Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Treat the Freshmen, 1495

They get smaller every year.
Codex Manesse (c. 1304)

"Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation."

Leipzig University Statute (1495)

A friendly reminder for the new academic year: please resist the temptation to terrify the freshmen with spooky voices, at least for the first few weeks.


  1. Well, there goes my lesson plan for fall.

  2. Can I get some suggestions on water/urine drenching alternatives for my bucket-on-top-of-the-ajar-door prank?

    1. When in doubt, use wine. That's one of the main lessons of the past.

    2. ....Just not recycled wine!

    3. Hot oil? Well, no... that was pre-1495. No longer in vogue.

    4. Lol; I "use" wine a lot. It helps many things. :)

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  4. Replies
    1. It's in the Bibliography page, which is a bit of a labyrinth at the moment...
      Friedrich Zarncke, ed., Die Statutenbücher der Universität Leipzig, (Leipzig, 1861), 102. Translation adapted from Robert Francis Seybolt, The Manuale Scholarium: An Original Account of Life in the Mediaeval University (Cambridge, MA, 1921), 21-2, n.6.

  5. I asked myself, what Latin word could possibly be translated as "freshman"? "Beanus", which actually means a pre-initiation ("depositio") student and derives from a Sorbonne term "bec jaune", yellow-beak or, as we might say, greenhorn. See the Wikipedia entry for "deposition (university)".

    1. At the University of St. Andrews, which I attended as an honorary freshman several--OK, full disclosure: many--decades ago (I was actually in my US junior year abroad), first-year students were called "Bejants," a term obviously borrowed from the French during the era of the "Auld Alliance" of Scotland and France against their common enemy, the detestable English.

    2. Yes - "freshman" here is a translation of "beanus" (elsewhere "bejaunus"), cf. Mariken Teeuwen, The Vocabulary of Intellectual Life in the Middle Ages, 41: "At the end of his first academic year, the bejaunus, together with his combejauni, was purged of the slur of his freshmanship (the labes bejaunica) and was called a sc(h)olaris collegiatus."

      I didn't know St. Andrews first-years were called this too! I hope you weren't subjected to any of the indignities above.

  6. "Beanus"...hence the term "beanie," which freshmen were (are?) often forced to wear? I'm guessing.

  7. No mocking or terrifying? How does one build character,then?

    1. The fifteenth century was good with loopholes.

  8. When I was a frosh at a Catholic high school in 1970, we were called "bennies" and wore brown and white beanies proudly to prove it. Now I finally understand.

  9. be reminded that the freshman year in college, in 1495, was probably a youth's twelfth or thirteenth year. they were junior-high-school boys. a little harassment was probably well in order...

  10. You can see the roots of fascism in Germany already, this early. Trying to tell us what to do with freshmen, in that authoritarian way of theirs. Ha. As if.

  11. Lists like that remind me of a colleague's typical remark regarding laws or rules against something: "If there was a need to write a written rule against it, that always means that this was done!"
    Glad I'm not a medieval freshman...

  12. I guess neither hazing nor bullying are all that new.

  13. "Beanie" was the first thing that occurred to me, too (having tried to steal the beanies before we could be forced to wear them during orientation), but I wonder if there is really a direct link. The dictionaries (Oxford English dictionary, Webster's Third new international) don't make it. "Beanie" for them comes from U.S. slang, which they trace back to "bean" in the sense of "head", which does not (according to them) go back to beanus < bejaunus etc.

  14. I posted the Latin original here for the the curious and the teachers of freshman Latin who want to inculcate good student behavior this semester:

  15. Greek: douloß - servant, slave, devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests; having no identity

    Hazing isn't just mindless abuse, it's a rite of passage!

  16. ...cry at them with a terrifying voice...
    That made me laugh the hardest. So, no jumping out from behind doors and saying, "BOO! Ahahaha, didst ye all see the look on this beanie's face? T'was priceless!"


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