Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.


Race Against Hate: Ricky Byrdsong’s Legacy
The Week Ahead, June 17-23: Juneteenth, Summer Solstice and Pride Celebrations in Chicagoland
Evanston Environment Board drops fossil fuels divestment, recommends updates to leaf blower ordinance
Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins
Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award
District 65 School Board votes to close Dr. Bessie Rhodes School
Kathryn Hahn declares class of 2024 “worthy of celebration” in commencement address
Perry: A little humility goes a long way

Brew, Hou, Leung, Pandey: On being scared to tweet and the pressure to market yourself as a student journalist

June 4, 2024

Haner: A love letter to the multimedia room

June 4, 2024

Derrick Gragg appointed as Northwestern’s vice president for athletic strategy, search for new athletic director begins

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Honda Sport Award

June 13, 2024

Lacrosse: Northwestern’s Izzy Scane wins 2024 Tewaaraton Award

May 30, 2024


Campus Kitchens fills plates and hearts

NU Declassified: Prof. Barbara Butts teaches leadership through stage management

Everything Evanston: Behind the boba in downtown Evanston

A place to call home

It’s a Thursday night on the third floor of Bobb Hall. In one room, a group of students is having a drinking tournament. Across the hall, the bass of a Nelly song pounds.

It’s also Thursday night on the second floor east of the Foster-Walker Complex, dubbed “the Asian floor” by residents. Here, conversations are quiet and conducted in several foreign languages. The scent of ethnic cuisine wafts through the air.

Though it is only a few blocks from Bobb on the same college campus, it feels like another world.

The Office of University Residential Life assigns housing only to freshmen and without regard to race. But a new seniority-based lottery implemented last year enables seniors, juniors and sophomores — in that order — to pick their rooms and, in most cases, their neighbors.

The university doesn’t track the racial breakdown of each dorm. But one result of the lottery is that it makes it is easier for students to separate themselves — by clique, by year and by race.

Some call this diversity. Others call it segregation. But the dorm experience is different for everyone — whether it’s a Muslim student respecting her religion in Hobart or a black student trying to live with random people every year in Kemper.

Mary Desler, associate vice president for student affairs, said she believes no one can be blamed for wanting to live near their friends.

“I can’t fault people for doing what they are most comfortable with,” Desler said. “It’s too stressful here at Northwestern to have to deal with that, too. No one group can be responsible for being the only group stepping outside of their comfort zones.”

A family atmosphere

To Jacy He, the Plex feels like home — just like her real one in Hong Kong.

“I have a very traditional Chinese family, and I miss that,” said He, a Music senior. “Being around my friends enables me to use the kind of language that I speak with my parents, which is in danger of being lost if I always speak English.”

For He, enjoying a meal is an important part of family life. And in the Plex, suitemates are her family and the cafeteria downstairs is her dining room.

She said everyday social activities like dinner are balanced with the privacy of a single. Of the 627 Plex residents, 595 of them live by themselves.

“We enjoy time together, but we also have a lot of alone time,” He said. “It might be a cultural thing.”

He lives in a suite of Chinese students, with a predominantly Indian suite to her right and a Korean suite to her left.

“Even though I live within my core unit of ethnic concentration, it is impossible not to meet people of different groups,” she said. “Because (my neighbors) are living with friends they are comfortable with, I see them as who they are — independent of stereotypical images.”

Although He enjoys her hall, she said she would feel equally comfortable living with fewer minorities. But Desler said not all students feel this way, and the tendency for some minority students to live together shouldn’t be criticized.

“Those that you would call minority students desegregate themselves all day, every day, ” Desler said.

people to hang out with

Kiel Alward has seen some strange things on the third floor of Bobb. There are regular golf games in the stairwell to navigate, and on one occasion, she had to run into her room to avoid a pair of racing shopping carts.

“Two girls pushing shopping carts screamed for me to get out of the way,” said Alward, an Education sophomore. “For the next half hour, there were girls pushing carts around Bobb.”

Many of the students who live on Alward’s floor are members of her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and the fraternity Zeta Beta Tau.

“It is a pretty cohesive group, because we all knew each other coming into the year and chose to live together,” Alward said. “It is mostly Caucasian and also mostly Greek.”

Bobb has one of the more social reputations on campus. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t self-segregated, Desler said.

“White segregation is seen as the norm that minority students are expected to conform to, not the other way around,” she said.

Alward said Bobb has been a great place to live — she can wander into most rooms and find people to hang out with. It just happens, she said, that many of them are white.

“Ideally, I would like to be living in a more diverse setting,” she said. “But I don’t feel like it is something myself or my friends are doing intentionally.”

togas and kimonos

From the day he arrived at ISRC, Erik Neinstedt, a New Jersey resident, said he has felt part of a community.

“I can remember my freshman year — the day we moved in, we were welcomed by upperclassmen and told to make this our home,” said Neinstedt, a Communication sophomore and the dorm’s president.

Neinstedt was placed into one of the dorm’s suites, which are divided based on a theme or language. The dorm government determines which three suites will be language-based — usually Spanish, French and Chinese — and residents of the other nine suites select the rest of the themes once they move in. This year, they included “Wild West” and “Mediterranean.”

At ISRC, something as simple as munchies can bridge religious and racial gaps between residents. Each week a different suite shares food from its theme region with the dorm. Students have even appeared in a kimono or toga.

Still, Neinstedt said, students have a tendency to separate themselves.

“Because we are a res college, we are all very social and often all hang out together,” he said. “However, most students tend to hang out with their own race, even in this dorm.”

Neinstedt’s suite, however, houses five women and four men — including one Egyptian, one Lebananese, one Korean and two Indians.

“The majority of suites are either mostly American students or minority students,” he said. “Most suites are not as diverse as mine.”

respect for a religious background

Many residence halls hold firesides — but there’s something a little unique about the ones at Hobart House.

With Indian dance music in the background, Hobart resident Rownak Choudhury gave fellow residents temporary tattoos last year using East Asian Henna ink.

“It was fun because it was like sharing my culture with the other residents,” said Choudhury, a Weinberg sophomore.

Choudhury, one of seven Muslims in a dorm of 50 women, said living in the single-sex Hobart was a way for her to respect her Muslim background and family values.

Choudhury has experienced Hobart’s openness and diversity. But above all, she said she appreciates the community Hobart has provided.

“Last year I became friends with everyone in my corner,” Choudhury said. “It was really cool — late at night we would go into each other’s rooms and talk and study. If we had problems we could talk to each other.”

interaction and integration

In none of the three years Ronald Adams has lived at Kemper has he chosen the group of people he lives with. Both president of the dorm and the historically black fraternity Phi Beta Sigma, he says the experience has given him the opportunity to share suites with people of a variety of races and backgrounds.

Last year Adams roomed with four white students and one Asian student. The Asian student pulled the other four students into the suite, and Adams was placed with the group.

At the beginning of the year, he said he felt like he was living with strangers. But he ended up close friends with his suitemates.

He became such good friends with two of his suitemates that he recruited them to join him on NU’s cheerleading squad.

“I asked them about cheerleading, and they laughed at first,” said Adams, an Education junior. “But then I told them about access to the varsity weight room and showed them a couple pictures of the girls, and they changed their minds.”

This year, Adams again lives in an unplanned suite with a mix of students: a white fe
male, a white male, a Korean female and a mixed-race male.

“In Kemper, because people usually get placed into suites and have to share a kitchen, bathroom and living space, there is both integration and interaction,” Adams said.

The Daily’s Erin Ward contributed to this report.

More to Discover
Activate Search
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
A place to call home