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A Brief History of O Week

The University of Pittsburgh is a school of traditions. Sweet Caroline, The Oakland Zoo, and Penn State Hate are all fine examples of this, but one tradition really sets Pitt apart. While most schools are known for their Syllabus Week, Pitt students instead celebrate Orientation Week. O Week (as his friends call him) is an annual bacchanalia that turns upstanding young people into hungover slothful degenerates, however not much is known about its history. The Black Sheep decided to dive into its archives (yeah we totally have them) and dig up some anecdotes about O Weeks of the past.


1787- Pitt (then known as the Pittsburgh Academy) is founded and has its first O Week. Three students share a jug of moonshine and eat some mushrooms they find in the woods. Unfortunately since UPMC was decades away from creation, two of them die of dysentery by the end of the week, but from these humble origins an idea is born!




1791- George Washington leads troops towards Pittsburgh after hearing rumors of a rebellion caused by the federal whiskey tax. Upon arrival in the city, Washington realizes it’s just O Week at Pitt, and he and his troops decide to turn up. The president spends all week doing keg stands and taking celebrity shots at pong tables. Today this is taught in schools as the Whiskey Rebellion.


1805- A coal boom hits Western Pennsylvania. Pitt students celebrate by mixing coal dust into their jungle juice. The term “blacking out” is coined to describe students who imbibe too much of the dark elixir. This phrase is still used at campuses all across the country.


1855- A small agricultural school originates in the middle of the state. The first ever “Fuck Penn State” chant starts during O Week and does not cease until midway through the spring semester.


1863- West Virginia separates from Regular Racist Virginia. During an especially tipsy O Week Pitt officially decides that the entire state of West Virginia and any universities bearing its name are inferior and totally full of idiots who like to burn couches to celebrate their subpar athletics. This statement holds true to this day.




1920- Prohibition causes a big damper on O Week celebrations. The O Weeks of this era are known as the soberest on record, but also the best documented. In an attempt to find entertainment, students hunt the panther, our beloved mascot, into extinction in the area.


1933- After decades of Pitt-funded research for the perfect food to eat while drunk, three brothers make a breakthrough. During O Week, the Primanti Brothers make a small fortune selling their sandwiches to intoxicated Pitt students. Students who order their fries on the side are expelled.


1937- Construction on the Cathedral of Learning is complete. Male students spend most of O Week trying to hook up with that beautiful piece of brick and mortar. Her concrete, her choice, gentlemen!




1955- Dr. Jonas Salk develops the polio vaccine at Pitt. Shots of the medical miracle are the beverage of choice during O Week. “It’s still better than Natty,” quip students.


1969- “Sweet Caroline” hits the airwaves and becomes a Top 10 hit. Drunk Pitt students, fans of the song’s simple chorus and catchy trumpeting, sing it all O Week and declare it the greatest song of the 20th century.


O Week is a cornerstone of the Pitt experience and its history is storied and (probably) true. Feel free to use this article to enlighten your peers as you sip warm Keystone Ice in a dark and dirty basement, for as George Santayana once said “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it… oh and Hail to Pitt.”

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