Dorm traditions forge the temperament of residents — dorm traditions like Niedfeldt’s long-standing tradition of Olds roses. Dorm rites shape character: clandestine court trials to resolve misconduct, eating meat bare-chested at dusk, tiki torch parties by the fireside, Smash Brothers tournaments. Some within the classical tradition have referred to this as forma mentis: “the form of the spirit,” the particular way in which personality is expressed.
These specific manifestations lead residents to speak, act, and live in different ways: one can just tell if a freshman lives in Simpson, or Galloway, or any of the other dorms.
Resident turnover can cause frequent change in a dorm’s culture — popular habits and activities will transform over the years. This year in Niedfeldt, for example, the basement RPGs have been thoroughly overshadowed by participation in volleyball and the Grappling Club.
But some activities stick around.
As the story has it, years ago, members of a rival male dorm took it upon themselves to bring large bins of unwashed dishes to the Olds dorm and left them there for the women to wash. After word got around, Niedfeldters bought several bouquets of roses and sympathetically hand-delivered them to the residents of Olds.
Since then, Olds roses has been one of the most stable dorm activities for Niedfeldt’s fall semester. We buy roses, dress our rather unimpressive dormmates in suits, and unleash them upon the unsuspecting residents of Olds, whom the RAs have kept in the dark about the event.
The element of surprise is one of the most important factors. Whereas the men have had hours and sometimes days to prepare themselves to hand out roses, the women are caught off guard. The men set aside the comfortable slovenliness typical of male dorm communities, and the women have to overcome the insecurity of not “appearing their best.” And while this event usually begins with both parties standing uncomfortably on opposite extremes of the Olds lobby, it always ends after a long, enjoyable evening of conversation.
This tradition is one of the most important of Niedfeldt’s repertoire. As a ritual, it sets a high standard for the men of the dorm. Olds roses symbolically “acts out” a behavior of honor, affection, and friendship. Women are to be respected and should be given the best that one has. Relationships are not for self-interest, but for self-sacrifice. We should give roses, not dishes.