Rat Season at Clemson

Hazing or Tradition?

Two issues published by The Tiger in August and September addressed the dying tradition of Rat Season at Clemson. The tradition was, incoming freshman were welcomed to the campus by having their heads shaved and being forced to wear an orange cap. They became known as 'rats' and were expected to the whatever the upperclassmen instructed them to do. These newspapers reveal the tradition's slow death by 1970.

The Counterculture of the 1960's and 1970's often focused on antiwar sentiments and was directed at U.S. military action in Vietnam. However, a niche aspect of Clemson's culture that was affected by the social change was the concept of the Rat Season.

Essentially, incoming freshman became errand boys or 'Rats' for the upperclassmen. Expected to shave their heads and wear orange caps, the Rats would then do whatever the upperclassmen told them to do. This ranged from mundane tasks such as doing laundry or fetching lunch to activities that might be considered hazing.

The Rat tradition itself came to be considered oppressive by the newer incoming students and by 1970 was a dying tradition. As seen in the pictures, Rats were still present but they were few. One tradition of throwing Rats into the Reflection Pool with cheerleaders during a pep rally still remained in 1970, as seen in the photos. However, this tradition too would fade as proof of Clemson's transition from a military school to a public research university.