Doghead: a Colby tradition without an origin

Prior to the early 2000s Doghead had the possibility of being a weekly occurrence.
In the September 20, 1990 issue of The Colby Echo, Doghead was a plural event, described simply as an “early-morning party most notably crafted for the hard-core partier and is named to reference to biting the head of the dog that bit you the night before.”
The article went on to say that Dogheads were a “strange and rather sick concept which mandates that people who won’t even get up for breakfast will crawl to the keg still smelling of last
nights’ exploits.”
Sometime around 2000, Doghead took a step closer towards what students know it as today. Instead of an event that could happen every weekend, Doghead became an annual event. However, Doghead still only started early in the morning, after the sunrise, and was hosted at an
off-campus house.
In 2004, the off-campus Doghead party was to be held in Clinton, ME, at a house colloquially referred to as The Lodge. However, after a normally conducted notification of the event from campus security to local police, officers showed up to the house the night before the party. Chief of Police in Clinton, Leonard MacDaide, notified students of the potential risks of holding such an event, such as citations for providing a place for minors to consume alcohol and providing alcohol to minors, and called the landlord of the house. After which the residents decided that the risks were too great to host the annual party.
However, this cancellation did not come without backlash. The then-Director of the Physical Plant Department, Pat Murphy, estimated there was around $20,000 of student-caused vandalism following the cancellation of the off-campus party. Some students caused the damage because they thought the administration directly cancelled the event, which later turned out to be
a misunderstanding.
The destruction caused that day included damaged smoke detectors, broken exit signs, broken screens, holes in walls and ceilings, missing ceiling tiles, a broken vending machine, a urinal ripped off a wall, missing and broken furniture, a turned over dumpster, graffiti on dorm walls, a broken door and a painting ripped off of the walls in the first floor of Miller, a piece of furniture thrown from Taylor that landed on a dean’s car cracking the windshield and breaking the mirror, windows broken all over campus, and other acts of vandalism.
Following 2004’s high level of on-campus destruction, Doghead came to resemble the event students know today. Realizing that the tradition needed to be reigned in, SGA proposed the event to be conducted on-campus, with kegs and eggs purchased by the school.
For present students, Doghead is surely a celebrated staple of the College’s traditions. SGA President Matt Hawkins ’17 said in an interview with the Echo that “this event is a symbolic benchmark in the school year that represents the end of winter and coming of spring. Arguably the tradition’s most defining trait, the act of watching the sunrise from Miller Lawn is most celebrated for its ability to draw students from many groups on campus to a single place for a unifying moment.”
Other students also echoed Hawkins statement about the excitement that annually circles around Doghead. Ben Bostwick ’17 told the Echo that Doghead was “by far the event I look forward to the most at Colby.” He went on to say that “when you’re standing on Miller Steps watching the sunrise with so many other students, for a fleeting moment you feel as though you accomplished something…however trivial, it really does make you feel like you’re a part of a
larger community.”
Similarly, Jon Cabour ’17 told the Echo that he thought “Doghead was by far one of the coolest traditions at Colby.” Cabour went on to explain that what sets Doghead apart from other weekends or events is the preparation that students put into it.  “You notice that a lot of students take extra steps to make sure their Doghead is fun—whether its ordering green beer, painting the walls of their rooms, or dressing up in crazy outfits—it really makes it a special night,” Cabour said.
This excitement around Doghead is not limited to only Colby students however. Stefan Kohli ’18 told the Echo that since his freshman year, his friends from other NESCAC schools have asked when Doghead was taking place, and whether or not they could come.
This year, SGA chose to play a larger and more active role in the event than they have in the past. A campus-wide email sent by Hawkins on Friday before Doghead contained a video with a new slogan, “See you at the Steps,” in reference to Miller Steps, the place students meet to watch the sunrise following a night of festivities.
Hawkins recognized that the wording of the slogan constructed by SGA was intentional. In a statement to the Echo, Hawkins said that “by putting the focus on the Miller Sunrise, [or “the Steps”], we wanted to emphasize that the tradition of Doghead, no matter how you spend it, ends in the same place for everyone with a
unifying moment.”
Hawkins email also addressed the importance of respecting the community during an event that has historically been destructive. Following the letter from SGA this past week about the large amounts of dorm vandalism this spring semester, Hawkins email commented that Doghead presented the college with “a great opportunity to reaffirm the strengths of this student body by encouraging the best of our peers and celebrating the coming of spring together.”
After Doghead, Hawkins reiterated that message, saying that Doghead has “been marred in the past by incidents, big and small, that sometimes bring to question the net benefit of the tradition to our community.” He continued by saying that “from the messes or damage that we leave behind to the way that we have treated Colby staff in the past, we could surely
do better.”
However, Hawkins continued by saying that this year, it seems as though the student body as a whole collectively did better by refraining from large incidents of dorm vandalism and disrespect.
Also new this year was the opening of two dining hall’s instead of one for the annual breakfast following the viewing of the sunrise. Hawkins commented that “having both Bob’s and Dana open seemed to manage the massive crowd at the steps well and, given the sub-zero temperatures this year, allowed students to get back inside with efficiency (which has been an issue in the past).” In total, Dana saw over 400 students from 6a.m-7a.m. and Bob’s fed over 200 during the same time.
“Moving forward, [SGA is] excited to continue this tradition of watching the sunrise as a community and to jumping into spring with a refined energy,” Hawkins said in closing, “It’s important to recognize the strengths of this tradition and continue to build on them. The sunrise and ensuing breakfast are a staple of the event and should be welcoming environments to anyone who spends time on Mayflower Hill.”

Leave a Reply