College of the University of Chicago: Wikis


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The College of The University of Chicago
Established 1892
Type Private
Dean John W. Boyer
Students 4,825
Location Chicago, Illinois, USA
Campus Urban

The College is the sole undergraduate institution and one of the oldest components of the University of Chicago, emerging contemporaneously with the university at large in 1892. Instruction is provided by faculty across all graduate divisions and schools for its 4800[1] students; however, the college retains a select group of young, propriety scholars who cater to its core curriculum offerings. Unlike many major American research universities, the college is small in comparison to the universities' graduate divisions in aggregate, with graduate students outnumbering undergraduates at a 2:1 ratio. The college is most notable for its core curriculum pioneered by Robert Maynard Hutchins, which remains the most expansive amongst highly ranked American colleges,[citation needed] as well as its emphasis on preparing students for continued graduate study (sending on the highest percentage within five years to graduate school save the Johns Hopkins University).[citation needed]


Reputation and admissions

US News & World Reports ranks the University of Chicago at 8th in the nation for undergraduate education, tied with Columbia University, with a rank of 6th in a peer assessment by academic deans. In 2007 Princeton Review named the College as having the "Best Undergraduate Academic Experience" in the United States. For the most recent application cycle the school had the 11th highest SAT score band in the nation (1350-1530). Historically, the school had been noted for a low graduation and retention rate given the strength of its incoming classes. However, several plans by the college to ensure student success have brought the school to 20th in the nation in this category.[2] The Princeton Review moreover finds in general that applicants to Chicago also simultaneously apply to Ivy League institutions and their associates.[3]

In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked the University of Chicago's undergraduate program the 4th best in the country under Harvard, Yale, and Princeton based on post-graduation achievements and student evaluations.[4] In 2008, Forbes also named the University of Chicago a "billionaire university," ranking the university as the 7th most successful university in the country for producing billionaire alumni.[5]

In addition, College Crunch, an online college admissions resource, ranked the University of Chicago 1st in the country among colleges and universities for its undergraduate college.[6]

Until recently the school used a self-dubbed "uncommon application", and did not accept the more popular, nationalized common application for collegiate admissions that can be sent to multiple institutions. However, beginning in 2009 the Common Application will become the college's official application, along with, of course, a supplement in the spirit of the Uncommon Application. Its cornerstone is an essay that carries heavy weight in the decision making process according to current Dean of Admissions Jim Nondorf.[citation needed] Prompts for the piece have ranged from the bizarre, “Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard,” to esoteric quotes by famous individuals such as Zen Master Shoitsu, posing as a prompt the statement (without any question), "mind that does not stick".[7]


Many offices and classes of the College are located in the heart of the campus.

The college offers 52 majors (originally called 'concentrations,' but changed in 2004). A primary departmental or committee affiliation is denoted for those whose names differ from that of their field designation. A student is awarded either the B.A. or B.S. degree. The college notably does not offer study in preprofessional areas such as engineering or finance; however, the school contends that students going on to graduate study in these fields often can select work in related areas such as physics or economics in order to receive adequate preparation within the liberal arts tradition. The college recently introduced minors in a select numbers of fields, and also offers several joint bachelors / masters programs to high performing students.

Core curriculum

The University of Chicago requires all undergraduates to fulfill the Common Core, which demands work across all areas of the liberal arts for both A.B. and B.S. concentrators, albeit in a form reduced from the Hutchins era.[8] Currently, 15 courses are required in addition to tested foreign language proficiency (one year of de novo study being expected as preparation) if no Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations are used for exemption (a reduction of six credits, or two full-time quarters, may be achieved via this method). While the science curriculum has largely followed the intellectual evolution of its respective fields, the requisite humanities and social science sequences now have several variants that encompass non-Western, non-canonical, and critical theory texts. This is a departure from the school’s traditional ties to texts of the European tradition such as Plato and Locke. While in totality the core curriculum’s goal is to impart an education that is both timeless and a vehicle for interdisciplinary debate, the increasing number of options to students within its confines produces a wide variety of backgrounds amongst graduates.


The college’s official motto used in student literature is the “life of the mind,” drawing attention to the school’s serious academic environment. Alternatively, a popular phrase with students is “where fun comes to die,” describing the school's lack of a stereotypical college party culture.

Although Greek life is not predominant among the undergraduate population, there are many active—but unrecognized by the University—fraternities and sororities that have established histories with the College, including Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha Phi Omega, Delta Kappa Epsilon, Delta Upsilon, Lambda Phi Epsilon, Phi Delta Theta, Phi Gamma Delta, Psi Upsilon, and Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternities, as well as Alpha Omicron Pi, Delta Gamma, and Kappa Alpha Theta, sororities. During the school year, one or two of the fraternities will usually throw a house party on the weekend (with the exception of holidays and "finals week").


