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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

So what if they’re not ours?

<f my new favorite websites to visit is (short for “student life”), or Washington University of St. Louis’ student-run newspaper.  I imagine this sounds odd to many people, who might be wondering why a Carleton student would spend time poring over other school’s papers. My first defense is that I’m a journalism nerd. The amount of time I spend on various blogs, webzines, and online newspapers would make your head spin. In particular, I grew up around “Wash U,” so I take the paper as more of a community news source than a part of campus culture.

Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t read in part because I am curious about what life is like at Washington University. After all, it’s a highly selective school in the Midwest. It draws students from all across the nation, to a city many had never imagined they’d live in, never even visited before. True, it’s not a liberal arts college, but to ignore the parallels between “Wash U” and our hallowed campus is impossible.

One of this week’s stories on “StudLife” is about “compliment guys,” two students who get together every Friday morning on a bridge and shout compliments at people walking by.

“We just wanted to make everyone’s day a little brighter. It’s a great way to start a Friday,” one of the “compliment guys” said. 

When I told my friend about this story, she was unimpressed.

“Sounds like Carleton quirky, and probably something I would hate.” Fair enough.

Either way, it seemed to confirm that “Wash U” was very similar to Carleton:  a lot of smart kids inventing ways to undercut social norms. However, reading further into the article, I realized this was only half-true. The “compliment guys” had “borrowed” this tradition from Purdue University, an Indiana state school. A Washington University freshman had seen it there and decided to bring it back.

I did some further research. The “compliment guys” of Purdue are pretty well known. They were featured in the Chicago Tribune and New York Times and sponsored by Kodak to travel around giving compliments as part of a “Brightside Tour.”

So this quirky “Wash U” tradition, which was heavily promoted in the school’s newspaper, isn’t a Washington University invention at all. It was simply “borrowed” from Purdue students turned Internet celebrities. Yet, while these students were simply recycling an old idea, they still caused quit a stir on their campus. What does this all suggest?

Last term, Hannah Watson wrote a column arguing that many campus traditions aren’t all that unique. Stories like the this one about Washington University’s “compliment guys” prove that to be the case. However, although it may not be an organic tradition, “Wash U” students still connect with the “compliment guy” concept.

At Carleton, few would argue that Screw Your Roommate, the Silent Dance Party and Spring Concert are Carleton innovations. But this doesn’t make these traditions any less important. The meaning they hold for many Carleton students, and the community spirit they foster, make them vital to our campus life.

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