Hell Week

Hell Week is the most complicated tradition, and very difficult to describe on paper. For me, it was the turning point when I decided that I did indeed want to stay at Bryn Mawr (prior to Hell Week, I had made preliminary efforts to transfer). Hell Week happens in mid-February, about a month after everyone comes back from winter break. It serves as a way to break the monotony in the time between winter and spring breaks, but more importantly, it serves as the true welcoming of the frosh class. Hell Week provides a means by which people can get to know each other.

At the beginning of Hell Week, frosh sign up for sophomores who will serve as their "heller" and juniors who will serve as their "sympathetic junior." Again, we see the class relationships that were established in Parade Night come into play for Hell Week.

The first night of Hell Week is spent copying the dorm schedule that has been drawn up by the sophomore representatives for the dorm. All the frosh gather in the dorm living room and spend several hours copying the purposely tedious and often lengthy schedule. It's not so bad though, since the juniors show up to throw them a party.

In the following days, each frosh's heller draws up a personalized schedule of Hell Week tasks. These are often as ridiculous as asking silly questions in class, writing poetry extolling the virtues of the heller and reciting it in a public forum, or performing on the stage that is erected in the main dining hall. It should be noted that all Hell Week activities are optional. The schedules are agreed upon by heller and hellee alike, and there are alternative activities available for those desiring different entertainment, as well as various "hell-free" zones around campus that can provide a haven to those who just want some peace and quiet.

Hell Week begins on a Wednesday. During the course of the week, there are dorm activities, such as dorm breakfast, where all dorm members attend breakfast in the main dining hall while the frosh dress in dorm-specific themes. The Rhoads frosh are usually "Rhoads Rodents," and this is the time when the famous Pembroke East "Whore Corps" makes its first appearance.

Thursday night, in every dorm, trials take place. The seniors preside over this comedy-fest, which involves trying groups of frosh for such offenses as "Addicted to Latin" and "Hopelessly lost in the 80s." The sophomores suggest harsh punishments, the juniors suggest easy, and the seniors hand down moderate tasks that each frosh must do the following day as "punishment" for their crimes. Trials serve as a way that all members of the dorm get to know the frosh on a personal level, and the frosh get a good chance to meet all the upperclasswomen.

On Friday, the frosh participate in confinement, a 3-hour party that is thrown by the juniors on the top floor of every dorm. During this time, it is mandated that no frosh may see the light of day. This time is filled with various arts and crafts, movies, snacks, and other various things that the juniors provide.

Also on Friday, after dinner, the seniors read the frosh bedtime stories, which are followed by calisthenics, in preparation for the Duck Pond Run on Saturday morning.

Saturday, the frosh leave their dorms around 5:30 am and head for the Haverford Duck Pond, aided by their car-driving sympathetic juniors. The last one to the pond is thrown in, but is promptly recovered and then all frosh and their juniors go out to breakfast.

The rest of the week is punctuated with personal schedule events and campus-wide events such as Dorm Olympics. Hell Week ends with a big party for everyone. Now, you may ask, some of you, what's the real deal with Hell Week? Is there a Hell Week secret? Well, frankly, yes there is. Can I tell you what it is? No. Is it a big secret? Yes. If you want to know what the Hell Week secret is, I'm afraid you're just going to have to attend Bryn Mawr and see what happens.

Older Hell Week traditions that are no longer practiced (thanks to Maya Amis '79):

  • Freshman Show

Click here to see pictures of Hell Week.

Hell Week Pictures | Next Tradition: May Day
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