Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College began with land grants from the United States to Louisiana in 1806, 1811, and 1827. The Seminary of Learning of the State of Louisiana opened on January 2, 1860, near Pineville, Louisiana. The first head of the university, then the superintendent, was Col. William Tecumseh Sherman, who later served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. On October 15, 1869, the school was destroyed by a fire, and would reopen on November 1, 1869 in Baton Rouge. In 1870, the school’s name was officially changed to Louisiana State University.
In the 1930s, the institution was rocked by a major scandal. President James Monroe Smith was charged with embezzling a half-million dollars, and twenty state officials were charged in the affair. In 1964, LSU admitted its first undergraduate African-American students; in 1969, mandatory ROTC service for freshmen and sophomores was abolished.
Situated on the banks of the Mississippi River, LSU’s main campus occupies 650 acres. Most of LSU’s 250 buildings were built in the Italian Renaissance style, and the campus features picturesque oak trees valued at up to $36 million. The beauty of the LSU campus isn’t exactly a well-kept secret: in his book The Campus as a Work of Art, author Thomas Gaines praised the university’s grounds as a “botanical joy.” While most of the campus is an historic, aesthetic wonderland, there are a few modern buildings constructed in the 1970s as well.
There are a few highly-trafficked areas on LSU’s campus. First off, the Parade Grounds are popular for anyone who loves the outdoors. Situated near the Union and Quad, it is a very large grassy field surrounded by oak trees. On any given day, but especially on sunny ones, you will find students studying, throwing a Frisbee, tanning, or playing sports on the Parade Grounds. Next, the LSU Union provides undergrads with a number of necessities and amenities. Students are able to eat, buy books, bowl, play arcade games, mail letters, and watch plays and concerts at the Union.
On the academic side of campus life, the library is full of students from open to close. Although not very attractive, it is a big and functional building located in the Quad. LSU’s library has the requisite books and study areas, as well as multiple computer labs and printers. It also has a CC’s Coffee shop where students can grab a quick snack. The Quad itself is also a great place. Once the center of LSU’s campus, the Quad is surrounded by some of the institution’s oldest buildings. It is a very pretty area with sidewalks, patches of grass, and pretty trees. Students can often be found on the benches or by the fountain reading, napping, studying, or just mingling.
Finally, the Pentagon is a set of five dorms which all open into an outdoor common area in the center. One of the five buildings also contains a small market, enabling students to grab lunch and eat at the picnic tables. There are also many oak trees in this area; some even have swings hanging from them.
LSU has a strong relationship with the city of Baton Rouge. The school is directly exposed to a commercial area adjacent to its North Gate, and is otherwise surrounded by parking lots, Tiger Stadium, beautiful lakes, and residences. LSU undergrads live, eat, shop, exercise, and party within a four-mile area. While most students find that they do not need to venture far to find what they’re looking for, they can always head into Baton Rouge to grab food or meet friends.
LSU has earned its reputation as a party school, and for those who want to get off campus, there’s plenty to do every night of the week. Tigerland, a popular area to the southeast of campus, contains a cluster of bars, including Tigerbar, Reggie’s, Fred’s, Bogey’s, and Shady’s. These are typically the main attraction for LSU students, and the ages for admission range from 18 to 20. The clientele at each bar tends to have its own distinct character, though all are inclusive, ranging from freshman Greeks to senior Rifle Club members. On occasion cover bands will play Tigerland’s bars, but for the most part they play rap and provide opportunities for dancing.
The Downtown scene is a bit different, as one must usually be 21 to enter these bars. Some of the most popular are Roux House, Happy’s, and Tsunami’s. These cater to an older crowd, with more expensive drinks, a calmer atmosphere, more palatable music, and fewer people. The music tends to have less of an edge as well, and these bars also offer live music.
Make no mistake, tradition runs deep at Louisiana State University, and as one recent graduate claims, it helps to cultivate a unified LSU culture in which “people have a sense of belonging.”
LSU’s biggest tradition is tailgating, which occurs before every home football game and even before most away games. Up to 300 people decked out in purple and gold will congregate under each large tent to party for the eight hours leading up to kickoff. Aside from the requisite kegs, some tailgates have televisions, stereos, drinking games, and most importantly, food.
The night before Valentine’s Day, many LSU students join up under the LSU Memorial Tower to participate in the Midnight Valentine’s Ceremony. The tradition holds that whoever kisses at midnight under the tower will stay together forever.
Groovin’ on the Grounds takes place once a year on the LSU Parade Grounds. This dry party is hosted by organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students on Target, and has brought big acts to campus including Chamillionaire, Wyclef Jean, Chevelle, Puddle of Mudd, Three 6 Mafia, and Better than Ezra.
