American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

The BGSU SICSIC Spirit Crew: Masked Performances of Campus Identity and Cultural Anxiety

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

American Culture Studies

First Advisor

Jolie Sheffer (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Montana Miller (Committee Member)

Abstract

On the night of October 5, 1946, six young male Bowling Green State University students were recruited to a secret meeting by President Frank Prout in order to found an anonymous booster club, which would soon become known as SICSIC. This masked spirit crew initiated a school spirit revival that has since become an integral part of BGSU’s campus culture. Despite its importance, however, SICSIC’s origins, practices, and values mostly exist as legend and lore. In this critical historical analysis, I analyze SICSIC as a carnivalesque secret society and consider its meanings within the context of changing campus and national norms as a result of World War II. This project puts BGSU’s spirit crew in conversation with other collegiate secret societies and their influence on the greater American society. I argue that SICSIC was founded to assuage anxieties over the changing landscape of higher education, specifically the influx of GIs and others who were not traditional college-age students. While the customs and rituals of the group have changed over the years, remnants of the group’s past still exist in the contemporary SICSIC’s masked performances. Applying performance and critical race theory to the evolving traditions of SICSIC, I show the continuities and disruptions to the University’s campus culture over a period of seventy years. I also consider the racial implications of the group’s performances of the past, present, and possible future. Using ethnographic research methods, as well as historical research, observations, and interviews with SICSIC alumni, this is the most complete and comprehensive history of the group.

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