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A kiss to keep tradition alive

Smug Mug/Benjamin Zack
A group of students posing while wearing props in the photo van at the 2021 True Wildcat event.

The tradition of becoming a True Wildcat is a unique part of Weber State University’s history. It’s an optional student experience filled with potential romance, anticipation and the desire to be deeply involved in the Wildcat community.

A student becomes a True Wildcat when they kiss someone under the Stewart Bell Tower, the heart of campus, at midnight. Participants must hold the kiss during the clock’s entire twelve chimes of the bell. It is typically held after the Homecoming dance and has always been linked with the Weber State University Student Association.

Other Utah universities have similar traditions. Utah State University calls it becoming a “True Aggie.”

USU’s website reads “One can become a “True Aggie” by receiving a kiss on the “A” under a full moon at midnight by somebody who already is a ‘True Aggie,’ or on Homecoming or A-Day by somebody who is not.”

Utah Valley University hosted a similar tradition aptly named “True Wolverine.” However, in 2018, Student Body President Marc Reynolds issued a response to the tradition axing it.

“As we enter into an era striving to promote a safer and more inclusive campus environment for our student body, we recognize that our current True Wolverine tradition does not achieve these goals,” UVUSA’s statement reads.

Some universities don’t have a kissing tradition, such as the University of Utah; one student in 2015 voiced their frustration in a letter to the editor at the Daily Utah Chronicle, University of Utah’s student-run newspaper.

“A ‘True Ute’ night would do a good job of grasping the college spirit by tapping into the youthfulness and thrill of kissing someone, even a stranger, in front of a crowd of fellow Utes. The experience would be one that could not be easily duplicated outside of the college campus setting that would bring us together — students only,” the letter said.

This year, the True Wildcat tradition will occur after the Homecoming Hoedown, a country-themed twist on the typical homecoming dance, with an emphasis on line dancing orchestrated by WSUSA’s Activities Team.

Sydney Pace, activities vice president at WSUSA, said that as students leave the dance, name tags will be given out so people can write their names and interests for others participating in the True Wildcat tradition to see and encourage conversation.

“We wanted to do it this way so more connections can be made between students,” Pace said.

It’s a fairly straight-forward tradition, but the origins of it are cloudy, and student reception is mixed.

True Wildcat is just one of many campus traditions, 50 of which can be found at the WSU Traditions Keeper page of WSU’s website. Weber State’s Student Alumni Association researched in collaboration with the Marketing & Communications department and Special Collections to compile the list for their Traditions Keeper program, which launched in 2018.

According to the Traditions Keeper website, the first instance of True Wildcat would have to be after 1971, since the Stewart Bell Tower was built and completed in December of that year.

According to Kandice Harris, the Special Collections and University Archives Coordinator, True Wildcat has been around since 1992.

After searching through archives, the first mention of True Wildcat we found was included in The Signpost and dates back to 1993, where the then-arts editor, Jennifer King, said the True Wildcat tradition would occur after the Homecoming Dance that year on Oct. 15.

Harris provided another finding of True Wildcat being mentioned in The Signpost in 2006. That year, an additional set of requirements specified that the two participants had to be touching the Stewart Bell Tower while they locked lips.

Wildcats not being fond of the tradition is still an ongoing matter. Leo Beck, WSU senior in digital media productions, is one of those people.

“I think that it’s gross, and I think people should get real relationships instead of thinking that kissing is a way of life,” Beck said. “I think they have nothing else to do. If there are seniors there, I feel disappointed.”

In speaking to students on their thoughts of the tradition and whether they are a True Wildcat or not, one WSU junior who prefers to remain anonymous recalled that they became a True Wildcat last year. The entire situation was awkward due to their encounter being with a stranger, and they wished they would have approached the situation differently.

However, some students reflect fondly on their True Wildcat experience, Phoebe DuCourant, WSU senior in Family Studies and Admissions ambassador, said that since finding out about the tradition, they were excited to participate in Weber history.

“It’s a fun event to go to,” DuCourant said. “They give out chapstick, mints and chocolate kisses.”

DuCourant became a True Wildcat in 2022 and believes that around a hundred students were in attendance, although not all participated in the tradition. She hopes that other students will begin to participate in more traditions, as it has made her college experience richer. DuCourant also attested to the ‘bragging rights’ one gets if they do become a True Wildcat.

The Traditions Keeper program previously had a requirement of all 50 traditions to be completed in order to claim an exclusive keepsake and be considered an official WSU Traditions Keeper. After a survey submitted to students by the 2022-2023 Student Alumni council, they found that most students weren’t able to complete all 50 traditions, with True Wildcat being one of particular student concern.

In an effort to be more inclusive and respective of their data findings, the council decided to lower the requirement to 25 completed traditions. This decision was announced to students at 2023’s block party.

“Tradition #12, ‘Become a True Wildcat,’ has been of concern to some Wildcats,” Rebecca Gibson, Alumni Association engagement coordinator and adviser to the Student Alumni Association, said. “Now that completing only 25 out of the 50 traditions are required, students can choose whether to become a True Wildcat or not without compromising their ability to become a Traditions Keeper.”

This year, True Wildcat follows the Homecoming Hoedown that WSUSA is throwing with a pre-homecoming line dancing instruction on Oct. 13 from 6:30-8 p.m.

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Megan Swann
Megan Swann, Culture Editor
Adam Montgomery
Adam Montgomery, Editor at Large

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