Campus Urban Legends

Status: urban legends
The Auburn Plainsman (student paper of Auburn University) has a short article about campus urban legends. The ones they list are:

Endowment from old lady bans sorority houses: This UL seems to exist on every college campus that doesn't have sorority houses. It states that some rich old woman left a large sum of money to the college on the condition that they ban sorority houses, because she considered them to be brothels. The more likely reality, among those schools that have sororities but no sorority houses, is that women used to be required to live on campus. Once that rule was lifted, it was cheaper for sorority members to live on campus in dorms, so the houses were never built.

If you get hit by a campus bus the school will give you free tuition: Unlikely, but if you're lucky, maybe an insurance payout would cover the cost of tuition.

Students whose roommates commit suicide receive automatic straight A’s: A guy in my college class committed suicide. His roommate didn't get automatic straight A's. I don't think anyone ever has.

"Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear": Repeated at every campus party, though it has no basis in fact. The corollary to this UL is that if you sip beer through a straw, you'll get drunk quicker. This one I'm not sure about.

And a few that they left out:

The Sinking library: every campus has a library that's supposedly sinking, because the engineer who designed it forgot to include the weight of the books.

The ten-minute rule: If the professor hasn't shown up in the classroom within ten minutes of the start of the class, everyone gets to leave. I don't think this is official policy anywhere.

Places Urban Legends

Posted on Thu Jan 19, 2006


The sorority-ban version I heard was that the daughter of the wealthy donors was rejected by a sorority and then committed suicide. The huge donation was made under the condition that the campus never allow sororities on campus.
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  04:28 PM
The "ten-minute rule" was a rule in my high school (Lane Technical HS, Chicago) in the 1980's, except it was only five minutes and we had to go to the auditorium.

Often a teacher would show up late, in the auditorium, and try to get our attention to get us to his class but we would ignore him. More often we would sit all over the place to make his shepherding more difficult. Most often we just didn't bother going to the auditorium and hung around our semi-open campus.
Posted by eriC draveS  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  05:30 PM
Actually the suicide rule sort of works at my school. One of my dormmates last year commited suicide right before finals and her roommate was so shook up from it she was excused from exams. So was the dead girl's best friend. The only thing was that their final grades were what their grade was when the girl died, they didn't get a perfect 4.0 for the semester.
Posted by Jaderust  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  09:32 PM
All of these myths are listed on snopes except for the ones about beer and the one about getting hit by a bus.
Posted by Snowy  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  09:35 PM
I don't think the point of this was to try and provide some breaking news about Urban Legends. Alex was just posting an article that someone did about them.
Posted by Dan  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  10:00 PM
Right. Thanks, Dan. Anyway, if you really want to learn about classic urban legends like these, the best source isn't Snopes. It's any of the books of Jan Harold Brunvand.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Jan 19, 2006  at  11:04 PM
The 10 minute rule was actually a rule at my college. (Equivalent to last 2 years of US high school) Only once in two years did I get to take advantage of it though.
Posted by Andrew Nixon  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  01:26 AM
The ten minute rule was indeed true at my high school; it was taken as read at university, simply because most people had been to schools where the ten minute rule was the norm.

The sinking library is current in Scottish Universities 😊
Posted by MW  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  05:15 AM
At my college there's an actual rule similar to the 10 minute one, but it's 15 minutes instead. Already had the chance to take advantage twice in the last two years. Good stuff.
Posted by Zoe  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  06:35 AM
Sinking Library! I've heard something similar about the UMass Amherst Library (my boyfriend is a student there). I've been in it.... it's 29 stories tall or something, but there are no books above the 25th story, supposably because the engineers forgot to figure the weight of the books. Furthermore, supposably the first few years the building was open they had lots of problems with windows falling out and stuff, because the building settled so much under the unanticipated strain of the weight of the books.
Posted by katey  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  06:47 AM
I don't now about sinking libraries, but I did go to a university where the architect had put the swimming pool on the first floor (that's the second storey for non-UK types) of the sports complex.

That was not the brightest design in the opinion of us engineers.
Posted by John  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  07:44 AM
I recall the 10 minute rule was a sort of sliding scale:
10 minutes for an associate professor
15 minutes for a professor
20 minutes for a Phd.

Something like that.
Posted by Mike  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  08:27 AM
Oddly enough, the "beer before liquor" rule is in direct opposition to the "wisdom" passed on to me by my Irish grandfather:

"Beer on whiskey, rather risky. Whiskey on beer, never fear."
Posted by SicTim  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  08:56 AM
While the beer one isn't true because of any difference in the alcohols themselves, it can often be true in practice just because of the fact that you can drink a shot faster than a beer. Some people start out the night saying, "Oh, I'm only going to drink beer tonight," and then after they've downed a couple, their friends convince them to start taking shots... this is where a lot of people get sick. Whereas if you start out the night with a couple shots, and then take it slowly by sipping on beer for the rest of the night, you'll probably be okay.

