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A look back at a long-lost College of Charleston tradition

A look back at a long-lost College of Charleston tradition
August 2020

First year students are glad the ritual is gone

A still frame from a bygone era, this photograph from 1965 provides a glimpse into one of College of Charleston’s long-lost traditions—the infamous “rat caps.” Here, a group of students convene along the Battery seawall, gathered around a Ford convertible decorated in a display of school spirit, in eager preparation for an upcoming basketball game. Easily spottable atop two of the men’s heads sit the felt striped beanies with a maroon bill and a single green button on top. As a hazing ritual, freshmen were forced by upperclassmen to sport these headpieces throughout the school day—Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.—for the entirety of their first semester, as reported by College of Charleston Special Collections. Those who were caught without the juvenile toppers had to use their noses to push a peanut across the span of the chapel (known today as Alumni Memorial Hall). The rite, which began in the early 1900s before World War I, was fading out of custom by the early 1970s and lost its stride in the college’s modern era—likely without much dispute from the underclassmen.