It has been called “The Handbook,” “The Freshman Orientation Manual,” “The Key to the Miami Experience” and even “The Freshman Bible.”
This year, the Miami University Student Foundation (MUSF) and the Miami University Alumni Association (MUAA) teamed up to bring back the M Book, a first-year’s guide to all things Miami, after years of sporadic production and funding issues.
Brian Breittholz, associate director of MUAA, said the goal of the M Book is to capture history, heritage and the experience of Miami all in one place.
“It’s about students helping students get acclimated to Miami and carrying on the various traditions,” Breittholz said.
Will Longhini, executive chair of MUSF and co-author of the 2010 M Book, said students lack a resource discussing Miami’s history.
“People know that this university has a lot of history and tradition because they hear about it all the time, but there is not a lot of literature on it,” Longhini said. “The (M Book) is something you can hold in your hand to learn about it. It’s somewhat definitive.”
Longhini believes the M Book is especially beneficial to students because it is written from a fellow student’s perspective.
“I think it adds a little bit more credibility and people are able to connect with it more than some outside force coming in and just observing,” Longhini said. “We are building new traditions, we are building new pastimes, so being student written you really get a much better feel for what is going on here on campus.”
Sophomore Miranda Wood said the M Book helped her better understand the reasoning for many Miami traditions.
“I think the M Book gives good descriptions of the traditions on campus,” Wood said. “I was not aware of a lot of the history in it, so it helped me get a better understanding of the reasons behind the traditions.”
The History of the M Book
The 2010 M Book begins with a short article by Robert F. Schmidt, university archivist, called “The Origins of the M Book.”
According to Schmidt, the first M Book was produced for the 1925-26 school year.
“This book sought to acquaint readers with the different phases of Miami life,” Schmidt wrote. “It covered such topics as school cheers, dress policies, information on sororities and fraternities, addresses of churches, what to bring, what you need to be to be a good member of the Miami community.”
According to Schmidt, Miami released a female version of the M Book, For Women Only, from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, which included articles on formals, party planning and table manners. Schmidt said the M Book lost its popularity in the 1960s and was discontinued around 1973.
“In the 1960s, students became more independent,” Schmidt said. “There was an emphasis on being more of an individual instead of a community. There was a rebellion against the university acting like parent.”
The M Book was lost until 2002, when it was rediscovered by a small group of students, one of whom was former Associated Student Government President Jeffrey Griffiths.
“Each of us felt that there were moments during our freshman year where we would have loved to pull out a little book to reference about academics, traditions, myths or the fight song if we were at a football game,” Griffiths said.
Griffiths accidentally ran across the M Book in the Miami archives and became intrigued. Baffled that it was no longer being produced, Griffiths collaborated with the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Student Activities to produce the 2002-03 M Book.
However, production of the reinvented M Book was short lived. Due to funding issues, the book was discontinued again after the 2003-04 school year and has only been produced sporadically since.
The 2010 M Book
After a four year hiatus, the M Book was distributed to first-year students across campus this school year. According to Longhini, the current M Book had been in the works since 2006-07, but funding issues stalled production.
“The (current) version was created almost four years ago,” Longhini said. “That’s when the first idea came to bring it back, but we never put it out because of cost.”
Longhini said the M Book was a project of the Traditions Committee in MUSF.
“The concept and ideas of it really resonated with me and other people with MUSF,” Longhini said. “MUSF in general is about preserving and educating students about the various traditions that a 200-year-old university has. The M Book is a culmination of all that we do.”
The 2010 M Book chronicles Miami’s history with a timeline of significant events and also describes several of Miami’s mysteries. Also unique to the 2010 M Book is a checklist of 50 Miami traditions that includes activities such as rubbing the turtleheads on the Tri-Delta Sundial and attending AfterDark events.
According to Longhini, MUSF is looking to make this checklist into a competition between students in the future.
“If a student completes 30 or 40 of the different traditions before graduation, they would get some sort of pin or medallion that says they are a Miami Tradition Keeper,” Longhini said.
Inspiration from the F Book
A lot of the inspiration for the 2010 M Book came from the University of Florida’s first-year guide called the F Book. Among other things, Longhini said the F Book included a program very similar to the Miami Tradition Keeper.
“The older M Books were moleskin pocketbooks and not very colorful,” Longhini said. “Then we saw the F Book, and theirs was full of color, bright and they wanted to have that.”
First-year Lauren Kocher was pleased that the M Book integrated the colorful designs inspired by the F Book.
“It was very visually appealing,” Kocher said.
The Future of the M Book
Both MUSF and MUAA hope to continue releasing the M Book on a yearly basis. According to Breittholz, the goal is to take the feedback from students and find out what their likes and dislikes were about the 2010 M Book.
“I think capturing the student voice is very important in this publication because student perspective is what is supposed to be driving the M Book,” Breittholz said.
Longhini does not believe the M Book will continue to face financial issues, but said the book would be released online should printing costs become problematic.
“It’s not going to be a sporadic thing anymore,” Longhini said. “It’s going to be out every year.”
Breittholz agreed the M Book should remain as a way for students to appreciate Miami’s rich traditions.
“Very few schools have our tradition and heritage,” Breittholz said. “We’ve been here 200 years. This is a school that tends to value our community and a lot of our heritage and a publication like this helps continue that perspective.”