Twenty things you never knew that you never knew about NU

    Ever wondered how the fundamentals of Northwestern came to be? After hitting the books at the University Archives and speaking with Patrick Quinn, NU’s archivist of 34 years, NBN has uncovered changes that have rocked the university. Here are the top 20 things, arranged topically, you probably didn’t know about Northwestern history.


    There’s no longer an admissions quota for Jews (or blacks, or Catholics)

    Years ago, Northwestern’s undergraduate admission department tried to limit the number of Jews, blacks and Catholics admitted to the school. Although no official limits were agreed upon, and the policy was unofficial, the quotas remain firmly imprinted in the memories of those minority students and those who worked in the admissions office. A report by the Midwest Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League says the quotas lasted from 1948 to 1964. Eventually, several students dismantled the discriminatory process by causing the removal of the admissions director, C. William Reiley, from the department. Al From, a reporter and editor for The Daily Northwestern, conducted an investigation on discriminatory admissions. From, who was Jewish, quoted Reiley making discriminatory statements and the day after the story was published, the student senate stated that Reiley’s actions were inappropriate. Reiley was later reassigned as the dean of administrative services.

    Photo courtesy of the NU archives.

    Are you a girl at NU? Thank this Methodist minister!

    Now, more than 50 percent of the student body is female, but this wasn’t always the case. In 1869, a liberal Methodist minister, Erastus Otis Haven, was offered the position of NU president. Haven said that he would join on the condition that women were granted admission to the university. In the fall of 1869, Rebecca Hoag became the first woman to enroll. What is now known as the Music Administration building became the Women’s College of Northwestern University in 1874. Before then, the unfinished property had belonged to the Evanston College for Ladies.

    Black students hold a sit-in, win better student life

    On May 3, 1968, about one hundred black students took over the Business Office building to participate in a sit-in. Black students demanded several things from the administration: a statement deploring white racism and protecting students from racism; a proportional increase in the number of black students on campus; increased scholarships; a living unit for black students; black studies, art, history and literature courses added to the curriculum; a black counselor; desegregated real estate holdings, and a black student union.

    Many Evanstonians and Northwestern students feared that the protest would result in violence, but the sit-in was peaceful. The protesters secured the windows and doors, barring anyone from coming in, but an employee said, “They were very nice about it.” After two days of protesting, their demands were granted. The students left the Bursar’s Office at 9:30 p.m. the next day singing “Let Every Voice Sing” and “Let Your Little Light Shine.” According to Quinn, this demonstration drastically improved life for black students at Northwestern.

    Asian American Studies Program traced back to a hunger strike

    On April 10, 1995, the student-run Asian American Advisory Board initiated a hunger strike to protest NU’s rejection of a second proposal to establish an Asian American program. Initially, 17 students participated in the strike, only drinking water and fruit juice. The strike lasted for a shocking three weeks and generated a flurry of media attention. On May 22, 1995, faculty members added an Asian American studies component to NU’s curriculum and in 1999, the Asian American Studies Program was established.

    Now we have classes that might actually interest everyone

    When Northwestern opened in 1855, the only school was the College of Literature, Arts and Sciences. Feel left out?

    Campus living

    Housing moves to campus

    The first official on-campus dormitory, Willard Hall (then the Woman’s College building), opened in the spring of 1874 with room for 135 women. Before, students would rent rooms from Evanston residents or, in some cases, reside at University Hall or the College building. Now, to imagine Northwestern without the shenanigans of on-campus housing is to think of a different school.

    Having girls, not just boys, down the hall

    In the fall of 1970, Willard, Bobb and the Northwestern University Apartments all became XX and XY friendly. Quinn said that the arrival of coed dormitories eliminated the gender segregation between South Campus, where the women lived, and North Campus, where the men resided. This event, although significant, was overshadowed by the aftermath of the Vietnam protest (see below).

    Black women get to live on campus

    In the 1940s, the normal housing procedure prohibited African Americans from living on campus. In January 1947, The Daily started an editorial campaign to remedy this. In response, the university opened up the “Women’s International House” to black women, although it never had more than two international students. At the house, African Americans could room with each other or with a white girl — if she volunteered and had parent permission. At this time, housing also segregated Jews and Catholics. Willard Hall was the first “normal” dorm to see integration.

    A university that never stops growing

    Photo courtesy of NU archives.

    We get a Lakefill loaded with sand from Indiana

    Whether we nap on the grassy stretches of the Lakefill in spring, pump iron and down Muscle Milk at SPAC, or grab a Carmel Macchiato at Norbucks, we have the construction of the Lakefill to thank. In October 1960, President J. Roscoe Miller, announced that the Evanston campus would add 74 acres of land, costing about $5.2 million, to its eastern shore. After lobbying and fundraising, construction took two-and-a-half years. The mound of earth is composed of a limestone retaining wall, and sand from the Indiana dunes. Quinn says that this construction would never be allowed today for environmental reasons.

    A need for an intercampus shuttle

    Northwestern was one of the earlier schools to add graduate programs. In the 1800s, NU established the Medical School, the School of Law, the School of Pharmacy and the Dental School, all located in Chicago. (The latter two have closed.) From 1902 to 1926, Northwestern’s graduate schools operated near or in Chicago’s Loop but after that, they relocated to new buildings designed by architect James Gamble Rogers at Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.

