About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 5, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 13
A New Tradition Begins

The first Lighting of the Quads included hot chocolate, sweets and singing by the Sirens and the Mental Notes. Lampposts glow late at night.

Quads lighting kicks off larger effort to revive and introduce JHU memories

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 Sirens.

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 flipped.

The Sirens

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 Deepa Gandhi.

The Mental Notes

The committee has just launched a Web site,, 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 fixture.

"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


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |