The UMOC contest was sponsored by Alpha Phi Omega, and began as the “Ugliest Man on Campus” in 1953. The idea came to be when an APO brother from another chapter suggested that the MIT chapter might run an “Ugly Man on Campus” competition as a fundraiser for charity. Originally limited to men, the contest’s name was changed in 1992 to “Ugliest Manifestation on Campus.” This encouraged women to run, and allowed not-so-ugly people to represent particularly ugly “manifestations” on campus. In 1981
I ran with a friend Steve Rosenthal as the Dirtbags, the representative from our dormitory. We each had decided to grow a beard and shave off half of it (we shaved off opposite sides). We spent about a week going around campus and collecting money. The winner was selected by who raised the most money. It was quite a week for us with many events to kick off the competition and then we ran around campus collecting money.
Not Politically Correct?
I can say the competition back then would not be considered politically correct in 2016. We did however raise $1,064.97, which in today’s dollars would be $2,800. It was also interesting to be able to find out where the money went (Easter Seals Society of Massachusetts). The follow image is a snippet from the digitized campus newspaper.
What’s amazing to me is that I was able to find out the exact amount in 10 minutes of googling, but I can’t find the post-victory snapshot in what seems like hundreds of thousands of pictures shoved into shoe boxes in my garage. Back to un-PC-ness. The rumor was back then that winners of the contest were also automatically elected as homecoming queen. As I said, not very PC! Since our primary mode of raising money was to ask people to donate their piggy bank of pennies, that would be close to a hundred thousand pennies. I am not sure they were all pennies, but some pretty large jars were involved and the methods to get even a few pennies were quite unique. I am very glad the contest changed to the Ugliest Manifestation as that opened the doors quite a bit to other candidates and abstract ideas.
Relevant in 2016
As I am ending this three part series, I am struggling a bit to figure out what is relevant in 2016.
Nothing very big but a few things came to mind. Charity, and how it can transform the people doing the direct service or fundraising. Spirit, competing for your group, when there are bragging rights at the end of the competition. Creativity, in selecting your angle to be the most Ugly. I can’t say I knew or know of anyone who ran around with half a beard for 10 days or so. The final one is Tradition, as this competition has existed for quite a while and continues in similar form to today. These four enduring values are what ultimately make a society a positive and enjoyable place to live in for everyone. Oh and let’s not forget the power of digital search to find all sorts of odd information from the past. Granted, MIT probably digitized everything they could, but it was fun and surprising to find all this information . Now if I had the patience to go over every box of photos in my garage…