By Tucker Paquette
“Get off the grass!”
Whether it be at New Student Orientation or an ordinary day at Springfield College, chances are all students here have heard this yelled toward at least one individual who chose to walk on the grass. Upon being called out, most students will then immediately get back onto the walkway, distancing themselves from their misstep.
Why is this dynamic in place, though? How long has avoiding the grass been common practice at this school?
It turns out there’s more to the story than you might think.
One aspect of this discussion most students likely aren’t privy to is how far back the tradition of avoiding the grass spans. As it would be, the tradition goes back a long time.
“From very early on, this [not walking on the grass] has been something that has been done,” Springfield College Archivist Jeff Monseau said.
As a matter of fact, a document in Monseau’s archives titled, “Freshman Commandments”, one he estimates is from around 1930, has a section called “You Shall Not:” and the first item listed is “Walk upon the grass.” That’s right – the Springfield College community has not been walking on the grass for almost 100 years.
This archive, complete with a beanie from back in those days (yes, Springfield College first-year students donned beanies in the early-to-mid 1900s, too), just goes to show how avoiding the grass is a practice that has withstood the test of time on this campus.
In fact, the beanie back then was mainly green in color, noticeably different from the predominantly gray beanies Springfield College first-years wear nowadays. If the policy of not walking on the grass can remain consistent for longer than the color of the much-discussed beanies, then this custom certainly has some real staying power.
For more evidence as to how many years the code of not walking on the grass has been routinely observed here, the 1959-60 Frosh Handbook reads “Springfield students refrain from walking on the grass” under the “Traditions of Springfield College” section.
As for the question of why we avoid the grass, while there isn’t one commonly accepted answer, there are several viable possibilities that have been bandied about.
“I’ve seen various reasons for it,” Monseau said. “To keep the campus beautiful. [So] the students learn order, restraint and learn to follow rules.”
Interestingly enough, Monseau would go on to mention how former Springfield College President Dr. Richard B. Flynn was quite strict about enforcing the tradition of not walking on the grass. Judging from how students responded, they didn’t want to take any chances.
“I used to take people to Cheney [Dining Hall] who would come and visit, and we’d sit [near] the window and watch the students, and not one of them would cross over [onto] the grass,” Monseau said.
Monseau noticed how the policy of avoiding the grass became at least a little bit less strict when the current President, Mary-Beth Cooper, arrived. He said how she’s more cognizant of fun things students may want to do that happen to take place on the grass.
“I think for activities and everything, it’s usually okay now to go on the grass,” Monseau said.
Still, whenever possible, it’s probably best to stay away from walking on the grass. That way, the traditions of this school continue to be obeyed, and there’s no risk of verbal reprimand.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College