Rat Day

Posted on September 11, 2015

Freshman Rats bowing down to Sophmore Cats
Freshman Rats bowing down to Sophmore Cats

The tradition of Rat Day at Woman’s College began in the 1930s as part of the initiation process of the four campus literary societies. This annual one-day event typically took place during the month of October or November and was promoted as a fun time of getting to know one another.  In reality, it was a day of hazing. Freshman girls, who were called “Rats,” were required to dress in a particular fashion and perform various tasks dictated by the Sophomores who were known as “Cats.”

Unfortunately for the Freshmen, they never knew what day would be Rat Day, and they were often surprised when they were woken up at 5:30 am and ordered to march outside.  The activities would last until the evening, concluding around 6pm with a large bonfire and celebratory party.  Some years, however, the day ended with “Rat Court” where nine Sophomore Cats were selected as “Judges” and ten Freshman Rats were put on a mock trial.  The farcical event included court lawyers, bailiffs, and other typical court proceedings. Inevitably most Freshmen were found guilty of their factitious crimes and ordered to sustain various “punishments.”

Not everyone approved of Rat Day and throughout the years there were calls to abolish the “ridiculous, useless, infantile” activity.  In 1939, Dr. Ruth Collings, who was the Director of Health, wrote a letter to Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson describing the stress and injuries occurred because of such antics.   In 1936, it was reported that one girl received a black eye and another girl broke her foot.  Fortunately for students today, Rat Day ended in the early 1970s.

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