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Sipping at the Old Well, rushing Franklin and streaking Davis — a look into UNC’s unique traditions

Franklin Street Rush

Fans rush Franklin Street after a historic North Carolina men's basketball win over Duke in the Final Four game on April 2, 2022. UNC won 81-77.

Laney Dowell, a 2023 UNC graduate, said that on the first day of class of her first year, she woke up at 5:30 a.m. to beat the rush of students taking part in a UNC tradition: drinking from the Old Well. 

According to University legend, students who drink from the Old Well on the first day of class will receive a 4.0 GPA for the semester.

This tradition began in the 1980s when students would take a sip from the Old Well before an exam for good luck. It has since evolved to become a FDOC tradition.

“My FDOC my freshman year, I remember I woke up super, super early to get there,” Dowell said.

She returned to the Old Well at midnight on FDOC of her senior year, which she said was a totally different experience, though equally fun.

“It’s very funny thinking of me as a bright-eyed freshman just ready to go, hoping to get that 4.0 (GPA),” Dowell said.

One of the ways that UNC students form and maintain community is through the University's many traditions.

Dowell said that she felt very connected to the UNC community when she rushed Franklin Street on April 2, 2022, following the UNC men's basketball win over its rival Duke University in the Final Four game of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

"That night, I was just in a sea of people wearing Carolina blue, we were all there for the same purpose and it was really cool" she said. "It was honestly one of those things where I don't know if I'll ever get an experience like that again."

When UNC beats its rival Duke University in men’s basketball, students rush to Franklin Street for a campus-wide celebration.

“I loved rushing Franklin Street every time we beat Duke, especially during the Final Four,"  Manav Patel, another 2023 UNC graduate, said. "That would honestly probably be my favorite memory at Carolina. I love that tradition."

Davis Library, the central library on campus, provides students with eight floors of studying spaces and literature. However, on the night before final exams begin, many students put their computers aside to streak through the library at midnight.

A version of this tradition began in 1974, when nearly 1,000 students led a streak across campus. Decades later, the students streaking through Davis draw a massive crowd of bystanders to cheer them on.

Sophomore John Boniberger said that he had heard of the Davis Streaking tradition but couldn’t believe it was real until it happened.

“I heard about it,” Boniberger said. “But I thought maybe it was one of those things people like to say, but it doesn’t actually happen.”

Drinking from the Old Well, rushing Franklin Street and streaking in Davis are traditions that have been around for decades. Other traditions have been popularized by recent generations of UNC students.

There are a myriad of special traditions for graduating seniors during what’s known as Senior Week in April.

A more recent ritual for graduating students is the senior Bell Tower climb. Implemented in 2003, this tradition allows graduating seniors to climb to the top of the Bell Tower as a rite of passage for completing their four years at UNC.

Dowell said that she had a great time climbing the Bell Tower before graduating in May. She said that one of her housemates accompanied her on the climb, and that she took a lot of pictures and enjoyed eating the complimentary snacks.

At UNC, these traditions help build a student culture and community on campus.

Patel said he advises incoming students to find people at UNC to enjoy these traditions with.

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“The number one piece of advice I give is just try to find your people, because I think people make traditions more so than anything else,” he said. “Being able to find your people to cherish those memories and form your own traditions and your own experiences is what I think is really important.”