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Rutgers Traditions

The Coat of Arms of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

The shield of the Rutgers coat of arms appears on the university gonfalon, which is borne at the head of all university processions by a faculty member.

The shield is quartered to represent in armorial bearings the founding and the growth of the more than 230-year-old university. The first quarter (dexter, or right upper quarter of the shield as one would carry it) bears the arms of Nassau, the House of Orange, and recognizes the Dutch settlers who founded the college under the aegis of the Dutch Reformed Church.

The armorial devices in the upper sinister quarter are those of George III combined with Queen Charlotte’s. George’s arms represent his dominions of England, Scotland, and Ireland; the two small escutcheons, centered, his ancestral right to bear the arms of Brunswick and Saxony. The crest on the dexter small escutcheon is the Crown of Charlemagne, which George III as Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire was entitled to show. It was George III who granted the Charter of 1766 to Queen’s College, named in honor of Charlotte of Mecklenburg, King George’s consort.

The arms shown on the sinister half of this quarter are Queen Charlotte’s and represent the German states ruled by the House of Mecklenburg.

The third quarter, dexter, is the emblem from the Great Seal of the State of New Jersey, which Rutgers as the state university is entitled to show. Fittingly, the plows depicted also symbolize Rutgers’ designation as one of the original land-grant colleges.

The fourth quarter, sinister, is the coat of arms of Colonel Henry Rutgers, an early benefactor of what was then known as Queen’s College. Colonel Rutgers was a descendant of Rutger Van Schoenderwoerdt, who settled in New York in the 17th century. The family name was changed to Rutgers in 1636. The name of the college was changed in 1825 to honor Colonel Rutgers, trustee and benefactor.

The University Mace

The university mace, an ornamental staff symbolizing the president’s authority, is borne before the president in academic processions by the secretary of the university.

The design of the Rutgers mace incorporates signs of the institution’s traditions and present status as New Jersey’s state university. The head of the mace bears the university’s coat of arms and its seal worked in colored enamel and gold on silver, all surmounted by a facsimile of the crown of Queen Charlotte, for whom the university was originally named “Queen’s.” The long shaft is made of stained wood and silver on which are engraved intertwining ivy leaves, symbolizing learning; red oak leaves, representing New Jersey’s state tree; and violets, the state flower.

The Academic Costume

The wearing of academic dress dates back to the early days of the oldest universities in the world. In the American Council on Education’s book entitled American Universities and Colleges, it is suggested that “Gowns may have been counted necessary for warmth in the unheated buildings frequented by medieval scholars. Hoods seem to have served to cover the tonsured head. . . .”

Throughout the years, European universities have continued to show great diversity in their academic dress. American universities, on the other hand, when they decided to adopt academic dress, immediately established a code of regulations which today is followed by almost all American institutions. The establishment of this code has made it possible to distinguish the bachelors, masters, and doctors and, at the same time, recognize the university which has given them the degree.

Gowns: The bachelor’s gown has pointed sleeves and is worn closed. The master’s gown, worn open or closed, has oblong sleeves, the front part of which frequently is cut away at the elbow. The doctor’s gown has bell-shaped sleeves. It is worn open or closed. Cotton poplin or similar material is used for the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and rayon or silk ribbed material is used for the doctor’s degree.

At Rutgers, members of the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees, as well as those who hold a doctoral degree from the university, wear the Rutgers gown, which is scarlet with black velvet front panels framed on the outer edge with gold cord braid. The velvet panels are embroidered with a crown and the year 1766 at the neck, signifying the university's founding as one of the original colonial colleges under King George III of England.

Hoods: The hoods vary in size: 48 inches for the doctor’s degree, 42 inches for the master’s, and 36 inches for the bachelor’s. All hoods are lined in silk in the academic color or colors of the institution conferring the degree. If the institution has more than one color, the colors are shown in divisions using chevrons. The binding or edge of the hood is usually made of velvet in the color designating the subject in which the degree was granted.

