Three of Union’s most popular traditions explored


By 807 Union St. Staff

Painting the Idol:

The Idol could be as old as the 15th century. It was dug up in Shanghai and sent to Union in 1875 by alumnus Reverend John Farnham ‘56.

The Idol represents a lion’s head with a  human’s body, and was immediately thought to be extremely ugly by all who saw it.

The lion was thought to be a female because she used to hold a cub between her legs, which was vandalized and removed in 1921.

The painting of the Idol evolved from typical sophomore versus freshmen fun in the early 20th century, when the sophomores would pressure the freshmen into “Idol worship” and made them paint the statue with their hands. Unorganized painting of the Idol has continued since then.

In 1935, 1941 and 1947 the Idol has been knocked over by students, and in 1938 and 1947 it was even the victim of arson. It has also been moved five times.

Every so often the layers of paint will be removed from the statue. The Idol has become a symbol of the college.


The Pyramid:

The Pyramid was originally built in 1934 in Schenectady’s Central Park. Union Geology Professor E.S.C. Smith, in conjunction with a man named E.W. Allen, developed the design in layers that signify the passage of time.

The stone layers are, from the bottom up, youngest to oldest, the Pleistocene (10 million years ago), Devonian (400 million years ago), Ordivician (450 million years ago), Cambrian (500 million years ago), and  Precambrian eras, which spans from the beginning of the Earth to 540 million years ago.

The pyramid was  moved to campus in 1983. It was consistently vandalized in Central Park. Seems like moving to Union hasn’t really made a difference, if you know what we mean.


Naked Nott:

The “Naked Nott Run” is one of the more recent additions to the traditions, contrary to popular belief. In the 19th century, students would occasionally do “Pajama Parades” around the Nott.

The Naked Nott, as students know it today, began sometime in the 1990s and has become a vital part of an undergraduate’s precedent to graduating.

Streaking around campuses nationwide began around 1973, and Union was quick to jump on the bandwagon.

With its enormous popularity, the Naked Nott may survive as long as the Nott Memorial itself.

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