New words for new times

In the NYT yesterday, “Rutgers Updates Its Anthem to Include Women” by Ariel Kaminer:

No one song could ever capture all the motivations that bring students to a college campus, all the experiences they have there or all the ways those experiences changed their lives.

But “On the Banks of the Old Raritan,” the alma mater of Rutgers University, is particularly inadequate. “My father sent me to old Rutgers,” the song proudly began, “And resolved that I should be a man.”

Women were first enrolled in Rutgers in 1972 and now make up half the student body. It was time for fresh words.

[So] this past Saturday, the Rutgers football team was accompanied for the first time by a new version of those lyrics, retooled by Patrick Gardner, the university’s director of choral studies. “From far and near we came to Rutgers,” the song now begins, “and resolved to learn all that we can.”

Rutgers is the latest formerly all-male college to bring its alma mater in line with its new demographics.

“Men of Dartmouth” made sense in the 19th century when men were the only students, but not in 1988, when the words were changed to “Dear old Dartmouth.”

Then there’s Princeton. From Wikipedia:

The first women were admitted to Princeton in the late 1960s and the [1859] song “Old Nassau” was considered sexist by 1987, when Princeton had reached 35% female enrollment.

… The refrain was changed [in 1987] from “In praise of Old Nassau, my boys, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! Her sons will give while they shall live, three cheers for Old Nassau.” to “In praise of Old Nassau, we sing, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah! Our hearts will give, while we shall live, three cheers for Old Nassau.”

Bonus note on alma mater. Usually in caps and in construction with a possessive (as in my Alma Mater), the expression can refer to a school, college, or university one once attended; or in lower case (as in the NYT story above), it can refer to the anthem of such an institution.

2 Responses to “New words for new times”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Harvard’s alma mater originally began “Fair Harvard, thy sons to thy jubilee throng” – amended a number of years ago to “Fair Harvard! we join in thy Jubilee throng”. (Sung to the tune “Believe me if all those endearing young charms.”)

    I suspect most Harvard grads prefer Tom Lehrer’s “Fight Fiercely, Harvard” – about 1953, long a staple of the Harvard Band’s repertoire.

  2. the ridger Says:

    For some reason, this reminds me of the late 70s/early 80s, when the Episcopal Church made a massive change to its hymnal, adding many, dumping a few, and making this sort of change to others. I recall a diatribe by a more conservative fellow church-goer (in the Army, overseas), complaining that, to paraphrase, because there was no good way to make Once to Ev’ry Man and Nation “non-sexist” (said sneeringly), the church had just dumped it.

    It was, as I pointed out to him, not the “man” that did in that hymn; it was the “once”.

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