Freshmen Head Shaving Comes to an End

Andrew Carrere ‘19

Decades ago, senior Strake Jesuit brethren all gathered to shave their heads in support of the football team. Starting primarily as a football team event, many seniors began to participate. Mr. Autry, who has been with Jesuit since 1986, said, “At first it was good bonding to them as a spiritual thing for the big football game—of course they didn’t win, but they enjoyed it.” They may have lost the game, but they won what really mattered—camaraderie and spirit.

As time went on, the tradition morphed into a form of initiation or bonding experience for freshmen. Being an optional event, no student was required to participate—but most chose to get their head ceremonially shaved by a senior. Math teacher and Strake Jesuit alumnus of the class of 2010, Mr. Walker recalled his personal experience, saying, “I enjoyed it. It was all a big lead up to the football game. I was excited for it coming in as a part of the freshmen experience.” Many other students feel the same way. Junior Charlie Vaquero believes that the tradition made him “feel like a part of a brotherhood and something greater.”

However, even since its inception, the tradition has been riddled with controversy. Although it was optional, the widespread popularity of the event placed a lot of pressure on many freshmen reluctant to participate. “There are always a small percentage of students who do not feel comfortable doing it and another group that does not do it and are ostracized for it,” Mr. Walker stated. Mr. Autry held a similar view, saying, “The problem with it became that freshmen felt pressured into it. It became too stressful, and it had worn out its usefulness over the years. Most people just got their feelings hurt and that’s just inevitable when you have that kind of thing.”

The pressure of the event within the community and the potential for coercion contributed to the Administration’s decision to end the tradition. Assistant Principal for Student Affairs, Mr. Fahy, stated, “We stopped doing something we’ve done for a decade in this way, so it doesn’t even feel like a tradition. It’s not a defining aspect of our school that we did away with more than it is just a thing that we stopped doing.”

While the freshmen head shavings have been a popular form of initiation, alternate traditions remain in place, which are more positively conducive to bonding among students. Mr. Fahy stated, “The Halloween contest is an example of something freshmen enjoy, and it’s one of those [positive bonding] things.” Mr. Walker also emphasizes, “There is a little bit of bonding [during head shaving], but from a teacher’s perspective, I don’t see that much true bonding until freshmen retreat.”

Mr. Fahy also noted that other high schools of Strake Jesuit’s stature do not have such extreme initiation rituals. “When we’re really different from our brother institutions, it’s at least cause to look at it,” he explained.

Another major reason was the possible polarization of freshmen from the rest of the student body. Mr. Fahy elaborated, “I think we know as a community that there is a kind of brotherhood and development, but there’s also been a bit of divisiveness to it. It’s like a tool to make it feel like freshmen are not a part of us, like ‘we have our hair and they don’t.’ I don’t want to be the butt of a joke to be accepted.”

While shaving freshmen heads is no longer a part of campus life at Strake Jesuit, the school community remains dedicated to the bonding and brotherhood of all students. Mr. Fahy noted, “We just want people to feel like this is really a place for everybody. We want you to feel loved, and that doesn’t mean we have to push you around to get that.”