written by Jane Krause ’21.
Every fall Agnes Scott students participate in the time honored tradition of Black Cat Week. It’s safe to say that most students attending Agnes know what this week entails: late nights, Junior Production, and, of course, rushing the quad. However, when it comes to the origins of these infamous traditions, and even the name “Black Cat,” many students are at a loss. Chances are if you ask any student, freshman or senior, why we participate and compete in Black Cat every year, they won’t have an answer for you.
The first version of Black Cat was formed in 1915 by Dr. Mary Sweet, the head of Physical Education at the time. She came up with the plan to have a “battle of the wits” between sophomore and freshman, the winners of which would win a bronze statue of a cat. The hazing of freshmen was getting more severe so, Black Cat was created as a healthier way to channel some of that energy.
“This tradition is like no other that I’ve ever seen”
Although this event was originally just one night and involved just two of the four classes, it has evolved over the decades to become the annual Black Cat week we have today. By the time the 1980s rolled around Black Cat had been reworked to last a full weekend and the whole campus has gotten involved. Black Cat is meant to welcome new students to Agnes Scott, as well as mark the end of their “orientation” period.
As Black Cat week approached us this year, I found myself filled with dread and anxiety at the week to come. Strange feelings for a week meant to foster community and just be fun. So why did I feel this way?
For many students, participating or performing in events, such as Junior Production, can be nerve-racking and put a strain on mental health. Other students simply choose to express their school or class spirit in different ways. However, for some prospective students, Black Cat and other Agnes Scott traditions are a highly attractive quality.
Madeline Brasgalla ‘20 has been the dance chair for her class every year; Black Cat has been an integral part of her experience at Agnes Scott. “[Black Cat]’s one of the reasons that I personally […] was drawn to Agnes Scott,” Brasgalla shared. As a junior Brasgalla was involved with the Junior Production. Although this added more stress to her week, she still managed to have a great time. Maddie also expressed concerns about student participation levels saying, “I don’t like that it varies from year to year . . . I’d like to know what draws people away.”
This concern is real. Although students do feel pressure from their peers to participate, if you go to any Black Cat event it’s obvious that a majority of the campus is not getting involved. While many students might argue that this is a problem students need to fix, perhaps some of the traditions are not working as well as they used to. Dean Tedesco agrees that although Black Cat is a wonderful and unique tradition, there is room for improvement.
“I think the timing makes it difficult…with exams. I do feel like we could get more students involved”
These traditions were solidified in the 1980s and although sentimental traditions can bring people together, it’s possible to change things for the better. Students should be made aware of Black Cat origins so they better understand what they are participating in and what Black Cat traditions actually mean. Students need more opportunities to build class spirit throughout the year. It can feel silly to compete against the other classes and wear colors that are somewhat inconsequential the rest of the year. Black Cat is in need of an update.
Revamping Black Cat could mean higher levels of student participation and a greater sense of community on campus. The traditions were revamped for students in the 1980s, so why not now? It’s time to reclaim Black Cat.