RAT Caps and other Freshmen Traditions
Not unlike the vast majority of other schools across the nation, the Georgia Institute of Technology has several traditions for both the freshmen class as well as the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Some of the more notable traditions are the wearing of the RAT Caps as well as the Freshmen Cake Race.
History of the RAT Cap
Wearing the RAT cap dates all the way back to 1915. After this year, all freshmen at Georgia Tech were required to wear these caps every single day until either the Thanksgiving Day football game, where Georgia Tech played their biggest rival, the University of Georgia, or until the end of the school year. If Georgia Tech won the rivalry game, the hats no longer had to be worn. However, if they lost the rivalry game, the caps had to be worn for the duration of that particular school year. Presently, RAT caps are no longer required to be worn by all freshmen; however, many freshmen students at Georgia Tech choose to do so at games, and the marching band at Georgia Tech still requires their freshmen instrument players to wear these caps for a while. During the years when Georgia Tech did not play the Georgia Bulldogs, freshmen were allowed to stop wearing their caps if the football team won the Homecoming Game that year; however, if the football team lost this game than the freshmen had to wear the RAT caps for the remainder of the year.
Appearance of the RAT Cap
RAT Caps are yellow and gold in color. They were decorated by the students with a variety of information: expected graduation date, favorite football players and their jersey numbers, scores from previous football games, name, hometown, and, perhaps the most important part of the cap, the inscription of “to HELL with georgia”, with the word “hell” being in all caps and “georgia” being purposely in a lowercase font. The RAT in RAT caps formally stands for “Recruit at Tech”, but in more recent years many student government organizations have begun addressing the name behind RAT caps as either “Recently Acquired Tech Students” or even “Recently Acquired Techie.” Despite this, neither of these names are correct.
Consequences of Not Wearing the RAT Cap
As one could probably guess, upperclassmen were not too happy if they caught a freshmen without a RAT cap on, as they had to go through this form of humiliation during their freshmen year. To see a freshmen without a RAT cap is almost an insult to the tradition of the school and because of this, there were many consequences for not wearing the RAT Cap. Mostly, these punishments were in the form of hazing, which was different for boys and girls. Boys caught without their RAT Caps had to have their heads buzzed leaving a “T” shape on top of the head. Girls on the other hand were required to wear hundreds of ribbons tied into their hair. From 1915 to about 1960, this was the punishment. However, in the sixties many people began to protest the hazing rules which eventually led to an anti-hazing law, so this ended any forms of consequences made physically to those caught without their RAT Caps. After the anti-hazing law was made, upperclassmen had to resort to verbally tormenting the freshmen caught without their RAT Cap. The marching band still uses some forms of hazing to this day to its members who are seen not wearing their caps.
RAT Cap Rules
During the time this tradition was being introduced, many rules were proposed and set forth by not only the upperclassmen of the institute, but also members of the Ramblin’ Reck Club. The rules were published in an edition of “The Technique”, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s school newspaper. The rules state that: Freshmen will wear the RAT Cap with proper inscription at all times, the RAT Caps are NOT mandatory to be worn on Sundays, The RATs (Recruits at Tech), or Freshmen, will know all the school songs (including the Reck, Alma Mater, Up with the White and Gold, etc.) as well as all the cheers, the RATs will attend all the RAT sings, the RATs will speak to everyone on campus because they are proud of their association with both the school and their fellow students, the RATs are not to enter the school post office between the hours of 9:45 to 10:45 am on school days, and the final rule states that they are not to wear their letters or emblems from their high schools on campus.
History of the Freshmen Cake Race
The Freshmen Cake Race is a race that occurs the morning of the Homecoming Parade. This historic event was started in the year 1911 which, odd enough, started off being a cross country race. As one can guess from the name, cake was definitely involved. The winner from this race every year received homemade cakes from mothers of students, women alumni from the school, wives to the professors or deans, and basically any other woman who was affiliated with the Georgia Institute of Technology in some way , shape, or form. When this tradition was started, all students who were enrolled in the Georgia Institute of Technology were required to attend this event.
Freshmen Cake Race Today
Presently, the Freshmen Cake Race is an event that takes place at about 6:00 am on the Saturday of the Homecoming Game, before sunrise. The length of the race has been noticeably shortened from the length of a cross country race to only being about half a mile. All the runners of the race should only be freshmen, but any student is welcome to attend the event in order to cheer them on. The Freshmen who participate run from the Russ Chandler Stadium to Bobby Dodd Stadium where the Game will take place later on that day. Because the Cake Race route happens to intersect all the main Greek areas of campus (fraternities and sororities), many of the members of these organizations will oftentimes mess with the runners and try to distract them. An interesting fact to note is that the race is divided between males and females. Finally, like its original counterpart, cake is part of the reward. All the runners receive freshly baked cupcakes, and the winners from both the male and female divisions get delicious homemade cakes that were baked by various faculty members or even students at the institute. Along with all participants getting cupcakes, every single one of them also receive a kiss on the cheek from either the newly crowned Mr. or Mrs. Georgia Tech at halftime at the Homecoming Game.