Summer Breeze, the University of Chicago's annual spring concert, typically attracts thousands of students. In 2006, George Clinton (pictured) headlined Summer Breeze.
  • Summer Breeze - The university's annual summer carnival and concert. Past musicians who have performed at Summer Breeze include The Roots, Spoon, Wilco, Eminem, Kanye West, Run DMC, Cake, Andrew Bird, They Might Be Giants, Method Man, Moby, Fuel, Nas, Jurassic 5, U2, Sonic Youth, Talib Kweli, The Violent Femmes, OK Go, Mos Def, George Clinton, and recently Santigold and Broken Social Scene.[9]
  • One-Dollar Shake Day - Milkshakes sell for only one dollar every Wednesday at the Reynolds Club.[9] The Einstein Bros. Bagels franchise was allowed to open on campus only after agreeing to adhere to this tradition.
  • Midnight Breakfast - A midnight breakfast is held during every "finals week" of the academic year, attracting students and faculty members alike.[10]
  • Track Team Streak - At 10:00 p.m. on the Sunday night before "finals week" of the winter quarter, the University of Chicago track team streaks through the Regenstein Library.
  • O-Week - Every year since 1934, the University of Chicago has set time aside before classes begin to provide an introduction to the University for all new students.[11]
  • Lascivious Costume Ball - This event took place during the 1970–1984 period, and was a student-organized replacement of the Washington Promenade, a formal dance held in the winter since 1903, which annually crowned a Miss University of Chicago. Students would pay no fee if they came and uncloaked in the nude, a half-fee for wearing an appropriately lascivious (in the eyes of the students running the ball) costume, and full fee for remaining in "street clothes". The event was held in Ida Noyes Hall. It was formerly called the Sex Anarchy Party.[12] This event was reinstated in November 2008, instituted by the HYPE student organization, though exposed genitalia were no longer allowed.
  • Sleepout - Prior to 1993, undergraduate students would "sleep out" for classes with limited enrollment. The order of registration for classes was on a lottery basis, but in order for a student to keep his or her lottery number and avoid being reassigned to the end of the list, the student was required to physically remain on the campus quadrangle and present himself or herself at roll calls which were randomly and abruptly announced over the next few days. As a result, students would bring sleeping bags and tents and camp out on the quadrangle. Fraternities, sororities and other student groups would provide music and food, creating a festival atmosphere. The event terminated in 1993 when registration procedures changed.
  • Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko - A week-long festival celebrating Chicago in the winter. Often referred to as Kuvia, it entails a variety of events, including ice sculpting, hot chocolate get-togethers, musical performances, faculty fireside discussions, and a rigorous program of early morning exercise (kangeiko, a Japanese tradition of winter training) that culminates in a yoga-influenced "salute to the sun", performed outdoors in freezing temperatures just before the sun rises.[13] Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko culminates in the Polar Bear Run on the Friday of the week, in which participants run, preferably naked or semi-naked, from one end of the main quad (Harper building) to the gates across from the Regenstein Library.
  • The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate - Annually since 1946, a debate is held, mainly between faculty members, not (but nearly) all of whom are Jewish, about the relative merits of latkes and homentashn, the Jewish delicacies associated with Hanukkah and Purim, respectively. The lectures are a great opportunity for ordinarily serious scholars to crack jokes in a mock-serious tone. The best were collected in a book edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea.[14]
  • Virginio Ferrari's Dialogo and May Day. On May Day, students and residents of Hyde Park assemble near Pick Hall to watch the shadow cast by Virginio Ferrari's sculpture. Student legend holds that a hammer and sickle, like that of the flag of the former Soviet Union will be cast on the sidewalk at noon on this date. In fact, the shadow produces a sickle very much like that of the flag and also an object in the position of the hammer but whose shape is not quite so loyal a copy of the flag. Ferrari was first commissioned to build the sculpture to beautify what would be the new Economics building.[15]
  • Campus folklore - According to a common superstition among university students, stepping on University Seal (located in the main lobby of the Reynolds Club) as an undergraduate will prevent the student from graduating in four years.[16] Another common myth about the university is that nearly 50% of its students marry each other. Finally, if two students kiss on the bridge over the pond inside the main gates of the campus, it is said they will be destined to wed each other.

Scavenger Hunt

The annual University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt is a multi-day event in which large teams compete to obtain all of the notoriously esoteric items on a list. Held every May since 1987, it is considered to be the largest scavenger hunt in the world.[17] Established by student Chris Straus, the "Scav Hunt" (as it is known among University students) has become one of the university's most popular traditions and has typically pushed the boundaries of absurdity. Each year, the list includes roughly 300 items, each with an assigned point value; the items vary widely, and often include performances, large-scale construction, technological construction, competition, and travel, as well as the traditional "find this item" listings. Most teams fall well short of completing half of the list and instead compete for total points amassed. The more difficult and time-consuming items earn more points, and teams typically devote more resources into these items.

