Students express their personalities, views of College life at ChicagoBy Seth Sanders
One might expect a College student calendar from the University to be some kind of complexly ironic parody, perhaps edited by Critical Inquiry and preferably published in Sanskrit (with very tiny explanatory notes in German). Certainly no one expected television’s “Inside Edition” to pick Chicago for a sweeps week “coed calendar” episode.
But what surprised some who saw the end result is how unironical—as well as complicated, thoughtful and charming—a picture the 2004 University of Chicago Student calendar painted.
Chicago photographer Robert Michaels and producers from “Inside Edition” produced the calendar last year in something of a carnival atmosphere: the panel of judges was made up of a WCKG disc jockey named Lumpy, entertainment writer Audarshia Townsend, and Shannon, a representative from Elite Modeling Agency. But perhaps it should not have been a surprise that students from the College flourished under these circumstances: it was not in spite of the students’ intensity and distinctiveness that the calendar might impress people, but because of those qualities.
The interview process brought out strong personalities: in response to Lumpy’s ludicrous hypothetical scenarios, Biology student and actor Zach McClain explained how DNA works—in the persona of an elderly Manhattan socialite alternatively pulling on her cigarette and her Martini. Townsend put them on the spot about their opinions, with which nobody expected Chicago students to have much of a problem.
But they also did well when Shannon quizzed them on their style, a point that may surprise some fans of the College. Striking elements like Shikha Jain’s brilliant green sari, Zach McClain’s cowboy boots and Carolyn Gruber’s slightly menacing épée come through in the photographs, taken around campus in the fall.
Cheerleader and future litigator Michelle Miller said: “The photo shoot was a lot of fun, and it made me bring out my inner movie star. However, I felt like they wanted me to act like a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and well, that wasn’t going to happen.”
Brimming enthusiasm shared space with hard questions. International Studies and Spanish student Karen McClendon was, she said, “most surprised by how much I love it! The students are smart, funny and extremely friendly.” She found the legendary difficulty of the classes rewarding instead of frightening (but the weather was much as reported).
On the other hand, David Goodloe, a Political Science concentrator, was surprised at “how many of us so easily tackle academic queries and theories” but seem unaware or unconcerned when it comes to “issues of social justice and relations with those who aren’t in the same realm of education as we are.”
But what some of the students felt most strongly was the College’s greatest charm: the seductiveness of new knowledge. “I remember looking up the University of Chicago in the college guide a few years ago,” wrote February calendar student Jacob Reckess. “I didn’t know anything about the school at the time, but what caught my eye was one of the school’s fight songs.
“The cheer went like this: ‘Themistocles, Thucydides / The Peloponnesian War, / X squared, Y squared / H2SO4 / Who for? What for? / What the hell are we fighting for? / GO, MAROONS!’ . . . At that point, I only understood or recognized about 10 percent of the whole song. So I set my goal right then and there, that I wanted to come to a place with a fight song as bizarre as this one, and by the time I graduated, I wanted to know what every part of it meant.”
More information on the calendar is available by contacting the University News Office at (773) 702-6421 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.