The vast majority of LSU’s athletic rivals come from within the Southeastern Conference, chief among them Ole Miss. LSU and Ole Miss have been competing on the gridiron since 1894, with the most memorable game coming in 1959, when Billy Cannon delivered an 89-yard punt return to defeat the #3-rated Rebels. Today, students reserve even more animosity for the Florida Gators, a rival from the SEC’s East Division. Tickets to the LSU-Florida football game are nearly impossible to come by. With both schools ranked in the NCAA’s top 25 for the past six seasons, the game rarely disappoints. And these are just two of the teams that make LSU blood boil. The Tigers have played Tulane since 1893 for the “Tiger Rag,” and Arkansas and LSU participate in “The Battle for the Golden Boot.”
- With special reporting by Lance Person ‘10
James Carville (1973) is the Democratic political strategist who has earned the world’s coolest nickname, “the Ragin’ Cajun.”
Hubert Humphrey (M.A. 1940) served as vice president under Lyndon Johnson and was the 1968 Democratic nominee for president.
Peter Maravich (1970) was a legendary hoopster who made his free throws and earned the world’s second-coolest nickname, “Pistol Pete.”
Shaquille O’Neal (2000) is a four-time NBA Champion center and the star of Kazaam. Shaq shatters backboards, but is not known for making his free throws. Still, he does have another great nickname, and while he left LSU before graduating to enter the 1992 NBA draft, he completed his degree requirements eight years later.
Competing in the NCAA’s ultracompetitive Division I Southeastern Conference, Louisiana State University’s athletic program is nationally acclaimed. All sports, regardless of their successes, are well-funded and publicized by the university, and if there is one thing that you are guaranteed at an LSU athletic event, it’s a good time. The students in attendance are there to cheer, not just to watch. School spirit is on full display on campus year-round, but during competitions it is greatly intensified.
First off, Tiger football is nothing short of a spectacle. Coach Les Miles has solidified the Tigers’ reputation as a gridiron powerhouse. As the only team to win two National Championships under the BCS system, both of them coming in the past five years, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate football at LSU.
Though not as fervently followed as football, the remaining LSU athletic teams are all well-supported, and LSU ranks 6th all-time in total national championships, with 40 recognized by the NCAA. LSU fields competitive squads in baseball, basketball (men’s and women’s), golf (men’s and women’s), gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis (men’s and women’s), track and field, and volleyball.
The women’s basketball team has reached the Final Four each of the past four seasons (‘04-‘07). In the 90’s, the LSU baseball team set up residence in Omaha, winning five national championships (’91, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’00). Women’s track and field has also experienced much recent success: since 1987, the indoor track team has won 11 national championships while the outdoor team has brought home 13 titles.
While LSU remains competitive in virtually every sport in the SEC, not every team has achieved the same level of astounding success. Other than a Final Four appearance in ’06 and a Sweet Sixteen appearance in ’00, coach John Brady failed to lead the men’s basketball team to the successive postseason berths that the school enjoyed under Dale Brown in the ‘80’s. In spite of its shortcomings, men’s basketball games are still quite well-attended. The remainder of the teams must rely on successful campaigns and meaningful games to attract fans.
- With special reporting by Lance Person ‘10
In 1988, the fans at Tiger Stadium cheered so loudly after a game-winning touchdown that a seismograph in the LSU geology department registered the uproar as an earthquake.
Scenes from the 2005 film The Dukes of Hazzard were filmed on the LSU campus.
After the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman donated two cannons to the institution, which are still on display to this day. These cannons were captured from Confederate forces and were used in the Civil War’s first battle at Fort Sumter.
On-campus housing is split between Residential Colleges (in which students live with others who share a general interest) and traditional dorms. In total, just under a quarter of all undergrads live on campus. While freshmen aren’t required to live on campus, most do because the dorms provide yet another social outlet, even if they also have a reputation for being a bit run-down and dingy.
The Residential College breakdown:
Broussard Hall: co-ed living for students interested in information technology.
East Laville and West Laville: housing for the Honors College. Considered to be some of the nicest facilities on campus.
Herget Hall: provides students with structured academic and social programs. Students take courses created especially for Herget Hall.
As for traditional dorms:
Acadian Hall: standard housing for freshmen and upperclassman.
Annie Boyd Hall: known for its larger rooms.
Beauregard Hall: inhabits a central location on campus.
Blake Hall: an all-female dorm.
Evangeline Hall: another all-female option.
Highland Hall: known for its prime location across from the Student Union.
Jackson Hall: has a more private vibe.
Kirby-Smith Hall: an all-male option.
LeJenune Hall: all-freshman dorm.
Louise Garig Hall: another all-male dorm.
McVoy Hall: located on the lake.
Miller Hall: another all-freshman dorm that sits alongside the lake.
Taylor Hall: another more private living environment.