Northwebster: A crash course to NU lingo

Grace Wu, Copy Chief

Welcome to Northwestern! Transitioning to a new living and learning environment can be really stressful. What are CTECs? Why are there sirens outside on this fine Tuesday morning? To help, we created a non-exhaustive guide to help explain some of NU vernacular. 

People and Things 

ASG: Short for Associated Student Government, a student-elected representative government that allocates funds to student groups, among other responsibilities. Comprised of a Senate, whose meetings are open to the public, and nine standing committees. 

CAESAR (and CAESAR is the administrative platform used for viewing academic records, registering for classes and paying your tuition. is the newest student-created online scheduler that many NU students use to plan their academic schedule. 

Canvas: A digital platform that most professors use to communicate with their students, post homework assignments and syllabi; students mostly use it to digitally turn in assignments and participate in discussion board posts. 

CAPS: Abbreviation of “Counseling and Psychological Services.” CAPS offers free short-term clinical services and workshops, and sets up long-term care plans including connecting students to off-campus therapists. Located on the second floor of Searle Hall, the student health center at 633 Emerson St. 

CARE: Abbreviation of “Center for Awareness, Response & Education.” CARE’s mission is to create a culture of healthy sexuality, and it offers resources to — but not limited to — sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. 

C-store: Slang for “convenience store.” There is one located next to the entrance of Plex West Dining Hall and another on the ground floor of Norris. You can use dining dollars or real money to grab a snack! 

CTECs: Abbreviation of “Course and Teacher Evaluation Council.” Students have to fill out these evaluations at the end of each quarter for every class taken. It can also be helpful to view past CTECs for courses you’re considering to take, so be sure to complete them — the penalty for not doing so is being unable to access CTECs the following quarter.

Dingle: Slang for “double single,” a dorm room meant for two people but only contains one occupant. You’re lucky if you get a dingle, especially as a first-year! 

Distro: Short for “distribution requirement,” all NU undergraduate schools have some form of distros. Among Weinberg distros are Formal Studies, Literature and Fine Arts and Social and Behavioral Sciences. 

FGLI: Pronounced “figly”; an acronym for first-generation and/or low-income students, also includes undocumented/DACA students. 

Meal Exchanges: Included in the Open Access Meal Plan, meal exchanges can be used at select food places around campus. Student favorites include MOD Pizza, Fran’s Cafe and Lisa’s Cafe. 

Morty: How most people refer to NU’s 16th president, Morton Schapiro. His term will end on Aug. 31, 2022. 

NU: The abbreviation for Northwestern (not NW or NWU). Have fun correcting your friends from back home! 

Safe Ride: Essentially a free late-night Uber with the purposes of safely bringing students to their destinations as an alternative to walking at night. Accessed through an app. Safe Ride operates from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day during the academic year. 

SES: Abbreviation of Student Enrichment Services, a center that aims to foster identity development, navigate campus resources and build community within the FGLI student body. 

When2meet: An online meeting scheduling platform that many student groups and project groups will use to coordinate meeting times. 


Blom: Short for “Blomquist,” the recreational center on the south side of campus, across the street from Foster-Walker Complex. It is smaller than SPAC but gets the job done! 

Deering: Short for “Charles Deering Memorial Library,” you can generally find students studying in the iconic Hogwarts-like Art Library on the third floor. It houses music, maps, art history and the University Archives, and connects to Main Library via a hallway. 

Lakefill: NU’s very own man-made mound of land on the east side of campus. On a nice day, you can expect to find people walking, jogging, biking and hanging out here — bring a hammock and a good book!

Main: Slang for “University Library,” Main is the largest library on campus. Its collection — mostly housed in three towers — include government and geography, multimedia and transportation. Some student-favorite study spaces include the study carrels in the tower stacks, Periodicals and 1 South. The library also houses resources such as technology workstations, an IT help desk and the Writing Place. 

Mudd: Short for “Mudd Science and Engineering Library,” the North Campus library. Mostly contains study spaces and professors’ offices. During non-pandemic times, it is open 24 hours. Mudd is also infamous for the showers in the bathrooms — you could feasibly live there during Finals Week if you wanted to! 

Norbucks: The Starbucks located on the second floor of Norris. You can also use your dining dollars here. 

Norris: Short for “Norris University Center,” the student center houses a plethora of resources and stores. There are a variety of food options on the ground floor, and the Wildcard office is in the basement. When the weather is nice, there will sometimes be events on the East and South Lawns. 

SPAC: Acronym for “Henry Crown Sports Pavilion,” the largest recreational facility on campus. It boasts a weight room, an Olympic-sized pool in Norris Aquatics Center, tennis courts, basketball courts, an indoor track, studio rooms, a group spin room and racquetball and squash courts. Other services housed in SPAC include white light therapy and wellness massages. 

Tech: Short for “Technological Institute,” the largest building on the Evanston campus (and the second-largest low-rise building by area in the country after the Pentagon). Even though it mostly houses STEM and engineering classes, you will most likely have at least one class in Tech due to its sheer size. Don’t forget to use the Room Finder — it is very easy to get lost! 


Dillo: Short for “Dillo Day” or “Armadillo Day,” a student-organized music festival that typically occurs on the Lakefill toward the end of Spring Quarter. 

DM: Short for “NUDM” or “Dance Marathon.” One of the largest student-run philanthropy events in the nation. Students gather at the end of Winter Quarter to dance for 30 hours to raise money for charity. 

Primal Scream: Stressed studying for finals? At 9 p.m. the Sunday of Finals Week, every student drops whatever they’re doing and screams — strangely cathartic. 

Reading Week: The week before Finals Week when Weinberg classes don’t meet. In theory, it’s to give students the extra time to study, but the week often is riddled with procrastination. 

The Rock: A large “rock” located on South Campus that student groups paint after guarding it for 24 hours. There’s also a “rock cam” live stream on YouTube where you can watch the goings-on around the Rock at all hours. Fun Fact: the Rock used to be a fountain

Tornado sirens: The City of Evanston tests these sirens at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of every month. Don’t be alarmed if you hear them at this time! (But do be alarmed and take proper tornado precautions if you hear them outside of this time.) 

No pressure to have this list memorized by the time you step foot on campus — you will naturally acquire NU vernacular as you progress through the quarters, and don’t feel shy to ask if you are ever confused about a new term! 

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