An old tradition on the campus of WPI is The Skull. Skull began in 1911 when a group of students felt that outstanding juniors who excelled in scholastics, athletics, and campus involvement, should be honored for their dedication and contributions to WPI. Induction into this senior society was intended to recognize individuals for their achievement and encourage others to strive to make a positive impact and do their best. The Skull serves as WPI's exclusive social fraternity ("secret society"), with Tau Beta Pi functioning as WPI's main exclusive academic honor society.
Each spring, approximately 10 members were selected for induction. Selection originally took place at a campus-wide assembly. The members would walk around in their black robes seeking out the privileged inductees. The lights would go dim and then with a blow to the shoulder, the inductee was selected, or 'tapped'.
As in a fraternity, prospective members went through a pledge period that involved various activities. Once this period was over, the pledges became initiated members and carried on the tradition the following year. Members tapped but not yet inducted can be seen wearing yellow tags pinned to their shirts, as can the faculty members selected for Skull. These yellow tags have codes punched into them (they are punch cards).
When the school began to grow and members of The Skull were no longer able to tap their new members in one central location, they took to tapping it's selected member at various locations on campus. Tapped individuals are asked a series of questions about WPI history.
WPI's skull is not openly associated with the Skull organizations at other universities. WPI's skull organization is represented by a gamma symbol painted onto the skull statue attached to the doorway of the Dr. Robert Goddard's (father of modern rocketry) Magnetic Laboratory which the organization uses exclusively.
- One member, usually the president, of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI), the oldest fraternity on campus, is often considered for Skull each year. According to FIJI members, this is due to one of Skull's founding members being from that organization.
- The steam tunnels that run under WPI connect to the Skull building
- One member of the women's crew team is selected every year
- Prior membership to other secret societies increases the likelihood of selection
- Stealing the bronze goat sculpture increases the likelihood of selection
- The building just has some old couches and other junk in it