
Homecoming is preceded by a week of themed dress-up for Spirit Days. Homecoming weekend is packed with events, including a cardboard boat regatta sponsored by the engineering department. During the weekend, the Pink Team (even years) and the Green Team (odd years) compete for greatest participation, and the winning team gets a party at the Farmhouse.
Near the end of the year, seniors ask an underclasswoman to make a “lantern” for her. The students gather, seniors wearing their graduation robes and underclasswomen in white. To represent the four years the seniors spent at Sweet Briar, everyone walks around the quad four times. The seniors then sit on the senior steps while the underclasswomen line the pathway and sing to the seniors, marking the final tradition the seniors participate in at Sweet Briar.
Once every four years, the faculty and staff members of the college get together to write and perform a variety show. It is hilarious every time, but since one was held in 2011, you’ll have to wait a few years to find out what the talk is all about!