The Folk and Lore of Maxcy College (P. I)
by Mary Glenn. Glenn is a business major in the South Carolina Honors College at USC. This paper was written for the Fall 2008 class "Folklife in America."
The Honors College at the University of South Carolina is a distinct formal group unified by shared housing, honors classes, advisors, and organized social events such as the yearly picnic held on Parent’s Weekend. The majority of Honors College freshmen spend their first year of independence after high school in Maxcy College. An older hall style dormitory, Maxcy was built as part of the New Deal along with additional wings of Thornwell (the apartment complex next to it) for $225,000 in the late 1930s (Jones). The dormitory is named after Reverend Jonathan Maxcy, the University’s first president and was initially intended to serve as a student union building (Hollis). Later the building was remodeled to house students but because of the original layout, room size varies, which contributes to the reputations that some rooms have earned. The building contains four floors (1st- 3rd and a basement) with a common room and classroom at the beginning of the first-floor hallway. A kitchen and laundry room are located in the basement. The relatively small size of the dorm and ambition of its residents provides for a unique experience and has enabled the evolution of a dynamic folk group – the Maxicans. “Maxcy is different because of the broad range of lifestyles and experiences among its residents. Most students in my opinion simply seek to party and pass classes. Maxcy's students thrive in so many more ways. Each resident becomes more open minded and adventurous by interacting with other residents. The place rings of hope, ambition and exploration” (Wheeler).
“From the outside, it seemed as though the Maxcy kids were a bit more clique-ish. They may have thought the same about us Capstone kids, but because we were so few, we were sort of forced to meet kids from other areas. Eventually, we all sort of got to know each other through various Honors classes, but even in later years, once many of us moved into Horseshoe apartments, a lot of the social circles and inside jokes persisted. It was often a bit difficult for people who didn't live there to understand some of those things” (Springer).
The community is all encompassed and expressed by the name that has unified the residents though the years and continues to be passed down - “Maxican.” I first heard the term from my brother who was housed in Maxcy during the 2006-2007 academic year and have continued to hear it and begun to use it. Other names from outsides source also show the external recognition of the group. “I was there for the founding of that term, ‘Maxicans.’ Its root is from the movie ‘Once upon a time in Mexico.’ One of the girls in Maxcy was a big Johnny Depp fan. He said in the movie, ‘Are you a Mexican't or a Mexican?’ We all thought it was a good name so we (the RAs) used it with the incoming freshman class and it caught on. So in a way, Johnny Depp is the source of the Maxcy nickname. The other names are nerds or the honors kids,” (Wheeler). Maxican has not only been passed down as a play on words, but also has also to inspired the name of a flag football team composed of Maxicans known as the “Border Patrol” to extend the Maxican-Mexican theme (Riley).
Some compare the dorm to a small town because of its size and the speed at which news travels. One year a student started an anonymous newspaper during the hall government elections that covered dorm issues called “The Dirty Maxican.” However, it was discontinued after an article making a South American racial joke brewed controversy. A fast response consistent with small town justice and the community aesthetic put an end to the publication (Kane 2007-2008). Another quick response was witnessed in 2007-2008 when a challenge was issued in one of the rooms. Two guys were playing a game called “Gay Chicken” in which they flirt until one backs down. The game is not exclusive to Maxcy, but one I first learned of in college. This game escalated due to the fact than one of the participants was openly homosexual and spectators urged them to kiss. The straight guy said he would if two other people in the room kissed, thinking that the two would not. With the door closed and no one leaving or returning to the room it took only ten to twenty minutes for a group to bust in wanting to know who had kissed. Texting was a likely factor in the news carrying, but the first people to arrive were not the ones texted by spectators in the room, demonstrating how fast news can spread (Espensen-Sturges). This ties in the common experience of the group. The independence of the dorm environment removes previous inhibitions and as the community encourages experimentation bonds and lore are formed.
Technology is ingrained in college life and is interwoven with the lore of the community as a tradition bearer and form of communication. Texting carries rumors and can be used to coordinate a group. Even more interesting to the study of folklore are facebook groups and the consciousness of kind they invoke. The groups created about Maxcy are mainly based on floor, year, or social group. In conversations held on these pages advice is exchanged on topics like classes, stories are told and invitations to events within the dorm are sent. You Tube is also utilized by the community in a way that reveals some of the closeness between residents and their ties to the building. This is seen in one video where fifteen residences go into one of the abnormally large rooms to demonstrate the oversized shower’s ability to hold all of them (Espensen-Sturges). Technology enables, enhances and is evidence of the folk group’s pride and connection.
RMs (Residential Mentor or also known as RAs or Residential Advisors) are a vital part of the folk group as they provide guidance, pass on folklore, or become objects of lore. The RM of my hall (each floor has an RM and there is a head RM for the building) this year has become known to the residents as “Mom,” a title fitting to the place he holds in the community. Originating from the “hall constitution” written at the beginning of the year where we summed up his duties as “being the mom,” ‘Mom’ has since become ingrained in this year’s culture. An “Ode to Mom” was written by the hall and is signed not by one author, but the hall as a whole. It now resides laminated on his wall and we gave him a shirt saying “USC Mom” which he later wore to a USC football game. The name reflects what we felt our first week of school as many of us experienced moving away from home for the first time. When we first presented the ode to “Mom” the first floor gathered in the common room and one of the students read it aloud.
“Ode to Mom”
As scared little freshmen we entered this school
Fearing our RM would just be a tool
But far in the distance was a motherly man
Who helped us see we’re all part of a plan
Though often hidden in his Room 102
He hopes to show us all the good we can do
He’s tall and handsome and seems to know all
Why else would he be the ruler of our hall?
A man of many talents he can always impress
Give him any task and no doubt he’s the best.
The boys want to be him the girls all swoon
To his rugged handsomeness, no one is immune
He wishes us luck on our way to class
The whole world should know…
Nick Riley KICKS ASS!
The folk community expands and is strengthened by previous Maxcy residents. Events that were successful one year are often repeated after being suggested by an older student. A prime example of this is “Smoothie Night,” a fundraiser passed on by the “older sister” of a sorority girl in Maxcy that has occurred for the last two years. Emails were sent to all the residents and a facebook page was created to advertise the event. Smoothies were sold for one dollar and all