Norway’s top high schools for teenagers keen on sports careers are cracking down on the wild annual party season for graduating seniors known as russ. Administrators at Norges Toppidrettsgymnas (NTG) in Lillehammer have had enough of the constant partying, and are reducing it to just 17 days.
The russ season traditionally runs from just after the Easter holidays through Norway’s Constitution Day on the 17th of May. The problem is that students still face final exams when the party’s over, and often fare poorly.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that NTG officials have thus opted to ban any marking of the russ (roughly pronounced “roose”) season other than from May 1 to May 17. Graduating “russ” won’t be allowed to wear their trademark red or blue overalls to school before May 1 and none of the brightly painted “russ-busses” will be allowed anywhere near the school.
“If you’re going to remain a student at NTG, you don’t have time to celebrate russ such as the celebrations have been until now,” Trond Hårberg, leader and sports director at NTG, told NRK. That makes him and his colleagues among the strictest in Norway, but he doesn’t seem to mind that at all.
‘Out of control’
“Those of us who are responsible must dare to make decisions like this, and we must help students make good choices,” Harberg told NRK. He thinks the annual russ party season has been “out of control” for many years, with its use of buses with elaborate sound systems and party weekends that can be very expensive.
Hårberg also noted the strange nature of the partying that goes on well before the students have actually graduated. “When otherwise do we celebrate something before we really have anything to celebrate?” he asked rhetorically.
NTG runs five high schools nationwide, in Bærum, Geilo, Kongsvinger, Lillehammer and Tromsø. Many students were predictably disappointed and their “russ president” in Lillehammer called the decision “stupid.”
“We understand that we can’t ride around on the russebusser (the buses) because that takes up too much time and resources,” Ane Elisabeth Haugen told NRK, “But we have spent a lot of money on our clothes, and they’ll just be hanging in the closet.”
Mixed reaction otherwise
Reaction to the limits on russ season has nonetheless been mixed. “Lots of students really do concentrate on their sports and don’t care much about the russ time,” Haugen said, “while others have special expectations.” She said the students have had “good cooperation” with school leaders but wish they’d had more say.
Trond Johnsen, director of education in Oppland County, said the russ season has become “hard to handle, and we see that it has consequences for learning and academic results.” He said he thought it was good that the leadership at the NTG schools had taken steps to help ensure “a happy ending” to its students’ education.
This year’s early Easter threatened to make for an especially long russ season as well. Some graduating seniors at other high schools in Norway, meanwhile, have voluntarily opted to drop russ celebrations, because they also fear it will ruin their final results. Still others have complained that they feel left out of russ activities, if they can’t afford or aren’t selected to join groups with a russ bus.