Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Stevens tradition of Cremating Calculus

by Leah Loscutoff, Archivist and Special Collection Librarian

                                     Calculus Memoriam, Link yearbook 1890.
With finals coming soon and the fall semester in its final weeks, I’m reminded of one of Stevens’ more humorous traditions from the past, the “Cremation of Calculus.” The Cremation of Calculus was first started by Stevens students in 1889. This annual tradition of putting Calculus on trial stayed popular until the early 1960s. The exact date of when this beloved tradition ended can’t be clearly determined, but after 1961 it is difficult to find any mention of the Cremation of Calculus as a campus festivity. The premise was to put their most loathed class on trial, convicting it accordingly. The loathsome class that was unanimously despised by Stevens students was good old Calculus, often referred to as “Old Man Calculus”, “Charlie Calculus”, or just “Calc.”
As stated in a Link yearbook from 1917, “the C.C.C (Calculus Cremation Committee) worked long and hard devising the most horrible death for Calculus.”  Below is one of the proclamations made by the committee in 1907.
The case was tried in front of an audience, and there were even attorneys chosen to represent each side: the graduating class of that year versus Calculus. Faculty members were good sports during this annual custom, and prominent professors helped serve as jurors. Poor Calculus did not fare very well in these trials, and the judgment was always murder in the first degree. Calculus, the students’ wily and troublesome captive, was sent to its death on a yearly basis.  
Calculus Cremation Trial, Link yearbook 1924.  

During some years, a parade would ensue down Washington Street after the judgment was reached. The students would always burn an effigy of Calculus, dancing around the flames in celebration. In part this annual festivity was also a way for the students to vent out any frustrations from their strict courseload. The Cremation of Calculus always occurred at the end of the semester, when the hard work was completed and “Old Man Calculus” hopefully defeated.  

If you could put any class on trial today, which one would it be?