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Toilets, circles, Scooby at center of UMass urban legends

Courtesy MCT

Everyone knows the story of the Bermuda Triangle. For over a half a century, ships and planes have been known to mysteriously disappear within the Triangle’s perimeters. But the University of Massachusetts also has an urban legend that pertains to a geometric shape: a circle. It is the urban legend of the Grade Circle.

Have you ever gone into a test thinking you did well only to find out you failed miserably? Blame it all on the Grade Circle, located between Curry Hicks (The Cage) and Munson.This white, concreted area half-surrounded by benches is rumored to be a zone detrimental to your grades. If one walks through the Circle the morning before a big exam, you are more likely to do worse.

‘I don’t buy into it, but I constantly see people avoid it,’ UMass student Gillian Ball said.However, while she is not a believer it is evident many other people are.

‘One time I stepped in the circle and my friend physically picked me up and told me about the story. The whole way back to Southwest he lectured me about why you can’t step in it,’ said Maia McDermott, UMass student.‘I’ll never step in it again.’

UMass’ urban legends don’t stop there, however.

It’ll go right through you

Everyone has his or her favorite dining common. Whether you like Worcester for its Oak Room or Berkshire for its cleanliness, one thing is for certain: The food definitely isn’t your mama’s cooking.

Talking about your bowel movements is not usually the most appropriate thing to do, but if you have ever left the DC running for the bathroom, this one is for you.

Students from every region of campus gripe about the food and its aftereffects. It isn’t anything new; DC cooking is known to be treacherous. But really, do the cooks actually put laxatives in the food?

This urban legend, claimed to be fact by many students, comes from the school’s students’ fear of food poisoning.

Because the food is cooked in mass quantities to feed over 10,000 students a day it is not unlikely to think that some food may be undercooked.Thus, laxatives are supposedly added in order to relieve the students of the food before food poisoning sets in.

According to Ken Toong of UMass Dining Services, ‘This is not true at all.’Toong said the myth originated over 20 years ago when his generation attended college. Back then the food was not of the standard it is now, he said.‘ ‘ There were preservatives and many additives to keep the food fresh.Toong explains this is where the term ‘mystery meat’ comes from, and makes and assurance that the UMass DC food is not mystery meat at all.

‘Never would we put any preservatives or chemicals in the food. The food had to be good. In fact we are proud of our food. At UMass we focus on all natural and fresh food,’ said Toong. ‘We are concerned that the food has to be healthy to support the variety of people who eat at the DCs.’

Toong went into depth about the quality of the food at dining commons, explaining that they go as far as to ask suppliers to reduce the sodium levels in the menu items for health purposes. If such demands are not met, Dining Services changes suppliers or makes the product from scratch themselves.Therefore, with UMass Dining Services so concerned with the quality and health of the food, the likelihood of laxatives being added to the food appears slim.

So we can only speculate as to why DC food sends you running for the bathroom.

The first factor that may be responsible for the unfortunate bowl movement myth, other than laxatives, is the buffet style of the dining commons. Unlike Emerson College and many others, the university doesn’t mandate how much one student can consume in one sitting. For obvious reasons, simply overeating may be the root of your personal problem.

The type of food you are choosing to stuff your face with may also be a contributing factor. The main culprit: insoluble fiber. This type of fiber, commonly found in vegetables and nuts, assists in the elimination of waste from the body. According to Jane Williams at UMass Dining Services, there are over 30 different vegetables always available at all DCs. Now that’s a lot of vegetables.

A second natural laxative that is immensely consumed by college students is coffee. If you are a java fanatic, beware that it is a stimulant containing antioxidants, which generally helps to facilitate release in your back door region. According to Williams, UMass purchases roughly 10,000 pounds of coffee each year ‘- that is 420,000 6 oz. cups of coffee.

‘Zoikes!’ UMass inspires Saturday morning cartoon

Around campus, it is generally recognized that UMass Amherst has the reputation of a party school.Known as ‘ZooMass,’ the university has a history of being wild and crazy even back in ’69, the year when the cartoon series ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You!’ was first aired. No wonder UMass is called the ‘Shaggy’ of Scooby Doo.

Legend has it that the Saturday morning cartoon, ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You!’ was created based on the Five College stereotypes.The tale has Velma representing Smith College, Daphne as Mount Holyoke, Fred representing Amherst College, Shaggy as Hampshire College, and Scooby as UMass.‘It’s cool to think it may be true ‘hellip; it makes sense,’ said Nick Hally, 19, a political science major at UMass.

However, while people continue to maintain this legend around the Five College area, it was actually revealed to be an uncanny coincidence.According to Hally’s friend, James DiMaio, 20, a business major, this can be done with any show consisting of five characters with different personalities. ‘It’s typical. It can be done with anything, like The Ninja Turtles. There are five of them, including Splinter, and one is definitely known as the party guy.’

Yes folks, the college stereotypes may fit the characters in the show but ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You!’ was actually created in 1969, a year before Hampshire College opened in 1970. In the past the creators, the production company and CBS have been asked if this legend is true and they all responded that it is false.Unfortunately, because the show is so old, none of the creators are available for comment because they are too far underground to pick up a phone.

Whether they are composed of facts, speculation or a combination of the two, make what you will of these UMass urban legends. And no matter their validity they will always be in the back of our minds.

Joe Stahl can be reached jstahl@student.umass.edu.

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