Dis-O: Mount Holyoke, what’s happening to me?

BY SAACHI KHANDPUR ’22

Mount Holyoke College boasts a myriad of traditions that date back more than a century. Several of these traditions were initiated to ensure that new students feel at home at Mount Holyoke and encourage bonding among the classes. One of these traditions, dating back to the early 1900s, aims to bring the senior and first-year classes together: DisOrientation or Dis-O, formerly known as Hazing Day or Freshman Day. Initially, Freshman Day was a day for first-years to play basketball and other games with sophomores, and bond with seniors by performing tasks for them.

In the early 1940s, seniors took over the tradition completely and Freshman Day became known as Hazing Day. The idea was for seniors to get to know the first-years outside their residence halls in a fun-filled environment. Seniors wore academic robes, while first-years wore costumes. The senior class hosted a night out for the first-years, to end the day. In the 1970s, the tradition expanded again and changed from a day-long event to a week-long one.

Photo courtesy of Mount Holyoke Archives

Photo courtesy of Mount Holyoke Archives

However, around 1985, an anti-hazing law came into effect in Massachusetts. This resulted in a name change for the tradition and Hazing Day became DisOrientation in order to take away any negative associations with the event. In a living document, the class board of 1989 put forth a set of rules to guide the tradition. The class of 1993 protested when the College required seniors to submit a list of each residence hall’s planned activities, resulting in a more careful watch on the tradition.

This year’s Dis-O took place on Feb. 19, and, as per tradition, the date was kept a secret by the senior class. It was a sight to see as seniors and other upperclassmen ran around residence halls, calling the first-years out of their rooms and instructing them to go to Kendade for a special event. Juila Beneck ’19 recalled her first-year Dis-O experience and how excited she was to participate now as a senior. “While Dis-O my first-year was filled with confusion-induced energy, this Dis-O was filled with excitement and enthusiasm,” said Beneck. “Part of the different feelings, I think, stem from not really understanding what’s happening as a first-year as opposed to being a senior and looking forward to the tradition.”

On the way into Kendade, seniors handed out red beads and once inside, the senior class and the firstyear class chanted their class years at a deafening volume, each class trying to drown out the other. Seniors and first-years sang the school’s anti-alma mater back and forth, and when the first-years had learned the song, the class of ’19 led the class of ’22 across the street to President Sonya Stephens’ house for M&Cs (Milk & Cookies, another beloved and centuries-old tradition). As the students were welcomed by the President, they continued chanting their respective class years and singing Mount Holyoke College songs in celebration.

Dis-O took the class of ’22 completely by surprise and allowed them to bond with the class of ’19. “Dis-O was a great experience! It strengthens the bond between seniors and freshmen,” said Samira Khan ’22. “It shows how traditions are really important to build a connection and I just can’t wait to be a senior in my next Dis-O.”

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