In the midst of the Great Depression, University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins came up with a daring idea: a Northwestern-UChicago merger. As terrifying as it sounds, the reasoning made sense. The 1933 plan was meant to provide financial stability for both institutions, as well as create a higher education powerhouse. The most notable attributes of UChicago and Northwestern – research and professional education, respectively – were to be combined under one enterprise: “The Universities of Chicago.”
Both universities’ Boards of Trustees worked long and hard, but the proposal failed. Northwestern’s Medical School wanted a more hands-on approach to education, and NU alumni feared a loss of Wildcat tradition. Differing educational philosophies and rumors about UChicago’s motives resulted in what Hutchins called “one of the lost opportunities of American education.”
But if it had worked out, what would life on the Evanston campus look like today?
Walking down Sheridan Road is already a struggle. The nearly one-mile stretch is filled with hoards of people zombie-walking to Tech, violent bike riders ready to deck you and too many people drinking PSLs and texting their BFFs. Now imagine 6,000 more people on your journey from Elder to Harris Hall. The sidewalks would get way too crowded - like cookie-riot-in-Norris crowded.
Like any school, Northwestern takes pride in its mascot, Willie the Wildcat. He appears in promotional items and is frequently a photo target for clout-hungry social media users. UChicago’s mascot is Phil the Phoenix. Put those two together and what do you get? Honestly, I don’t know. A wildcat with wings? A phoenix with Willie’s face? Whoever has the joy of being inside that suit would run into everything in his path. And what would it even be called? Pheocat? Catnix? Wildix? Okay, that last one really wouldn’t be good. Any way you splice it, “Wildcat” and “Phoenix” do not go together.
Student Life Alert
The number of happy memories we make at school would be equivalent to the number of football games we win: not that many. Academic and intellectual engagement would infiltrate all aspects of student life. Dance Marathon would turn into Reading Marathon. At the end of every block, you would have to finish a book, and crewmembers would pass out eye drops instead of food so you could keep reading. Oh, and it would be inside Main Library, our favorite place on campus! Dillo Day would turn into Drink-and-Philosophize-About-Life-on-the-Lakefill Day. Smooth jazz would play in the background as students discuss Voltaire and Plato while simultaneously getting plastered off Two Buck Chuck. Lectures by historians would garner more attendance than the Deuce on Thursday.