“Did you buy an elevator pass yet? They’re $5 each as long as you pay a senior.” If you thought class rivalry, like the classic elevator pass scam, only existed in high school, think again.
[beanie]MSU has a history of practical jokes, hazing and class rivalry that most present-day students know nothing about. In retrospect, the pranks between the classes may seem odd or even cruel, but in the beginning, it was all about tradition.
The ridicule freshmen receive today doesn’t seem nearly as bad when compared to the treatment of freshmen in past decades. Curator of History Val Berryman explained some interesting stories behind the class rivalry that went on from the 1890s through the 1960s.
For example, the sophomores picked on the male freshmen by not letting them smoke, prohibiting them from walking on campus with a woman, and making sure they moved off the sidewalk when the sophomores walked by. They punished those that disobeyed by throwing them into the Red Cedar. Even then, that had to be gross.
The “fun” didn’t stop there. Sophomores would find out which buildings freshmen had classes in and would wait for the freshmen to come out so that they could pick fights with them.
“The things the sophomores did sounds horribly foolish today, but the students were farm boys then and viewed this as a recreation because there wasn’t much else to do,” Berryman said.
Berryman also said that the sophomores put up posters poking fun of the first year students. “If either the sophomores or freshmen saw each other tearing down or putting up posters, they were stripped naked and the posters were painted to the bodies,” Berryman said.
When the juniors went to the J-hop, a popular dance that lasted late into the night, the sophomores would go into the upperclassmen’s rooms and pile everything into the middle of the room. They took beds apart, pulled all of the drawers out of the dressers, threw clothes out of the closets and drawers and piled all of this, including the mattresses, books, bedsprings and anything else they could find into a heap. “For the final touch, the sophomores draped toilet paper and dumped ink bottles all over the stack,” Berryman said.
Upperclassmen also made freshmen wear beanies to distinguish them from everyone else on campus. Berryman said that although the university didn’t require the freshmen to wear beanies, it became a tradition and the beanies were even sold in the bookstore. It was an unwritten rule that if freshmen were caught without them, they were thrown into the river for their misbehavior. This tradition died out, however, after World War II when the students returned from abroad and wouldn’t put up with wearing the beanies.
Class rivalry is just one of the 30 topics in the “Sesquicentennial Exhibit Themes,” which the MSU Museum is putting on to help celebrate the university’s 150th anniversary this year. The exhibit will be held in the Union and the Museum from February 20 through December 30 to highlight the history and traditions of MSU. Beanies and a plethora of photographs depicting traditions of class rivalry will be on display. Some other topics include campus fashions, campus organizations and hangouts and hot spots.
It seems safe to say that most freshmen nowadays do not have it nearly as bad. Most of us would agree that the university does a good job of welcoming freshman to campus life. Maybe it’s time to spice it up a bit and bring back those beanies.

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