Guest Column: Changing traditions
Grad students want a wildcat too
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 00:10
The question has come up recently about changing traditions on campus. Traditions are near and dear to the identity of Texas A&M, and found in the heart of every Aggie.
As the University has included non-regs, blacks and women and has grown from a small agricultural and mechanical school to a campus of 53,000 students, our traditions have morphed to keep pace with the growth of the University.
One example is the development of yells and wildcats. Many believe that the class wildcats were created in the same period that the yell leader tradition came into being. However, distinct wildcats for each class are relatively new — no more than 50 years old. As can be seen in historical photos at Cushing Memorial Library and as corroborated by former yell leader Hayes Stripling ’46, every student, regardless of academic classification, performed the same wildcat, similar to today’s freshman wildcat, until at least the early 1960s.
Perhaps most shocking to current students is the fact, corroborated by yell leader Ted Lowe ’58, that the whoop did not enter the official Aggie lexicon until the 1960s. Without a “whoop,” you simply cannot have the junior and senior wildcats of today. In fact, separate wildcats did not evolve until the 1980s, but the graduate student population was perhaps not large enough, or involved enough, to warrant a separate wildcat. However, times have changed at Texas A&M. Today, our graduate population is a full 20 percent of the student body, equal in size to every other class. If each class earns the privilege of using a new wildcat as they advance in academic status, why should the graduate students be kept in a perpetual state of senior year? Why wouldn’t they also be afforded the acknowledgement of taking the next step in their education? A singular wildcat for all graduate and professional students is the logical outcome.
As we celebrate 50 years of inclusion of other races and women, we as graduate students also wish to be included. Some 40 years ago we were still fighting a battle to include non-regs and women in the yell tradition, sometimes with violent and rude results. Why not learn from the past and work to include all Aggies in participation in our traditions in a productive manner?
The Graduate Student Council passed a resolution to create a distinct wildcat to join with the undergrads in the proud tradition of expressing class pride. We are not attempting to fracture the student body by creating a separate wildcat for every affinity group, as some have suggested. Instead, we are instilling a sense of Aggie pride and identity in members of an academic classification that is equal in size to the other four.
Perhaps one of our greatest traditions is that we adapt and move forward. Former yell leader Ted Lowe ’58, when asked if he felt less connected to Aggies today because we now whoop and he didn’t, replied, “Here’s a phrase that you young ones need to know and remember: Change or die. The world is changing and we have to hold on to our traditions, but make changes with it. What’s important is, does it support the Aggie team?”