Founded in 1817, the University of Michigan has a long and colorful history. And throughout those 200 years students have established many traditions that have remained with the university today.
I remember learning some of these on my tour as a prospective student – like the block M legend – and picking up a few more as a student – like walking through the fountain.
Whether you’re an incoming freshman, a graduating senior, or one of our many alumni, here are the top five traditions every Wolverine knows and loves.
5. Painting the Rock
At some point in their four years at Michigan, most students will paint the Rock, located at the corner of Hill Street and Washtenaw Avenue.
Anyone in the Ann Arbor area knows that what’s painted on the Rock changes from day to day, or sometimes hour to hour.
The Rock was originally placed at the corner of Hill and Washtenaw in 1932 as a monument to commemorate the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.
Our “acquaintances” at Michigan State actually got the ball rolling with this tradition when some Spartans visited Ann Arbor in the mid-50s and painted “MSU” on the rock.
Obviously the Michigan students felt the need to cover the offending marks and the tradition of painting the rock was born.
Now you’ll find students in various clubs, Greek life, or just bands of friends painting the rock at all hours of the day and night.
If you drive by the Rock one day, it’ll look totally different the next time you see it.
4. Kissing under the West Engineering Arch
One well-known campus legend that some may be familiar with is that if you kiss someone at midnight under the West Engineering Arch before you’re 21 – that is the person you will marry.
The arch, located towards the southeast entrance to the Diag, is part of West Hall and was built in 1904.
Back in the day, women lived on the Hill area of campus while men lived on Central. The arch was where they parted ways, leading to the creation of the myth.
The midnight rule comes in because in those days there was a campus-wide curfew of 10 p.m.; being at the arch at midnight meant breaking the rules.
3. Spinning the Cube for luck
The Cube, as everyone calls it, is one of the most popular spots on campus for a photo op.
The sculpture, built by U-M alumnus Bernard “Tony” Rosenthal weighs 1.5 tons and spins on its axis.
It’s said that spinning the Cube brings good luck, and the president of the university spins the cube to start the day every morning on his way to work.
Both students and alumni love to pose for a photo next to the Cube and spin it while they’re there.
I always make sure to give it a spin every time I walk by. After all, who can have too much good luck?
2. Walking through the fountain
One of the earliest traditions students at Michigan participate in, and one that I’m sure many alumni remember, is walking through the fountain at Ingalls Mall.
Located in front of the Rackham School of Graduate Studies and next to the Burton Memorial Tower, students walk through the fountain towards the Diag at orientation, symbolizing their beginning as a Wolverine.
After graduation, as I’m sure many seniors did this past week, the new alumni walk through the fountain again, this time away from the Diag towards the graduate school, symbolizing their future journeys.
1. Don’t step on the M!
The most iconic spot on campus comes with the most widely known myth.
At the center of the Diag is a brass block M, donated by the class of 1953.
Campus legend says that if you step on the block M you will fail your first blue book exam.
The only way to reverse the curse is to run from the block M to the Natural History Museum, kiss the two stone pumas near the entrance, and run back between the first and last stroke of midnight – all while naked. It’s an impossible feat as the bell tower no longer rings past 10 p.m.
You will never ever see a Michigan student step on the M. Many students, including myself, still refuse to step on it even after they’ve taken a blue book exam out of a mixture of respect and fear of the M.
So there you have it! This list could go on and on with the various traditions found at the university, like calling the Shapiro the Ugli, or wearing maize to the football games.
I can’t believe I’ll be walking through the fountain away from campus a year from now.
One of the most amazing parts and one of my favorite things about coming to a school like the University of Michigan is that it’s a place built on tradition.
They’re traditions that I love to partake in as a student, ones I know that I’ll cherish as an alumnus, and memories that I know I’ll keep with me for a long, long time.