The 'Tute Screw

Posted by John Dojka on March 4, 2008 in

Every RPI student and alum has invariably heard the term "'Tute Screw" often used metaphorically and also embodied as an actual object. No one knows who coined the term or how long it has been in use, but the object itself has a documented origin. In the Fall of 1949, Sigma Phi Epsilon awarded the first 'Tute Screw in a ceremony on the '87 Field. Three hooded fraternity brothers known as "The Order of the Royal Screw" presented the "trophy" to the freshmen class. The freshmen were so awarded as losers of the Grease Rush. The screw was then placed on display at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house.


Have you ever seen this object? Do you think Sigma Phi Epsilon still has it?

Note: A different 'Tute Screw trophy has been awarded to the Meanest Man on Campus in recent years.


Thu, 05/08/2008 - 17:39 Permalink

This is very interesting.

I have heard of the 'tute screw' which is described as a screw which goes in no matter which way you turn it. There is a legend that a student at RPI was given an assignment to make such a screw, and the resulting product was called the "tute screw".

Fri, 05/09/2008 - 15:07 Permalink

According the linked article, that student was Arnold Zimmer, Class of 1950.

Wayne Linksman
Thu, 02/26/2009 - 20:31 Permalink

It was in the SigEp Commons Room in 1975, the last time I saw it :)

John G Bishop
Tue, 09/15/2009 - 16:18 Permalink

I saw such a finely fashioned item held at one of our soph0more tests (Physics?) about 1972-3, and was amazed that even though we all had used the term, that the campus actually had a tangible item you could hold...

My organic chem prof Dr. Herbranson I think won the meanest man on campus, and I can tell you I thought he was.
I walked into the canonical F test we would all take simultaneously, and blasted through to try to get as much partial credit as possible, as this was my new strategy to attempt to do well on the test, just get something down and move on. Well 5-10 minutes into the test, he stops us, says he received a bomb threat at half-way through class, and we needed to turn in papers now so we had time to spare. I got partial credit on all the items I attempted, a clear D, but in 10 minutes I had answered 30-40% of the test. My friend Gary, answered one question, 7 points out of 7, so he received 100% and an A.
When I protested, Dr. H said how did he not know that I had called in the threat, and I would work hard to get the most points?
Mean, mean, mean sucker... I never would call in such a thing, but I was penalized as if I had. Tute Screw!

Tue, 09/29/2009 - 04:51 Permalink

Thanx for posting this!

Mon, 11/02/2009 - 21:51 Permalink

It is definitely still floating around. I saw it in 1999.

John G.
Tue, 11/17/2009 - 18:10 Permalink

It definitely was around from 79-83. I saw it numerous times at Sig Ep. Was not a brother there, but had friends there and they proudly displayed it and trotted it out for special events. I recall a display case as well.

Wed, 09/22/2010 - 18:11 Permalink

Not sure why you would make light of a collection of practices and habits that only served to make students hate the school. I was at RPI in the 80s and never saw the screw but definitely felt it.

What, in fact, is the point of an F test?

Mark Anderson
Sat, 09/25/2010 - 23:22 Permalink

As a loyal Sigma Phi Epsilon Brother, I can vouch that the 'tute screw is still making the rounds. I saw it last in '99, but various alumni claim to have it.

Mon, 04/11/2011 - 21:13 Permalink

Ouch. I felt it go 'round & 'round and deeper & deeper when I took my MS from RPI. Had to jump through a lot of hoops because I didn't finish in the prescribed 2 years.

Jim Murphy
Wed, 04/04/2012 - 21:59 Permalink

I last saw the screw in '79, but I recall it had on it a small plaque with the engraving: "The quality of mercy is not strained."

Mon, 05/14/2012 - 14:23 Permalink

You stand within his danger, do you not?

Ay, so he says.

Do you confess the bond?

I do.

Then must the Jew be merciful.

On what compulsion must I? tell me that.

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 180–187
Disguised as a doctor of law, Portia has come to rescue Antonio, the merchant of Venice. Antonio had foolishly signed a bond granting the usurer Shylock a "pound of flesh" [see p.114] if he defaulted on the loan he was forced to seek—ironically, in order to help a friend court Portia. And defaulted Antonio has. After determining the facts of the case, Portia doesn't appeal at first to legal technicalities—which is the only way she will force Shylock to submit—but delivers a Christian moral. When Shylock demands to know why he "must" be merciful, Portia replies that compulsion is precisely contrary to the spirit of mercy, which is not "strain'd" (forced). Only because mercy is voluntary—because it mitigates the compulsions of the literal law—is it true mercy, which drops gently like heaven's rain, a natural and gracious quality rather than a legal one. That Portia treats her Christian ethics as natural and universal, however, raises questions about the quality of her own compassion for the Jew. In the end, only because Antonio requests some mercy for Shylock is he spared complete destitution, on the condition he convert to Christianity.

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