-From a girl who has quite a bit of experience partying
Posted by Kat  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  10:23 AM
Kat, the effects are magnified tenfold if tequila is involved.
Posted by Craig  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  10:55 AM
Kat, I think there is only one way to settle this.

I will drink lage amounts of beer followed by large amounts of whiskey, while you drink the whiskey first.

Also, someone else pays.
Posted by SicTim  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  12:06 PM
I've never had the opporunity to check the "10-minute" rule since i'm outta there in five 😊
Posted by Ed  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  12:36 PM
There is a 15 minute rule at the university of Leuven (Belgium). It's not official but everybody uses it.
Posted by PL  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  12:39 PM
Alex I took a class at another colege and the policy there was if the Proffesor didn't show up with in 15 minutes everyone could leave. Not sure if that applies at the school I'm at now.
Posted by Dany  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  01:38 PM
We didn't have a sinking library. They just forgot to consider proper drainage when they built our underground library. Incredibly expensive and they got a whole year's use out of it.

I guess that's why my school didn't have an engineering department. (or sororities)
Posted by Tru  on  Fri Jan 20, 2006  at  02:52 PM
This 5-10-15 minute rule thing was probably made "famous" by The Saved by the Bell series, where the main character did the same thing on a number of occassions.
Posted by Screetch  on  Sat Jan 21, 2006  at  02:18 AM
Saved by the Bell? You were the kid all the nerds picked on, huh?
Posted by Craig  on  Sat Jan 21, 2006  at  04:48 AM
In the Dutch language we know - roughly translated - the saying 'Beer before wine is good, wine before beer is bad'.
Like all the other phrases of this kind it doesn't say anything about wine (or liquor or whiskey) and beer on the other hand.
Beer is a metaphor for being poor, wine etc is a metaphor for being rich. The phrase simply says: 'Poverty before wealth is good, wealth before poverty is bad.'
Posted by D  on  Sun Jan 22, 2006  at  08:23 AM
And in the case of "Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, in the clear", I think the original version is "Beer after liquor, never sicker. Liquor after beer, in the clear".
Posted by D  on  Sun Jan 22, 2006  at  08:27 AM
I second the sinking-library phenomena at UMass in Amherst, MA. Not only are several upper floors vacant of books (for whatever reason) they had also constructed barricades and entrance shelters to protect pedestrians from falling debris (bricks, windows etc).

While a student there myself, I actually witnessed a brick fall and smash on the sidewalk behind the barricade. Nobody was in any danger due to the fencing but I was rather mystified at the idiocy of the engineering.
Posted by Roger  on  Mon Jan 23, 2006  at  09:20 AM
Actually, the true story of the suicide is that the student who killed himself got the straight A's out of respect to him and his family. It happened to my roommate. All I got was most of his good stuff before his parents came.
Posted by booch  on  Mon Jan 23, 2006  at  03:43 PM
There was a rumour similar to the library one in my school. The other high school in my town was supposed to be sinking at the rate of about a millimetre a year. Whether this was true or not, I don't know. But it was built in a sandy area very close to a beach.
Posted by Phileas  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  07:10 PM
There in no official policy anywhere about leaving a college class based on any scale, sliding or otherwise, of the professors' credentials. It is myth and legend only. Something of that nature, in order to be deemed "policy" would be outlined in any of the student handbooks - and, of course, it is not, and most likely will never be, therefore - it is not "policy" it is only hearsay.

"It is at my college! My friend and I took advantage of it twice last year!" you say.

"No, you didn't. You left class and could have technically been counted absent," I respond. "Challenge it and see who wins. It won't be you."
Posted by Joe  on  Fri May 12, 2006  at  10:51 AM
Posted by KRYSTAL  on  Fri Sep 01, 2006  at  11:53 AM
The rule we have is after 15 minutes. That was said from my professor himself.
Posted by Christine  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  07:00 PM
ahem.. im from the university of the philipines in diliman.. acutally, we do have a sinking library. our main library is located in our Sunken garden. the garden sinks around .001 mm every 10 years. so, it is really sinking.. that's a fact and not a myth... hehe... and it is also an official policy in our university that after 30 mins (not 15) we could leave if our professor hasn't arrived yet....
Posted by cherry  on  Sat Dec 23, 2006  at  06:26 PM
Sorry, it's not true.

At my highschool, the science teacher didn't show up until 20-30 mins after the period bell went, so our form was stuck in the corridor for all that time.

I so seriously wish it was true, though. No such luck . . . :-(
Posted by Rotahn  on  Mon Apr 16, 2007  at  01:26 AM
My 10th grade english teacher said that the 10 minute rule was a policy at her college. She also imposed it on our class. We came close one day, but she walked in at the last minute.
Posted by Troy  on  Wed Feb 25, 2009  at  09:04 PM
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