Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chapel Sing

The tradition of Chapel Sing is one upon which much gravity is assigned. Transcending the boundaries of the hearth, independents and fraternity brothers alike participate. Competing to perfectly recite Wabash's song, they hope to appease the body of individuals they so seem to be representing. The pride of those groups is also at stake, as they hope to celebrate that their specific group placed in the top ranks. This is the importance it is assigned by the participants and their respective groups. Since those that participate are coached by the veterans of their groups, it adds that much more incentive for the singers to succeed: the tutors can boast their tutelage produced the placing and the pupils can appease them. The event as touted as the induction of the incoming class into the traditions and the body of the Wabash students, basically a rite of passage. The singers also get to meet and mingle with the upperclassmen. However, this is not the only signification of the act.

The signifier of the act of singing also imparts an idea of submission on the part of the students participating. In both the practice and final event, upperclassmen can be seen closely inspecting each individual. In practice if there is any hiccup, some might take occasion to yell or berate the individual in order to make them sing better. At the event they will be removed and have a red W spray painted on their shirts signifying their failure. The participants expose themselves to this willingly, and to all of the eyes of those attending the events. For those that monitor, it can be seem as an exercise of their power over the lower classes, a power which they would not hold under other circumstances. The singers submit to the power of their predecessors and groups from which they come, and the teachers willingly exercise the power they are given over those students. So the event, in summation, can not only be seen as an induction to tradition, but one of submission and seeking to be accepted, as well as an exercise of power that would not normally be given to the upperclassmen.


  1. This is an interesting way to view Chapel Sing. I would argue that by willingly submitting themselves to this competition, the participants are not giving power to the upperclassmen, rather they are submitting to the time honored tradition of Wabash College and it's historic fight song "Old Wabash." It is the song for which they must memorize, and master, it is not a person they must master or appease. It is simply that they must memorize a song and sing it correctly. By doing so they are paying tribute to the school and all that it stands for. This is another way for the young men of the college to put themselves out there and prove themselves worthy to be a Wabash man. Not saying that this is a right way to view it, but i feel it is a better way than saying that they are submitting power to upperclassmen. In no way are they giving them power by singing the school song. If anything they are giving more power to the school and the song for which they so arduously practice and memorize. It is for the pride of the school, not the pride of an upperclassmen.

  2. Viewing Chapel Sing as an event in which power changes hands is rather interesting. I would argue that this is to a degree true and an aspect that I had not previously given much thought to; however I feel that to some degree the history of the event as well as the college needs to be addressed. You are correct in your contention that currently the event gives power to upperclassmen that they may not have otherwise had. But historically Chapel Sing was simply one more way by which freshmen had to prove themselves worthy of being Wabash men. If you recall, in an earlier time period all freshmen on campus had to wear small red and green felt hats (“pots”). This in and of itself was an act of power exchange and submission on behalf of freshman; when a freshman put his pot on he was marking himself as different. Chapel Sing was but another activity that the freshmen used to do as a way of proving themselves. Today the event is completely voluntary, thus diminishing the submission aspect of Chapel Sing. It is my opinion that today Chapel Sing is but a fleeting reminder of the history, and a constant reminder, to those who know the history, that things are easier today than they used to be in the past.