In the Loop
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Tina Wang / Staff Illustrator

With a full year of online learning under our belts, students new to Columbia have missed out on learning about tales and traditions that are usually passed down from year to year. Here are some of the traditions and lore that every Columbia student must know about:


Lerner Pub (September, monthly)

Previously known as Furnald Pub, Lerner Pub is a senior tradition that is planned by the four undergraduate councils. The event is once a month and is a space for seniors to drink beers and hang out with their classmates over the course of their last year at the University.

Big Sub (October)

Every year, the McIntosh Activities Council at Barnard organizes a giant submarine sandwich. The sandwich often spans hundreds of feet and caters to various dietary needs. The last Big Sub held on campus boasted a 750-foot long sub that took 48 hours to prepare but only 15 minutes to consume.

Midnight Breakfast (December)

Midnight Breakfast is also organized by the McIntosh Activities Council and takes place the night before finals begin. Faculty and staff gather at midnight to provide breakfast foods to students. First-years are prioritized in the fall and given early access, and seniors are prioritized in the spring for their first and last midnight breakfasts respectively.

Bacchanal (April)

Bacchanal is a student-run music organization that plans events for undergraduate students. It is mostly known for its annual spring concert, colloquially called “Bacchanal”. Past performers include SOPHIE, Rina Sawayama, The Chainsmokers, Vampire Weekend, Ty Dolla $ign, Macklemore, and more.

Subway Party (April)

The Special Interest Community Potluck House organizes a rowdy annual midnight event where students congregate at the 116th Street Columbia University subway station to board the 1 train to Coney Island. Take a look at the 2017 and 2018 Facebook events for more details. Read our staff’s account of the 2019 Subway Party here.

40s on 40 (April)

40s on 40 is an unofficial event held on Low Steps 40 days before graduation. That night, seniors would gather and drink “40s,” or 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor. From 2007 to 2009, the event was sponsored by the University and held in a cordoned-off area with alcohol and ID checks. Since then, the event has been more informally planned by the senior class.

Primal Scream (May)

Primal Scream is a screaming session that can be heard throughout campus at midnight on the last Sunday of the semester. Students open their windows or gather to let out their sorrows and frustrations. The screams have occurred—sometimes intermittently—since 1872. You can hear a soundbite of the screams here.

Past Traditions

Naked Run (October)

The Naked Run was once an event organized by the track and field team and was held every October. Students would sing “Roar, Lion, Roar” while running naked through campus. They generally ran down Low Steps, around the South Lawn and Butler to make their way back up the steps.

Orgo Night (December/May)

Orgo Night was held the night before the organic chemistry final exam. The Columbia University Marching Band used to take over the main reading room of Butler Library and distract students from studying, with the intention of lowering the curve of the exam. However, with the band disbanded due to allegations of racism, sexual harassment, and hazing, this tradition seems to have faded into the folds of history.

Spring Pillow Fight (May)

The Spring Pillow Fight often took place at the same time as Primal Scream. Students brought their pillows to the Sundial and would move onto South Lawn as the screaming commenced.


Owl in Alma

Columbia’s Alma Mater is said to have an owl hidden in the folds of her robe. Before Columbia College became coed, it was thought that the first student in each year to find the owl would become valedictorian of his class and marry a Barnard student.


Columbia’s dining halls began offering Nutella in 2013. However, they failed to estimate the student demand for Nutella and the decision cost the University more than expected. Students began smuggling the spread out through any possible means, leading to a consumption of nearly 100 pounds a day. This phenomenon, which you can read about further here, was labelled Nutellagate.


Benoit, a pseudonym named after the pro-wrestler Chris Benoit, SEAS ’01,who was famous for exploring the tunnels. He often led tours over the course of the school year. Though we aren’t sure if his email is still active, you can try reaching out to, where he used to answer questions regarding the tunnels.

Allied Destructive Hackers Of Columbia and Ken Hechtman

Ken Hechtman was a Columbia student who got expelled for keeping uranium-238 and creating explosive devices in his dorm. He was known for his tunnelling activities and participating in the Allied Destructive Hackers Of Columbia. The group was known for causing blackouts and vandalizing campus, primarily in the tunnels.

Staff Writer Swethaa Suresh can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec. Follow Spectrum on Twitter @CUSpectrum.

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Tree Lighting Nutellagate Primal Scream Orgo Night Alma Mater Midnight Breakfast Bacchanal Greek Games
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