July 21, 2010

Collected Wisdom: Down on the dorms

Some people here like campus housing. The writer of this review, published in 2001, wasn't one of them, and below you can read dorm-by-dorm why not.

As a guide to student housing, this has a few weaknesses, viz., it describes Max P as under construction, the Shoreland as a nice dormitory, and Woodward Hall as extant, none of which is any long the case. Max P now has doors as well as indoor plumbing, the Shoreland got sold and then embroiled in a condo-development controversy, and Woodward was leveled in 2001 to make way for the Harper Center, which now houses the Booth School of Business.

Among the strengths of this review is that it does a really excellent job managing the expectations of incoming students. If you get assigned to any of these places, it'll be at least marginally better than this piece would have you think. Case in point, those dog-sized rats mentioned here are totally tame, and will come right up and eat out of your hand if you just let them.


Dorms: A housing guide for the disenchanted

A U of C tradition that goes hand-in-hand with complaining about the University is complaining about your dorm. Here is a guide to them all.

by Pete Beatty

Burton-Judson Court

Ah, B-J. There's a lot to talk about here, so let's do us some itemizing. Pros: Singles, attached dining hall. Cons: Everything else. Not only is the building decrepit, some of the residents are, too. Ever see that movie where Ray Liotta is a garbage man and he has a "special" brother, and it's Mozart from Amadeus? A lot of people in B-J remind me of that guy. The guy from Amadeus, not Ray Liotta. Seriously though, B-J is a mixed bag.

There will be eight to twelve cool people there. If you are one of these people, congratulations and I'll see you around. If not, well, forget I said anything. Say hi to the dog-sized rats and children without eyes in the basement and be sure to patronize the Pit. And by "patronize," I mean "avoid like the hantavirus." Speaking of the hantavirus, you'll probably contract it at some point in your tenancy, on account of all the mice feces.

Shoreland Hall

Seven hundred people live here, or so I have been informed. Surprisingly, they're all punks. I'm not complaining or anything, but when some kids get to live in a former luxury hotel, while others live in abandoned mental institutions, haunted houses, and tent cities, perhaps the housing system is due for a leveling. Whatever. The Shoreland is very nice. You will get a big room and a private bath. There are also many other people in the building and in time, you will learn to cherish their offerings of drugs and sex. Only drawback: you have to ride the bus to campus.

Pierce Hall

Did you ever want to be Harrison Ford in Blade Runner? If you answered "yes" to my question, you are either a) a dork or B) might like living in Pierce Hall. Having been in Pierce four, possibly five times, I feel qualified to make some observations. First among them is the fact that the entire first floor SMELLS TERRIBLE. I do not know why this is, but it should be remedied.

Another thing I noticed was that the rooms are hellishly small doubles. While the bay windows were very nice, I think I would trade that bay window for not sharing a broom closet with someone who for all I know is a pervert and takes pictures of me while I sleep. And the Blade Runner thing, what I mean is that the building is kind of weird and futuristic but also run-down and crappy. Despite the mildly dorky architecture, Pierce is traditionally home to a large portion of the U of C's jock population. The Wok does make up for some of Pierce's shortcomings, if you can deal with eating in what appears to be an exact recreation of a prison cafeteria circa 1970.

Woodward Court

I managed to never actually go into a room at Woodward, and I'm a better person for it. Having been in the lobby four times maybe and the courtyard once, I can emphatically say that this building was very warm. From what I understand, Woodward is a lot like Pierce except not as tall. Unfortunately the building is scheduled to explode at some point during the upcoming school year. I would recommend moving your crap before it explodes. The building, that is.

Max Palevsky Commons

I know this kid and Max Palevsky is like his uncle, or something. I bet that kid got phat presents at Christmas. Anyway, having the movie theater in Ida Noyes bear his name was evidently not enough glory for Uncle Moneypants, and he needed to rub his filthy, honey-covered paws on the new dorms, too. Actually he just gave the U of C a lot of money so they named this after him out of, like, gratitude or something. Anyway, I can't really comment on these buildings on account of the fact that they do not seem to have doors or windows or indoor plumbing at this point. I predict that when finished, the rooms at the Max will fall somewhere in between a dumpster and a slightly larger, nicer dumpster, in terms of livability. I can't say anything for the ambiance.

5700 Stony Island

I was at a "party" in this building once for like fifteen minutes, and it sucked. That's not really the building's fault, though. While I drank five to ten beers during my brief inspection, I was not too preoccupied to take note of the comparative swankness of 5700 Stony to most other dorms. This swankness stems from each four-dork suite having a kitchen and a living room and a patio. In another nice touch, the physical plant seems to have been built after the Spanish-American War, which is more than I can say for most campus housing. This trickles down to you, resident of Stony, in the form of no dog-sized rats or children without eyes who live in the basement. Stony has a reputation for being a quiet dorm for older married students to get their shit done and get out, and the apartment-style living arrangement lends itself to a more mature lifestyle.

Broadview Hall

May or may not actually exist. From what I gather, Broadview is located way over on 55th and Hyde Park, closer than the Shoreland, but farther than just about everything else. Sounds nice. According to the Housing Office web site, they have a game room. I wonder if they have Street Fighter II. You know, B-J had Street Fighter II for a while and then it disappeared. Maybe Broadview took it. Anyway, Broadview is one of several hotels that the University converted into dorms, and is alleged to be quite nice. Mostly comprised of large carpeted singles with private baths, which would, in fact, make it nice.

Blackstone Hall

While I live half a block from Blackstone, I never see anybody come in or out. This may have something to do with the fact that it has been summer and no one lives there in the summer, but I know what I saw. From that I've pieced together from University propaganda, Blackstone folks have a pretty good deal. Fair-to-middlin' walk to campus, nice location, proximity to Salonica and other good places. The rooms are alleged to be very nice suites with private bathing facilities and assorted other niceties. Don't choke on it.

Maclean House

I walked someone home who lived there a while back. So I saw the outside of Maclean, once, at night, while drunk. I distinctly remember that this building is made out of bricks and has a fence around part of it, or at least there is a fence somewhere within two blocks of the building.

While the Housing web site isn't as comprehensive as I am, seeing as it does not mention the fence, they can tell you that Maclean is a "lovely four-story building with an elevator." Seeing as that's obviously not true, use your imagination. My Maclean is a robot bear that can transform into a fighter plane. In reality, Maclean is a collection of singles in a building snuggled away north of 55th and Ellis. Nice enough, but location verges on prohibitive.


Is it two buildings? Is it one building? Is it called Hitchcock-Snell or the other way around? Do I care? Some questions never get answered.

I've been to the front desk of this dump and from there I could smell trouble. Don't be fooled by the wood paneling. This is just B-J without a dining hall. All told, Hitchcock-Snell might even be a little creepier than B-J, if creepiness could be scientifically evaluated and quantified.

A lot of singles, and a "nice" location which means you are close to absolutely nothing except the main quad. Snell does offer an oak-paneled tearoom. My bet is a lot of Amish people and Mormons live here, because this dorm offers single-sex sections. I defy you to prove me wrong.


More Collected Wisdom: Welcome to Chicago - An Argument for Understanding (with J. Z. Smith) - Aiming Nowhere at All (with David Brooks) - Sex, Drugs, and Vietnam - Hot Coffee