Below is a list of some of the faculty colors as prescribed by the Intercollegiate Code for the binding of the hood:

Agriculture / Maize
Arts, Letters, Humanities / White
Business Administration, Commerce / Drab
City and Regional Planning / Brown
Communication and Information Studies / Gray
Economics / Copper
Education / Light Blue
Engineering / Orange
Fine Arts, Architecture / Brown
Human Resources Management / Dusk
Journalism / Dark Crimson
Labor and Employment Relations / Peacock Blue
Law / Purple
Library Service / Lemon
Medicine / Green
Music / Pink
Nursing / Apricot
Oratory-Speech / Silver Gray
Pharmacy / Olive Green
Philosophy / Blue
Physical Education / Sage Green
Public Administration / Peacock Blue
Science / Golden Yellow
Social Service / Citron
Theology and Divinity / Scarlet

The color or colors of the lining of the hood for the nine colonial colleges are: scarlet, Rutgers; crimson, Harvard; green-gold-silver, William and Mary; blue, Yale; red-blue, Pennsylvania; orange-black, Princeton; light blue-white, Columbia; brown, Brown; and green-white, Dartmouth.

Caps: Black mortarboards or soft hats are worn for all degrees. The gold tassel signifies a doctoral degree.

Alma Mater

On the Banks of the Old Raritan

From far and near we came to Rutgers,
And resolved to learn all that we can;
And so I settled down, in that noisy college town,
On the banks of the Old Raritan.

Then sing aloud to alma mater,
And keep the Scarlet in the van;
For with our motto high, Rutgers name shall never die
On the banks of the Old Raritan.

From New Jersey’s northern lakes and mountains,
To our southern pines and gleaming shore;
Learning’s fair and hallowed place, joins us,
every creed and race,

And we praise the name of Rutgers evermore.


On the banks of the old Raritan, my friends,
Where old Rutgers evermore shall stand;
For has she not stood since the time of the flood,
On the banks of the old Raritan.

Rutgers Fight Song

R-U, Rah, Rah,
R-U, Rah, Rah,
Whoo-Raa, Whoo-Raa;
Rutgers Rah
Up-Stream Red Team;
Red Team Up-Stream
Rah, Rah,
Rutgers Rah!!

Why Knights?

Since its days when the school was officially known as Queen's College, the athletic teams were referred to as the Queensmen. Officially serving as the mascot figure for several football seasons beginning in 1925 was a giant, colorfully felt-covered, costumed representation of an earlier campus symbol, the "Chanticleer." Though a fighting bird of the kind which other colleges have found success, to some it bore the connotation of "chicken." It is also a little-known fact that the New Brunswick-based broadcast station, WCTC, which serves as the flagship station of Rutgers athletics, had its call letters derived from the word "ChanTiCleer." Chanticleer remained as the nickname for some 30 years. In the early 1950's, in the hope of spurring both the all-around good athletic promise and RU fighting spirit, a campus-wide selection process changed the mascot to that of a Knight. By 1955 , the Scarlet Knight had become the new Rutgers mascot. The Scarlet-garbed knight, riding a spirited white charger, came to represent a new era - the rejuvenation of first class football "On the Banks."

The Ringing of the Bell

Rutgers began its extraordinary history as Queen's College, which was charted in 1766, the eighth institution of higher learning foundation in the colonies. In 1825, the name of the college was changed to Rutgers. Its athletic teams have long competed in proud association with colonial Queen's College and "Old Queens" building traditions. The bell in the latter's cupola, an 1826 gift of namesake donor Colonel Henry Rutgers, along with tolling the change of classes, was, and still is, rung on special occasions, including those of prized athletic success. Most recently, the bell was rung when the women's basketball team won the 1982 AIAW National Championship, and when the 1990 men's soccer team reached the championship game of the NCAA Tournament.