Claremont McKenna College has garnered a reputation for being the country club of liberal arts colleges. Maybe it’s the frequent parties, the frequent tanning-while-studying, or being gifted a bottle of Champagne upon completion of your senior thesis.
Yeah, that’s right, CMC gives students a bottle of Champagne when they finish their senior theses and then tells them to go play in a fountain. See below:
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CMC, located in Claremont, California, requires all students to complete a senior thesis. Theses typically range from 70-200 pages, so it’s no wonder that when most finish theirs they feel a bit exhausted, and parched. In the words of Lynsey Chediak, ’14, “It’s important to celebrate your life’s milestones. Sometimes, that celebration requires standing on top of a fountain enjoying a personal bottle of Champagne, just for the hell of it.”
Students receive their Champagne immediately after turning in their theses at the registrar. The Champagne is provided to these seniors by the ASCMC, the student government association of Claremont McKenna. These bottles are then promptly taken to the fountain and popped. Underclassmen who pass the Senior Thesis fountain party risk being splashed by tipsy seniors in school-sanctioned smugness.
The school administration has tried in the past to specifically shut down the Thesis Fountain party. In 2010, seniors received an email from then-Class President William Robelo-Lara announcing the cancellation of the traditional post-thesis celebrations. He promised students he would follow up with the Alumni Association, and encouraged students to contact the Dean of Students directly.
Students rallied heavily against the cancellation. An article in the school’s paper (The Forum) that announced the cancellation had many students commenting in anger. One name-checked then-Dean Spellman: “Spell
Students started a Facebook group called “The Thesis Fountain Party Fan Club,” and the outcry that ensued left administration officials rushing to temper it. In the end, the student body was able to dissuade the administration from putting a kibosh on the fun.
Administrative officials did not take the resistance lightly. They feared that seniors would be less willing to contribute generously to the senior gift (an event was already scheduled for Senior gift collection). Some seniors threatened to cancel gifts they had already committed to sending. There was also the pressure of high school students visiting campus as part of their decision-making process, and being faced with an unhappy, off-putting student body.
And unhappy they were. Senior Max Mautner told The Forum, “How can the administration be so stupid to remove a popular tradition just as an entire class is about to graduate?”
Interestingly, it wasn’t the Champagne, per se, that the school’s officials took issue with; rather, the administration cited complaints about students getting wet and professors disliking the noise as reasons for wanting to shut down the Fountain Party. For students, these reasons weren’t compelling enough to “unilaterally” cancel the party.
In the end, CMC students – along with alumni – triumphed in their efforts to preserve the school’s “party culture,” with the bubbly-soaked Thesis Fountain party remaining a revered and lavish tradition.
Aliza Kellerman is a Staff Writer at VinePair and a graduate of the CMC class of 2013
All photos courtesy of Claremont McKenna College