Jake Vermeulen ’21

At The Bachelor, it is tradition to have Seniors on staff write opinions for the last paper of the week and I think that’s a great tradition. It’s also super weird to actually participate in. Some guys write about a topic in the news. Some guys reminisce about a topic in the news. Personally, I’ve cycled through a lot of topics over the last week while trying to write. I considered writing about why Wabash should admit transgender men as well as cis men. Or why the Three-Fifths Compromise was actually way worse than it is commonly described. Or why Rick Santorum’s recent speech to the Young America’s Foundation was deeply ahistorical and offensive. Those are all important topics. If you ask me about them next time you see me, I promise I’ll talk your ear off. But this opinion will skew in a different direction. I can’t help but talk about Wabash in this piece, so here’s what I’ll say: embrace tradition at Wabash.

Let me first be clear what that doesn’t mean. A call to embrace our traditions is not a call to uncritically participate in them regardless of their content or form. Far from it, truly embracing those traditions requires us to ask questions about them. It requires us to engage with them fully. Where we find them lacking, we have an obligation as members of this community to change and improve them.

Tradition at Wabash has never been (and hopefully never will be) static. Comprehensive Exams, something we regard now as an indispensable part of a Wabash education, were not introduced until the start of the College’s second century in 1932. “Contemporary Civilization” (a required course that was introduced during the same round of curriculum reforms that produced Comps) morphed into “Cultures and Traditions,” which in turn morphed into our current “Enduring Questions.” The Greased Pole and Freshman-Sophomore Scrap have fallen by the wayside (for an excellent rundown of old traditions that have been lost, read our now-Editor-in-Chief’s article “Traditions We Didn’t Inherit” in the March 30, 2018 issue of The Bachelor). We are not far removed from a time when getting a “W” was a bad thing at Chapel Sing. Over time, other traditions have sprung up on campus, like not walking under the arch or rubbing the bust of Eli Lilly in the library. As Hood wrote in that 2018 article, “Wabash traditions come and go. For every old one that dies, whether it fades away or is abruptly killed, a new one will likely arise.”

Those of us who love the College should be unafraid to bring new ideas to the table. Today’s new idea sometimes becomes tomorrow’s tradition. Every new generation of Wabash men receives traditions from its predecessors, but it also adds to, subtracts from, and adjusts those traditions. That is the common thread of our traditions more than any particular event or action. So, embrace our traditions fully – not by uncritically accepting them, but by participating in their growth and development fully.

There are far worse uses of your four years here than that. Four years are an eternity when you’re in them, but they feel remarkably brief when they’re over. So don’t wait to embrace our traditions. Do it now. Over the summer, start lobbying President Feller to bring back Elmore Day in the fall (please do, President Feller). Come up with ideas for a campus event that the next generation of Wabash men won’t be able to imagine Wabash without. Both you and Wabash will be better because you embraced our traditions fully.