The truth behind residential college rivalries

    “The original establishment of residential colleges at Northwestern occurred as a result of a housing reform movement in 1969 and the early 1970s … The ‘collegiate’ system was looked at as a way to increase programming, to build community, to create an atmosphere of cooperation and sharing…”
    — “Residential Colleges, A Philosophical Preface”
    Undated typewritten document from the University Library’s archives

    Fast forward to 2010. The Residential College Board is just finishing its first ever Residential College Week. “Our aim was to promote residential college pride and unity early in the year,” says Weinberg junior Stephanie Tang, RCB president. “We saw RC Week as an opportunity to establish a smaller community where residents could feel they are welcome.”

    Despite the diplomacy between presidents during the planning process, RC Week not so secretly doubles as an excuse for intercollegiate competition. Great rivalries stem from a variety of reasons, according to various residential college presidents. Here’s a closer look at some of Northwestern’s most aggressive residential college rivalries and their origins.

    Willard vs. Shepard

    Although neither of the two dorms’ respective presidents would disclose any specific plans for sabotage, they were willing to share their ideas about why such a contention exists in the first place. The “Woo-Shep” rivalry, perhaps the most notorious of them all, involves several layers of speculation.

    “It’s probably a secret so deep and dark that it had to be forgotten,” says Ian Coley, Shepard president and Weinberg sophomore. “If I had to take a guess, it probably has something to do with Frances Willard being a fun-sucking suffragist.”

    Taiyo Sogawa, Willard president and McCormick sophomore, feels the feminist responsible for his dorm’s namesake was “much cooler” than Abraham Shepard, but since both residential colleges were established decades after their namesakes passed away, the search for a more legitimate reason for loathing continues. Sogawa believes the reason lies in the fact that Willard and Shepard are the only two non-thematic residential colleges on campus, separating them from the others.

    An archived document dated May 3, 1972 reveals the origins of these irregular RCs:

    “Three general, or non-thematic, colleges will be characterized not so much by their curricular orientation as by the character and nature of their programs of activity, their non-required seminars and the forms they choose for self-government.”

    Since three of the first five residential colleges were non-thematic, and Lindgren (one of the original RCs in the ’70s) is no longer a residential college, Willard and Shepard have only recently become the exceptions. Their similarities have drawn them both closer together and further apart. Today, the two res colleges have established the Woo-Shep Olympics, an annual event which contains activities such as “an eating contest, and flip cup or something,” according to Sogawa. But aside from Woo-Shep, a few sporadic pranks occur, including ambushes, shaving cream vandalism, and even acts of nonviolent resistance.

    “Once they tried to have a sit in at the Shepard room in Allison, like populate the room so we couldn’t eat in there, but there weren’t enough people to actually fill the room, so we just ate around them,” Coley says of last year’s Willardites. “It was more like being peaceful than anything else, and that’s just not cool. It defeats the purpose if we acknowledge that the enemy is human.”

    Residents of non-residential colleges have even noticed all of the commotion, although they aren’t directly involved. Most students who live in traditional residence halls are well aware of the residential college rivalries, and they are often a topic of casual conversation during meals or after a prank occurs. Some have even experienced the rivalries firsthand.

    “I can’t remember which night of the week it was, but last year guys from, it think it was Willard, would stand outside Shepard every week and yell,” Tony Cipiti, McCormick sophomore, said. “They’d let off three F.U.s in a row and just leave.”

    But both the games and the rivalry itself are actually fairly new aspects of RC life. Celeste Arbogast Bragorgos (Medill ’86) met her husband, Steve Bragorgos (Weinberg ’86), through Willard. Her daughter is currently a freshman resident of the same dorm. Bragorgos reports no rivalries – except for maybe with Chapin, which was believed to be filled with hippies (a belief she is embarrassed to admit now). Some alumni even admit that hierarchies, rather than rivalries, existed in the past.

    “There weren’t that many res college rivalries back in the late 1980s because everybody that didn’t get into Willard simply settled for Shepard,” says Greg Bach (McCormick ’91).

    Well, we probably know who didn’t win the Homecoming spirit award back then.

    PARC vs. CRC

    PARC and CRC, on the other hand, have a different type of opposition. There is no definitive origin, but this year’s execs have personal reasons fueling their hatred.

    “I was on the bus going to the yacht formal last year, and CRC just decided to get naked,” says Andrew Brugman, PARC president. “It scared the shit out of me, and I was like, these CRC bitches are crazy.”

    Such a scarring experience so early in his freshman year may be the point of contention for Brugman, but according to Jenna Lebersfeld, CRC president and Weinberg junior, says the rivalry has been going on for years and is a “tradition.”

    “We hate PARC because they’re ‘CRAP’ backwards,” Lebersfeld says. “They claim that they’re, quote, ‘The Shit,’ but I think that that’s crap.”

    On Sept. 23, members both RCs donned black head to toe and met at the Rock at 11:00 p.m. for their annual Capture the Flag game. After exchanging some intimidating chants – “CRC! What!” versus “Hardcore Parcore!” – the battle was on. Even though CRC won the battle, the war is still not over. Both teams continue to accuse each other of cheating.

    Slivka vs. Ayers CCI

    Meanwhile on North Campus, a new rivalry – which has been brewing for years – has finally erupted.

    “Apparently this rivalry started long time ago,” says Efoe Nyatepe-Coo, former Slivka resident and Communication junior. “Slivka was built on a lawn that CCI students used to play Frisbee on.”

    Ayers CCI and Slivka have had snowball fights, dance-offs and football games in the past, as well as barbeques, formals and firesides together — so they are far from strangers. They’re the two biggest thematic residential colleges on campus, and their proximity to one another (perfect for shining laser pointers into each other’s windows and writing “hateful” messages in the snow, according to Nyatepe-Coo) makes them ideal “official” rivals.

    “Our first prank against Slivka was the hay drop,” says Andrew Sze, Weinberg sophomore and second-year CCI resident. “A few members of CCI dropped a bale of hay in front of Slivka’s door. Many Slivkan residents were confused about why hay was blocking their entrance. It would finally be pushed to the side, but would be in front of Slivka for two quarters.”

    Ryan Brock, McCormick senior and Slivka president, and Weinberg senior Aki Honasoge, Ayers-CCI president and RCB vice finances president, are scheming to create a northern version of Woo-Shep Olympics, which they have dubbed the “Cross-Quad Classic.” Brock and Honasoge have even bought a trophy to pass back and forth before a final winner is declared at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year.

    “I’d like to think that the Slivka-CCI rivalry could be a friendly one,” Brock says. “But unfortunately CCI is usually just a bunch of haters, so that makes it hard to be civil.”


    Despite the controversy, residential colleges still follow the principles outlined in the “Philosophical Preface,” advocating and enriching residence life while providing “an increased relevancy for all aspects of the Northwestern experience.” Coley feels that the purpose of RC Week is to educate residents about the benefits of living in a residential college that are not offered in traditional residential halls.

    The bottom line is this: even though residential colleges have made a pastime out of antagonizing one another, no one really knows when or why it all began. The pranks are just one facet of residence college life, as well as a means of instilling a sense of pride for one’s RC.

    “We’re like siblings,” Honasoge says. “We’re always fighting each other, but we do stuff together.”


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