With the flip of a switch (well, several to be exact),
a luminous occasion commenced on Monday evening, Nov. 28,
as hundreds gathered on the Homewood campus to take part in
the inaugural Lighting of the Quads, an event that its
organizers hope will become an annual tradition.
Nearly 150 lampposts across the campus have been
adorned in white holiday lights, courtesy of the Office of
Facilities Management staff. To celebrate the event,
students, staff and faculty came together to drink hot
chocolate, eat cookies and listen to pop songs sung by
student a cappella groups the
Mental Notes and
The lights adorn Levering Plaza, the Decker Gardens,
the Beach and the Wyman, Keyser and freshman quads,
constituting the most extensive campus holiday decoration
in recent history and the first significant trimming in six
years. From 1997 to 1999, the campus observed the Community
of Lights, a celebration during which holiday lights were
illuminated atop the MSEL.
The lights on the quads turned on simultaneously just
after 9 p.m., when the event organizers flipped a large
electric switch. But all was not as it appeared. Since the
various quad lights are on different circuits, facilities
staff positioned at five different breaker panels had to
synchronize the activation when the mock switch was
PHOTO BY HIPS/WILL KIRK
The concept for the event arose from the undergraduate
Student Council. Bryan Kaminski, a senior international
studies major and Student Council senator, spearheaded the
effort, to which he said the university's administration
and facilities staff were extremely receptive.
"We told them we wanted to brighten up the campus,
maybe bring about some joy when it's a dreary winter day
out there or a day of finals," Kaminski said.
The establishment of the Lighting of the Quads comes
at a time when the university is trying to foster
traditions in an attempt to strengthen students' ties to
Homewood and to Johns Hopkins.
This fall, the Office of
Undergraduate Academic Advising formed a Traditions
Committee dedicated to researching existing and old
traditions and brainstorming new ones. The committee
— made up of students, faculty and staff —
meets monthly and is co-chaired by John Bader, associate
dean for academic programs and advising in the School of
Arts and Sciences, and junior international studies major
The Mental Notes
PHOTO BY HIPS/WILL KIRK
The committee has just launched a Web site,
www.jhu.edu/traditions, where anyone can post an appeal
to resurrect a dormant tradition, suggest a new one or an
improvement to an existing annual event or simply relate a
piece of Hopkins history. Visitors to the site can also
offer up traditions from other schools that they think
might work at Homewood.
Paula Burger, dean of undergraduate education, said
that she was very pleased with the turnout for the Lighting
of the Quads and hopes it does indeed become a Homewood
"This might be odd for an educator to say, but I was
delighted to see how many students poured out of the
library to take a break and participate in the event,"
Burger said. "It went very well, and we can do it even
bigger and better next year."
Burger said that plans are in the works to have annual
events linked with each undergraduate class, such as a
"juniors night out" at the start of the fall semester for
classmates to reconnect with each other. She said that
Charles Commons — the university-owned housing and
retail complex opening next fall — will be an ideal
venue to host classwide events such as this.
The Traditions Committee is currently in the process
of acquiring various Hopkins memorabilia such as photos and
artifacts to exhibit prominently throughout campus to
document a "history of fun" on the campus.
Bader said that a major goal of the committee is to
have those on campus be more appreciative of Johns Hopkins'
own history. "We also want to think of ways to have more
fun here and not take ourselves so seriously," Bader said.
"The committee's work is a fun project to be involved with,
but an important one, too."
The Lighting of the Quads joins the establishment of
The Nest, a students-only cheering section for athletic
events at Homewood Field, and the creation of the Fall
Festival as new additions to campus life.
Whether any or all of these become lasting traditions,
however, rests with the students, Burger said.
"Students have to own these traditions and find the
meaningful ones for them," she said. "What we are trying to
do is help foster class spirit and build a sense of
community. Institutions that have the strongest sense of
community are the most tradition rich, and we haven't up
until now done enough to promote a collective sense of who
we are. Traditions can help change that."
To contact the Traditions Committee, e-mail