Legends of the University of Michigan Campus

University of Michigan Campus

By Alison Denton

By Alison Denton
December 5, 2008
Unigo Campus Rep at the University of Michigan

1. “Harmonica Guy”                                                                                                                                                                   A famous staple of the Michigan campus, this scruffy harmonica-humming and washboard-strumming musician can be seen everyday playing outside the undergraduate library. For many years this street performer was thought to be just one of the many quirky homeless people that decorate the Michigan campus. Realization that this musical staple was actually a professor and biological chemist stirred the creation of the popular Facebook group, “I thought the harmonica player on the diag was homeless, until I found out he was my professor”. Despite rain, cold, or snow, this enthusiastic musician’s music fills central campus through out the year.

2. The 'M' Legend
There is one superstition that keeps all University of Michigan students from doing one thing during their college experience—stepping on the bronze 'M' in the middle of the Diag. Legend has it that stepping on the 'M' before your first blue book exam will cause you to fail the exam or, worse, the class.

While most students avoid the “M” for the better part of their first year, some students avoid the possibility of stepping on the bronze emblem even after their first blue book exam.

Yet, stepping on the 'M' is not quite a death sentence. There is in fact a remedy to this tragic misstep. Students say that the only way to reverse stepping on this important campus feature is to run from the Pumas in front of the Museum of Natural History to the back of the Bell Tower and back beginning at the stroke of midnight before the clock finishes its twelve chimes—a feat that is ultimately impossible.

3. Extraterrestrial Michigan Flag
Upon first arrival to campus, every young Michigan student is told of the great achievements of Wolverines past. Between famous scientists, entrepreneurs, and writers, every Michigan student remembers being told that the presence of Michigan alumni achievement extends as far as the moon. That's right—legend has it there's a Michigan flag on the moon.

Despite the popular Facebook group (“Oh Ya? Well We Have a Flag On the Moon Bitches”), the legend is actually not true. It turns out that there have been many Michigan astronauts, and even entirely Michigan-only flights to space, but no flag on the moon.

4. Engineering Arch Nuptials 

Another folklore at the University of Michigan concerning campus architecture promises a much more positive and romantic outcome. It is said that if college sweethearts kiss underneath the Engineering Arch by South University Street at precisely midnight, the couple will eventually marry.

While college couples aren’t often seen kissing underneath the arch, many Michigan alumni who wed on campus choose to include the arch as a stop in their wedding processionals. 

5. Hash Bash                                                                                                                                                                         The first Saturday of April brings with it, not only some long awaited spring weather, but also one of the largest street fairs in Ann Arbor. Held annually for 37 years, Hash Bash turns quiet Monroe Street into an all day party complete with hippie vendors and jam-bands.

Many students see Hash Bash as the first chance to relieve winter’s cabin fever, but it is important to note that the event is actually politically-charged. The origin of Hash Bash is founded in the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws legalization campaign.

6. The Naked Mile                                                                                                                                                                     A tradition first started when members of the University’s men’s and women’s rowing team streaked down South University Street in 1986, this Michigan tradition has dwindled in recent years. During its hay day, many students would celebrate the last day of classes by running naked across campus. With increased media and local police attention, this once fun activity has lost its popularity. Nevertheless, every spring a small amount of University students keep the Mile’s spirit alive.