Black Tie Optional, Reds Buck Tradition


photo courtesy of Kim Stracke

The Tie Ceremony honors an important tradition in the USB community.

Charles Stringfellow, Staff

Sean Lee (USB ‘22) said in an interview, “We don’t have time to do [senior benefits.]” In a controversial move, the class of ‘22 (Reds) may not earn their senior benefits. 

In the Upper School for Boys (USB), senior benefits are earned through the completion of a series of student-made challenges. The challenges, which pay homage to the USB summer challenges, are created by the graduated class. The class of ‘21 (Yellows), being the first graduating class, were only responsible for creating challenges for the class of ‘22. On the Reds’ list of challenges are various items which reference different points in the USB’s early history. As it stands, the Reds need to perform a square dance, as the Yellows did during their freshman year hootenanny, wear grade-wide perfect dress uniform to appease USB Division Director Jeremy Stubbs—and finally, the Reds must read to young elementary schoolers. However, the statements of Lee and other seniors introduce doubt into the Upper Schools community.

The square dance requirement is a major source of controversy between the Reds and the Yellows. For the graduation of the Yellows, the Reds performed a drill team style performance with folding chairs. The Reds believe their performance was so impressive that it should fulfill the square-dancing requirement set out to them by the recently graduated Yellows. Nelson Athow (USB ‘21), who helped create the challenge list, disagrees. When asked if the chair dance was sufficient, Nelson wrote, “Absolutely not. A chair dance and square dance are distinct activities, and one cannot count in place of the other.”

As punishment for not completing their challenges, the USB seniors, following the precedent set by the Upper School for Girls (USG), may have to don black ties and share their benefits with the USB juniors. 

For the 31 years Susan Bauska, former USB division director, was involved with the USG, she said there was always a shovel known as the “Spade” which the seniors would need to find during the “Spade Hunt.” The spade could be hidden anywhere in the school as long as it was touching a wall of the school. During orientation, the seniors received challenging clues that would eventually lead to the spade. When the USG seniors found the spade, they added their class tie to the collection of red, green, blue and yellow ties on the spade. However, Bauska added, if the seniors were unable to find the spade by the end of October, they added a black tie to the spade, and they would be known as a “black tie class.” In addition, Bauska revealed that if the USG seniors failed to find the spade in time, when they did eventually find it, they had to share their privileges with the juniors. Whether or not this tradition will make its first appearance this year in the USB is unknown, but Athow thinks black ties are appropriate.