Student organizations

Campus lights illuminate the North Campus (Bartlett) Quadrangle.

Notable extracurricular groups include the University of Chicago College Bowl Team, which has won 118 tournaments and 15 national championships, leading both categories internationally. The Chicago Debate Society has had a top four team at the American Parliamentary Debate Association's National Championship tournament four out of the past five years. Model United Nations is also strong, winning major university simulations each year. Another notable organization is the Chicago Society,established in 2001. Chicago Society invites world-renowned speakers on a variety of issues and topics to campus. Recent invitees have included Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Steven Levitt, and Anwar ibrahim. Their events have appeared in newspapers around the world.

The university's independent student newspaper is the Chicago Maroon. Founded in 1892, the same year as the university, the newspaper is published every Tuesday and Friday. Chicago Weekly is a student-run alternative weekly covering issues and arts on the South Side of Chicago.

Undergraduates publish a number of periodicals as well, including Sliced Bread, an annual arts and literature publication and the University's largest magazine, The Chicago Shady Dealer, a humor magazine, Vita Excolatur, an erotic magazine, and Euphony, a literary journal.

The University of Chicago's University Theater is one of the oldest student-run theatre organizations in the country, involving as many as 500 members of the university community, producing 30 to 35 shows a year, and selling on the order of 10,000 tickets. It also operates Off-Off Campus, one of the University's two improv comedy troupes, started in 1986 by Bernard Sahlins, one of the founders of The Second City.

WHPK, a student-run and University-owned radio station, broadcasts out of the Reynolds Club on the university campus. DJ "JP Chill" has had a rap and hip hop show on WHPK since 1986. It was one of the earliest rap shows in the country and the first in Chicago.

The administration has controversially worked to combat the university's reputation as a place "where fun comes to die", which some claim have discouraged top students from taking the university into serious consideration when researching colleges.

The university also hosts Doc Films, one of the country's oldest film societies.


The school's Division III, University Athletic Association NCAA teams are not a major focus on campus today, appearing almost “minimal” in their role on campus to “non-existent” according to students.[18] However, in the early half of the twentieth century the school was power house in Big Ten Conference play, notably in football where the school won numerous national championships. Yet, President Robert Maynard Hutchins suspended sports for several years though during his tenure fearing their digressive nature from academic endeavors, ending the prominence of most athletic programs. Today the many programs aim to cultivate the “student-athlete,” the emphasis being on balance between the two.

House system

The college employs a house system whereby undergraduates living in dormitories are assigned to a block of students of usually no more than 70 which serves as a focal point for university events.[19] Some campus dormitories contain several houses, while other domiciles have only one. Each building is overseen by a resident master, and should there be more than one house, each a resident head. An upper division undergraduate is then selected to serve in addition as a resident assistant for each house. All first years are required to live in housing, however, the availability of affordable, off campus apartments makes them a popular option with a sizable segment of the student body. Moreover, students are free to bid or request switches amid houses both between academic years and during them. As such, the house system is rather fluid, and many students often have more than one affiliation during their time at the college. The current building and attendant houses of the college are:


  1. ^ Office of the University Registrar. "Annual IPEDS-Equivalent Submissions to Illinois Board of Higher Education". 
  2. ^ US News and World Report. "America's Best Colleges 2007: National Universities: Top Schools". 
  3. ^ The Princeton Review. "?". 
  4. ^ "Forbes: How to Choose a College". 
  5. ^ "Forbes: The Billionaire Universities". 
  6. ^ "College Crunch". 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Curriculum". 
  9. ^ a b "Traditions: like it or not, we’ve got plenty of them". The Chicago Maroon. 2005. Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  10. ^ "The Insider's Guide". The University of Chicago. Retrieved 2005-06-08. 
  11. ^ "University of Chicago: New Student Orientation 2006" (PDF). The University of Chicago. 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  12. ^ "The Social Scene". The University of Chicago. Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  13. ^ "Students rise to call of Kuvia festival". 
  14. ^ "The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate". The University of Chicago. 2005. 
  15. ^ City Room - Metro - Secret May Day Message in U of C Sculpture?
  16. ^ "Chicago Traditions". The University of Chicago. 2003. Retrieved 2006-04-30. 
  17. ^ "World’s largest Scavenger Hunt begins in Chicago". The University of Chicago News Office. Retrieved 2005-06-13. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Residence Halls and Commons. "Housing - University of Chicago". 

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