Inflation Affects a Brandeis Tradition

06May09

It’s the week after finals here at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law and the place is still recovering from the previous two weeks. Professors are scrambling to get their exams graded by the deadline while everyone else works to get the place back in shape. Yesterday, I found something that had still been untouched by the cleaning crews that I thought would make an interesting momento mori of this year’s exams.

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Brandeis and his wife Alice are interred in front of the school and a tradition has developed over the years of  students placing pennies over the Brandeis’ markers during finals week to ensure good luck.  The tradition had nearly died out a few years ago, but when self-described “Brandeis groupie” Laura Rothstein arrived here, her proselytizing for Brandeis began to pay off, both figuratively and (in this case) literally. This year, the pennies for Brandeis tradition came back with a vengeance, as this close up illustrates:

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The tradition seems to have evolved. There are still some pennies, but mostly now it’s quarters and one person even threw in a Sacagawea dollar coin. Is this inflation? Or just increased desperation? With the job market the way it is this year, maybe a few graduates were asking for luck finding a job. I was also amused to find that a couple cheapskates had chipped in.  There were a couple buttons and rocks (and an after-dinner mint!) thrown in with the money. I’m pretty sure that’s not the way to ace your exams. (Update: Laura has informed your culturally insensitive author that placing stones on a grave is an old Jewish tradition. Point taken. But that still doesn’t excuse the button and after dinner mints.)

One final note: One of things Laura always mentions in her presentations on Brandeis was his professed fondness for animal crackers. Apparently this is something else the students have taken to heart. If you look closely at the picture you can see the shredded remains of a couple boxes of animal crackers–all that was left of one student’s offering after the campus’ always ravenous squirrels got a hold of it.

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