The band’s role in preserving traditions

Photo by Sara Schmitt

The Yellow Jacket Marching Band — or, to me, just “the band” — is one of the oldest organizations on campus. It was founded in 1908, predating the Ramblin’ Reck Club, homecoming festivities and the RAT cap tradition. The band is an ever-present organization at athletic events, providing music to football, basketball and volleyball games throughout the fall.

Even more importantly, the band is one of the oldest tradition-keeping bodies on campus. If you take a look inside the Couch building, located in the center of West Campus housing, you will find a number of items of historical importance not just to the band but to Tech traditions in general. In the rehearsal hall hangs a goalpost. In the trophy case are a number of RAT caps, old uniforms and Tech memorabilia.

The band also maintains an active role in preserving some of Tech’s oldest and proudest traditions, while the administration itself remains largely apathetic — or, in some cases, tries to alter traditions from their historical meaning. Take the RAT cap or even the acronym: RAT. RAT stands for “Recruit at Tech.” It has stood for “Recruit at Tech” since it was introduced as a way to refer to first-year students; the band still actively maintains that it stands for “Recruit at Tech.”

Yet, if you have attended FASET in the past few years, you have likely heard a different acronym: RATS, for “Recently Acquired Tech Student.” Not only is this acronym grammatically incorrect (a singular student is not a RATS; the cap is not a RATS cap), it breaks from the historical definition with no real justification. I have also heard the acronym “Recently Acquired Techie,” which, while maintaining the original acronym, is somehow more patronizing than RATS.

It is extremely rare to find a band member with an incorrectly filled-out RAT cap. It is extremely common to find a RAT with an incorrectly filled-out RAT cap or even a cap that hasn’t been touched since convocation. The tradition of wearing and filling out RAT caps has almost entirely disappeared from campus, even in the SWARM block during football games.

I would expect most students to know the words to “I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck.” I would expect slightly fewer to know “Up with the White and Gold.” I doubt many know the words to “To Hell with Georgia.” I’ve seen students wear Georgia ball caps in class before. I sometimes feel that some students may not hate u[sic]ga at all. Clean, old-fashioned hatred for the University of Georgia is one of the oldest and strongest traditions on campus, and even it is
dying out.

Traditions in the band serve to assist new members in feeling included in the organization. The band has many traditions which are common to the entire group, with the individual sections carrying their own traditions unique to their instrument. Some band members have compared the band to a large frat, with good reason. The traditions of the school combined with the specific traditions of the band help create a sense of belonging by bringing new members into the culture of the band, creating connections between them, their section and their bandmates.

Traditions help to create a student body that is unified by a basic common culture. Their existence helps create connections among a diverse body of students by providing a starting point for interactions between students. For a campus community seeking to bridge gaps in its student populations, traditions are more important than ever, but instead of being emphasized, they seem to be in danger of dying out.