Frosh 2009: The purple man group

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By Rodney Barnes

Engineering rituals are a part of Ryerson’s frosh week that has most of campus mystified. Staff and faculty largely ignore the raucous chants coming from the bluecoverall- clad mass. Students ogle the purple-skinned bodies travelling the Quad like massive smurfs.

But why purple? Stephen Schauer, president of the Ryerson Engineering Student Society (RESS), knows only a few legends explaining how the national engineering colour came to be.

Purple has its roots in royalty. It used to be a rare dye only the wealthy could afford, worn by Roman emperors and Egyptian kings.

Engineers, by literally building the foundations of society, were often held with the same prestige as royalty, explained Schauer.

But it wasn’t until the sinking of the Titanic that engineers adopted the colour as their own. The Titanic’s engineers, working in purple coveralls and with skin stained from the smoke of the ship’s dying engines, “were there until the end,” said Schauer.

It is their dedication and responsibility that today’s engineers wish to remember and emulate.

“We’re not engineers for ourselves,” said Schauer. “We’re engineers for the people.”

So first-year engineers are ceremoniously dunked into a tub of crystal-violet solution, a medical dye mixed with alcohol to take away skin oils so the colour lasts longer.

“I managed to get it out in the same day,” said Schauer.

“But that was an hour of scrubbing in the shower.”


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