    Northwestern pretends it’s an old school

    As an architect, Rogers who truly shaped the face of our campus. Using neo-Collegiate Gothic style, he created Deering Library, Ryan Field, Scott Hall, Lutkin Hall, the South Quads and Patten Gymnasium. He also designed four buildings on the Chicago campus. According to Quinn, Rogers’ designs make the campus look much older than it is. Deering Library is modeled after the library at King’s College, Cambridge, built in the 1400s.

    Photo courtesy of the NU archives.

    Northwestern’s first building gets struck by lightning

    Northwestern’s original building, lovingly called “Old College,” was torn down in 1973 – after a lightning strike set off the sprinkler system, causing water damage and revealing significant rotting. At first, Old College was located at the corner of Hinman and Davis streets, but was later moved to South Campus. In its place sits the McCormick Tribune Center.

    The Rock is a refugee from Wisconsin

    Ever wonder where Northwestern’s favorite pet came from? Not you, Willie. The Rock was a gift from the senior class of 1902. Originally, our paint-splattered slab of Baraboo quartzite came from the Devil’s Lake Region of Wisconsin and served students as a drinking fountain. By 1942, the Rock had ceased to be a naturalistic bubbling spring and in the 1950s, no-good students started whitewashing it as a joke.

    Financing education

    Remember when tuition was in just the double digits?

    Sick of hearing parents say, “When I was your age, college only cost a wooden nickel?” Well, when the school opened in 1855, tuition per anuum was just $45. Adjusted for inflation, this is still only about $1,037. Room and board was a mere $2.50 to $3.50 per week, or about $70 in today’s terms. At the university’s centennial, students paid just $675 per year (about $5,430, adjusted for inflation) to attend the school. Now how much do we pay? Tuition tops $35,000, and room and board sets you back more than 10 grand. Ouch. Quick! Call Doc Brown and hop into the De Lorean!

    How you could have gotten free tuition…forever!

    Before students and their parents were reamed on tuition, Northwestern raised money by selling perpetual scholarships. From 1853 to 1867, the university sold scholarships for $100 (about $1,900 in modern money) that permitted the purchaser and his male heirs to attend NU for free. After NU admitted women, the scholarships applied to them as well. Northwestern still honors the scholarships, so it might be worth it to start scouring eBay.


    When The Daily wrote about people stepping on rats

    Where would students be without the publication that serves to inform and engage readers, and bolster the careers of scoop-hungry Medildos? Two papers came before The Daily: The Tripod, with its first issue in 1871, and The Vidette, a bimonthly paper dropping in 1879. The Daily Northwestern (then The Northwestern) debuted two years later. One of the local newsbriefs from the first issue reads, “A monstrous rat, in trying to run in front of Sim Conwell’s feet the other day, met its fate. No wonder, Sim stepped on it.” Hyperlocal — and super-gross.

    Dillo Day’s first name: “I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore”

    According to Donald Stout, one of the self-proclaimed founding fathers of Dillo Day, the booze-filled extravaganza was created as an alternative to the Greek-sponsored “Spring Thing.” It started on Sunday, May 13, 1973, and was called The First Annual “I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore” Festival and Fair. Stout says the people who organized the event called themselves Armadillo Productions because they were from Texas where “the armadillo is endemic and the premier concert venue… was called Armadillo World Headquarters.” The rest of Dillo Day memories (or memory lapses) are history.

    Evanston starts selling liquor… because it needs the money

    Just five years after Northwestern was founded, the citizens of Evanston voted for the town to be dry. Not until 1972, in a period of financial uncertainty, did the City Council of Evanston approve the sale of liquor. A year later, Evanston bars opened their doors and the students rejoiced. So thanks to Evanston’s need for cash, we have the Keg.

    For at least one day, students get politically active

    On Monday, May 5, 1970, two thousand students protested the Vietnam War in Deering Field in a direct reaction to the infamous Kent State shootings. The next day, Chancellor Roscoe Miller made the strike official and canceled classes for the rest of the week. Students demanded the following actions: sending student and faculty reps to Washington to talk to Illinois’ senators and representatives; making public the university stock portfolio and liquidate war-related stocks; to take credit away from Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps; and to change university policy so that campus security officers would no longer carry guns. Students ripped out the fence surrounding the university and used it to make a barricade five feet high and three feet wide on Sheridan Road. After leading the strike, ASG President Eva Jefferson became known nationally as a student leader. She later appeared on national television with three students from other colleges to challenge Vice President Spiro Agnew in person. On a national scale, Quinn says, protests such as these contributed to the conclusion of the war in Vietnam.

    Dance Marathon starts as 52 hours long, wisely cuts back

    In 1973, a Jane Fonda movie inspired student Cheryl Wexler Scott to dream up Dance Marathon. In February, two years later, Alpha Tau Omega and ASG sponsored the first Dance Marathon at Blomquist. The original Dance Marathon lasted a painful 52 hours, and only 15 out of 21 participating couples completed the event. That year, they raised more than $9,000 for the American Epilepsy Foundation and the National Organization for Retarded citizens. Each year since 1978, a new primary charity has been selected.

    For more information about any of these topics, stop by the University Archives at Deering Library or go to the University Archives website.


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