Originally printed in The Daily Targum, February 10, 1994

Cap and Skull

'The Rutgers class of 1900 was very small, as compared with classes in the University today...We began to feel that some organized bond should be formed to perpetuate this close association, after college days had passed...After several informal meetings, we organized on January 18, 1900, by adopting a brief constitution setting forth the purposes of Cap and Skull as the senior honor society of Rutgers.'

deWitt Rapalje, Class of 1900, spoke these words at Cap and Skull's 50th anniversary dinner in 1950, and his words mark the beginning of one of the oldest traditions at Rutgers, the Cap and Skull Society, a senior honors society comprised of eighteen seniors who, according to the Cap and Skull constitution, 'show outstanding academic and extracurricular leadership.'

Cap and Skull boasts a historical membership, with alumni like Paul Robeson, Joyce Kilmer, Howard Crosby, Richard Hale, Salman Walksman, and Kenneth Iuso (our University Registrar). Past members have been varsity athletes, Targum editors, Greek leaders, political figures. Cap and Skull alumni are Nobel laureates, mayors, United States Representatives, company presidents, college deans, and in the case of Paul Robeson, legends.

You may be asking: so what? It's just another organization; why are you discussing it?

Contemporary Rutgers is very big, and very apathetic. School spirit is a thing of the past, something that happened when you knew everyone in your class, freshmen wore derbies and carried canes, and Rutgers lost to Princeton every year in our annual football game. About the same time our football team went Division I and concentrated more on Big Time Football than fun, our school spirit went out the proverbial window. The only people who know the Alma Mater anymore are the Marching Band and Glee Club, and only because they have to.

Rutgers does have some mighty traditions. We are the eighth oldest college in the country. Our football team won the first intercollegiate football game in 1869, the fraternities have existed from the mid 1830s, the debate society was incepted in 1773, and the RU screw dates from the time Native Americans were kicked out of New Brunswick so Johnson and Johnson could build something.

But many of these traditions have been lost over the years--our football team sucks, the fraternities have turned from literary societies into beer halls, and Johnson and Johnson just isn't making as much money as it was in the good old Reagan years. (Note to conservatives: that was satire.)

Today, we have no school spirit. It doesn't seem important now; we're all too worried about passing our classes and getting a good job when we graduate. But college has to be more than that. It has to be something that we'll remember, and remember fondly. If not, we're wasting our time. If we fail to enjoy ourselves now, we'll regret it. All too soon, we'll be caught in our lives, looking back at the 'good old days.' I, for one, would like to remember them as such.

Traditions like Cap and Skull are what separate Rutgers from modern universities like Maryland, Delaware, and Penn State. We have a proud history. We grew up with the Ivy League, and are older than some of them (and certainly better than some, too). Traditions such as the annual Rutgers-Princeton football game, the annual Queen's College-King's College (Columbia) debates, and sleeping with your professors for good grades (a lesser known tradition, for obvious reasons) have made this school three-dimensional, a school more like an Ivy and less like New Jersey State.

The Cap and Skull society is one such tradition that has survived, and certainly a memory that will be cherished for those chosen for membership. Being recognized by one's peers as a leader of the community is something special, and often unexpected. Many people choose to excel not for the sake of recognition, but because they simply want to better themselves and their communities. These are the individuals whom Cap and Skull honors, and if you feel you are one of these individuals, you should apply for membership in the Cap and Skull society, and do your part to contribute to Rutgers history, so that in fifty years, you, like deWitt Rapalje, will be able to fondly remember the totality of your college experience.

Applications for Cap and Skull are available now at the Student Centers and the Ledge, due February 18th. Cap and Skull is open to any qualified Rutgers College junior, regardless of race, religion, etc. Eighteen people form the Class of 1995 will be chosen to be members of Cap and Skull--leaders among leaders.

Earl Miers, Cap and Skull member of the Class of 1933 said, 'Who makes Cap and Skull? Sometimes the gifted, sometimes the faithful, sometimes the gentlemen with sufficient campus connections. What does it matter? One has educated the other and all have earned the self-respect of their common fellowship. So, in the end, each man must decide what Cap and Skull means. To me it is trust and honor, a golden memory, a warm caress from youth upon the brow of age and cynicism.'

Apply now, and become part of of the oldest and most cherished traditions at Rutgers--the Cap and Skull Honor Society.

Jason Gottlieb is a Rutgers College senior who has a long tradition of sleeping with his professors for good grades. Sometimes even for just okay grades.

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