Why students avoid taking the central stairs of the University main building?
UL Press Centre
As another study year is approaching, in the University of Latvia main building at Raiņa bulvāris 19 the enrollees’ perplexed glances at the central stairs could again be seen. From time to time, here and there a warning is heard: “Just don’t take the central one!” Is it yet another joke of senior students, or does it bear a grain of truth as well?
One of the most frequent opinions about it is the following: “Of course I don't believe that story about the University stairs, but still prefer using one of the side stairs. Just to be on the safe side.” Another common reply to hear is vague “Well, you just can’t do that!” or “That just won’t be good, alright?” More knowledgeable students say that using the central stairs is one’s first step to getting kicked out of the University, but it doesn’t make any sense either. Really, how on earth could taking the stairs possibly contribute to one’s admission to or expulsion from the University?
The story about the University stairs has existed for as long as the University itself. Compared to other Latvian universities, the University of Latvia is the only one that has been designed and built and has served solely for the needs of students. The main building of the University has never hosted any organization not related to it. Therefore the student spirit, rumours and legends have always dwelled in here. According to some historical statements, in olden times the central stairs were mostly used by the wealthiest students, who came to lectures by cab or taxi. However, instead of studying many of rich parents’ sons wasted time raising glasses in pubs or practicing fencing, which imminently resulted in failure at exams. In their turn, not-so-well-to-do and more diligent students, who didn’t have money to go about in cabs, mostly used the side stairs. They studied hard and passed their exams and graduated without delays. And so a tradition was born: those, who took studies seriously and wanted to graduate in due time, started using the side stairs, whereas off-springs of rich parents and squanderers that used the central stairs had problems with getting their diplomas.
The fact that almost every applicant, who came to submit their documents and didn’t know this story, purely intuitively took the central stairs has been known as early as in our teachers' student times and considered that person’s symbolic entrance into the University. But worry not – it bears no danger of failure at the entrance examinations, because condition “if you use the central stairs, you will constantly fail your examinations and won’t ever get rid of academic liabilities” is believed to apply exclusively to those, who are first-time students of the University and have not yet completed all the courses of their programmes.
The tree of education can be planted only once, and only once does it produce its first crop. The “first crop” or first graduation with picture-taking on the University central stairs is the symbolic withdrawal from the University.
Translated by students of the professional study programme Translator of the University of Latvia.