The Argus explores some parts of Wesleyan that don't fit into the standard orientation fare.

As you wander between events bolded in red in your orientation packet, you’ll probably start to realize that not all of your questions are answered. Vague rumors still abound, sparked by an overheard conversation in Usdan or an ACB post. Here is a guide that will hopefully answer some of the questions that you didn’t want to raise your hand and ask.

Naked Dorms

Somehow, one of the few things that friends/family members/vague acquaintances from off-campus have heard about Wesleyan is that there is a so-called “naked dorm.” “Is it true?” they will ask in giddy (or appalled) whispers, voices dripping with anticipation (or apprehension).

Technically, it’s true enough. WestCo is officially a “clothing optional” dorm for freshmen and sophomores. Granted, most of the time people seem to be clothed, which could be a bit of a letdown if you were expecting the salaciousness hyped up by a 2000 New York Times article titled “Naked Dorm? That Wasn’t in the Brochure.”

Naked parties, or at the very least parties with patrons dressed in their undergarments, do occur here with reasonable frequency. If that’s what floats your boat, keep your ears open for them, especially during inclement weather (blizzards and hurricanes, most notably).

As you may have already discovered by now, Wesleyan is not lacking in nudity. Orientation events attract streakers, as do large numbers of people studying in the library.

The Cannon

The Douglas Cannon, an icon of Wesleyan that lurks out of sight, is known for mysteriously disappearing and then reappearing on campus every several years. Its most recent appearance was a brief one in the Zelnick Pavilion in Dec. 2012.

The Douglas Cannon rooted itself in Wesleyan culture in the mid-1800s. Its origins can be traced to Captain Partridge’s American Literary, Scientific and Military Academy, which lived on this campus between 1825 and 1931. Wesleyan eventually used the cannon to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, and contests known as “cannon scraps” emerged, with freshmen trying to fire the cannon on this holiday and sophomores trying to prevent them. The cannon-firing practice led to the destruction of library windows in 1869 (the cannon was overpacked).

The scrap contests themselves were perhaps even more entertainingly destructive. According to the Wesleyan Archives, “The most elaborate ones involved over 100 participants and a combination of multiple decoy cannons, kidnappings, signal fires, wire barricades, snow forts, trip wires, electric buzzers, and the Middletown Fire Department, who turned their hoses on the sophomore crowds in 1905.” In 1916, the contest was abandoned.

In 1957, the cannon was stolen for the first time, and the tradition of repeated theft and dramatic return has continued through recent years. The cannon has been presented as a prank gift to both the USSR delegate to the U.N. in 1961 and to President Richard Nixon in 1969, both times needing to be reclaimed by Wesleyan University officials. Postcards from “Doug” suggest that the cannon has also travelled the globe; the worldly cannon was kind enough to grace us with a video chat in late 2011.


Ah, the Wesleyan tunnels: home to graffiti galore, weird artifacts both old and new, and intrepid students who seek adventure (or who seek asbestos). There are four sets of tunnels, including maintenance tunnels and tunnels under the CFA, but people most often refer to the ones under the Butts and WestCo. Walks through these tunnels, which are officially off-limits, will reveal philosophical conversations written over the years in spray paint and Sharpie and artwork that ranges from crude to mesmerizing. The WestCo tunnels used to include student dorm rooms, and until the 2012 renovations, the Butterfield laundry and kitchen facilities were underground as well.

The tunnels are still used to some degree as storage by Wesleyan programs, though the functional use of the tunnels seems to be growing increasingly limited. Perhaps consequentially, students’ ability to access the underground networks seems to be more limited as well.

 Tour de Franzia

Tour de Franzia, known as “TDF” or “The Tour,” is a Wesleyan tradition that has becoming increasingly controversial in recent years due to administrative crackdowns. The minimum of six judicial points that can be delivered as a result of participation or perceived participation in the costumed, Franzia-drinking scavenger hunt, cemented the Tour’s status as WesLore. Its future remains unknown.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. For example, you will have to fend for yourselves for information on secret societies, such as Skull and Serpent and the Mystical Seven.  The seeds of new “lore” are planted regularly, and they grow slowly.

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