Storming of the Arch: (1946-) Campus Tradition

          Storming the Arch is one of the most beloved traditions at Juniata College. Each year in the fall, members of the freshman class rush toward the arch of Cloister dormitory, trying to fight their way through. Defending the arch are the members of the men and women’s rugby teams, as well as anyone who has Stormed it during their freshman year. Stormers often dress in costume, cover themselves in plastic wrap, slather themselves with Vaseline, or generally do anything else that might aid them in getting through the defenders. The legend goes that no freshman class has ever successfully made it through the Arch.

          Storming began in the late 1940s, when war veterans housed in Cloister deemed the Arch off-limits to freshman during “frosh week.” For this week long hazing ritual, all freshman were thereby forced to walk all the way around the building to get to their destination. One year, however, a group of freshman stormed the passageway in an act of defiance against the hazing rituals, thus establishing the tradition.

          Although the tradition had waned over the years, it found new life in the 1960s. Similar to its original incarnation, the tradition maintained its hazing-ritual atmosphere, despite hazing having eventually been outlawed on campus. Onlookers would throw rotten eggs, water balloons, and bodily fluids at the Stormers as they ran down North Lawn, while signs hung over the arch declared such double entendres as, “Freshman can not find the hole” and “Our hole is your goal.”

          However, in the early 1990s the dangerous nature of the tradition threatened its very existence. In 1995, the practice faced prohibition altogether by the school administration, if safety measures were not instituted. That same year the rugby team was forced to organize an unofficial snow rugby game in lieu of Storming.

          The next year, rugby players Michael Streicher and Steven Van Mater reorganized Storming as a charity event with new safety procedures in place. Each Stormer and defender was required to pay a $1 fee that would go to a local charity, with the proceeds the first year going to Habitat for Humanity. In addition, women were officially allowed to participate for the first time, with five joining in the tradition and the women’s rugby team serving as the last line of defense. Along with the reinvention of Storming came a new tradition, that of the captain of the rugby team giving nicknames to each Stormer. The event saw its most recent change in 2005, when construction on the Halbritter Performing Arts Center forced Storming to occur in the opposite direction, with Stormers coming from the quad toward the arch.

          Storming of the Arch remains one of Juniata College’s most cherished and unique traditions. While its specific organization has shifted over the years to reflect the vicissitudes of campus life and administrative concern, the basic tradition has remained the same. Storming has become a basic right of passage, or non-passage as it were, for freshman attending Juniata, with palpable camaraderie present every year.


John Lavender-Stott ‘12



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