North vs. South: Choosing sides in the campus battle

Olivia Bobrowsky

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On the first day of Wildcat Welcome, all of the new north campus students will meet at the Ford Center lawn, and all of the new south campus students will gather near Fisk hall. Then the two masses of freshmen will join together to march through the Arch, assemble on Deering Meadow and then snap a class photo.

How cute. North campus and south campus coming together. Engineers and musicians. Future frat stars and dirty hipsters. It’s a good thing there will be photo evidence of this.

No, but really. The north-south campus divide has so deeply afflicted our campus that it’s spurred new administrative initiatives. Besides that two-year-old campus-wide march, President Morton Schapiro has championed a new student center-somewhere everyone will want to frequent, and not just the loud theater kids who run rampant in Norris.

“Northwestern has long been concerned with the growing fragmentation of its diverse student body,” The New Student Center Initiative proposal reads. “Northwestern has been known to lack a particularly unifying culture.”

Depending on whom you’re talking to, those words might scream of an understatement. Some claim the two sides of Northwestern’s campus emanate such different atmospheres that they feel like two entirely separate schools: a party hardy state school up north and an elitist liberal arts college down south.

But I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad situation. Am I the only one who applied to both kinds of schools? Am I the only one who’s happy I get both within a one-mile radius? Sometimes I feel like meeting randos at a sweaty frat party, and sometimes I feel like an intellectual debate at a coffee shop. And at Northwestern, I found friends who like to do both.

Here’s another thing: This divide is only as strict as you want it to be. You’re not glued to your dorm. If you live on south campus, you’re inevitably going to memorize the campus bus schedule so you don’t have to freeze on the way to a frat party. If you live on north campus, you’ll probably end up splitting cab fares to get to the bar nights near south campus. If you’re an engineer on south campus, befriend the other engineers on south campus. If you’re a journalist on north campus, befriend the other journalists on north campus. Then the walks won’t be so lonely.

There’s no point to me arguing that one side is better than the other. North campus kids will fall in love with the Noyes Street shops, and South campus kids can’t imagine life without downtown Evanston. Both sides are equidistant from El stops, convenience stores and late-night dining locales. And both sides boast annoyingly stubborn students who refuse to live anywhere else.

My advice? Don’t be those people. Don’t assume south campus has everything you could possibly want, because God knows I love living five minutes from some of the best sandwiches in Evanston. And don’t assume north campus is a self-sustaining bubble, because those rare warm days are best spent on the lakefill.

So, you’ve already received your housing assignments. Maybe you’re crying that you’re stuck in PARC, or maybe you’re rejoicing that you got into Elder. You know what? It doesn’t really matter. Either way, you’ll end up making some similar-minded friends, and you can bond over those emotions together. Then you can opt to live together sophomore year – on whichever side of campus you want. Just do yourself and this whole “growing fragmentation” thing a favor and, at some point, make some not-so-similar-minded friends and try out someplace new.

And then maybe one day Morty won’t feel the need to push everyone through the Arch together.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the freshman orientation issue, an annual publication mailed to all incoming freshman by The Daily Northwestern that is intended to prepare new students for their first year at Northwestern.A small number of the orientation issue articles, including this one, are being printed online for the benefit of international and returning students. During the school year, all articles that appear in the print Daily Northwestern are published on the website, along with several types of online-only content.