Northwebster: A dictionary for translating Northwestern’s dialect


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

The Daily has compiled a reference list of Northwestern lingo to help you navigate this seemingly foreign language.

Angeli Mittal, Design Editor

We’re all too familiar with the feeling when you’re introduced to a new atmosphere and you’re using Google Maps to get around campus. And when you ask for directions, you get hit with jargon like “Norbucks” and “SPAC,” and your phone returns no search results. The Daily has compiled a reference list to help you navigate this seemingly foreign language.

People and things

ASLA: An acronym for Academic Support and Learning Advancement. This resource encompasses staff counselors and peers as well as online resources, tips and mentoring. ASLA hosts classes throughout the academic year, as well as peer-guided study groups for select classes.

ASG: Short for Associated Student Government, ASG represents the undergraduate student body. ASG is composed of an executive board, the Senate and 10 committees that work on projects. The Senate consists of representatives from 20 student groups, 17 school senators and two presiding officers.

Big Ten: The athletic conference in which Northwestern plays. Contrary to the name, the Big Ten currently consists of 14 universities, all of which are public institutions except NU. These schools compete in NCAA Division I athletics.

CAESAR: The platform used to sign up for classes, view and request academic transcripts and pay your tuition.

Canvas: Your personal assistant for knowing what’s going on in your classes. When you register for classes on CAESAR, you get added to a Canvas page for each class, which will house assignments, assessments, announcements and other course materials.

CAPS: An acronym for Counseling and Psychological Services. CAPS offers free online resources and workshops to help students navigate mental well-being in college. Students can also schedule free virtual appointments with staff members. The CAPS office is located at Searle Hall.

CARE: An acronym for Center for Awareness, Response and Education. This community seeks to promote healthy sexuality and provides resources and support to — but not limited to — survivors of sexual asault and domestic violence.

CTECs: The “Rate My Professors” exclusive to NU. An acronym for Course and Teacher Evaluation Council, this tool comes in handy when figuring out which classes — and with which professors — to take when registration comes along. 

Dining dollars: The freshman meal plan comes with $125 dining dollars each quarter, which is basically currency on your Wildcard to be used at any of the retail restaurants and stores on campus.

Distro: Short for distribution requirements. While this term usually refers to the 12 requirements students of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences have to fill, every school at NU has some form of degree requirements.

eduroam: NU’s primary wireless network. Students, staff and faculty can connect most of their devices to it using their NetID credentials. Devices like printers, TVs and gaming systems must be registered and connected to a separate network.

FGLI: Pronounced “figly” and short for First-Generation and/or Low-Income. The term typically refers to a subset of students who are the first members of their family to attend college or identify as low-income. Student Enrichment Services offers resources and programs to support FGLI students, as well as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and undocumented students.

The Intercampus: Another mode of transportation that’s free for NU students, staff and faculty. This shuttle has stops along campus and Evanston including Ryan Field and Loyola University Chicago, with the final destination being NU’s downtown Chicago Campus at the Ward Building.

The “L”: The term people use to refer to the elevated Chicago Transit Authority trains connecting Chicago and adjacent suburbs. To get to downtown Chicago from Evanston, you can take the Purple Line from one of several stops near campus and transfer to the Red Line at Howard Station.

Listserv: An electronic mailing list that you get added to when you join student groups or academic programs. At the student organization fair, clubs might request your email to add you to a listserv, though you can also manually request to be added through Wildcat Connection.

Meal exchanges: The freshman meal plan comes with five of these per week. Meal exchanges allow you to get certain items at select retail restaurants on campus without spending dining dollars. These come in handy when you’re looking for a late-night bite or an alternative to dining hall food.

Morty: Refers to University President Morton Schapiro.

NetID (and student ID): This is a combination of three letters and four numbers, whereas the student ID is a seven-digit number. Your NetID is used for most things, such as accessing campus computers and logging into NU platforms, while your student ID is typically used for administrative purposes. Having both of these memorized comes in handy.

NU: The acronym for Northwestern. It’s not NW or NWU. 

Safe Ride: An NU carshare service for students, advertised as a free and safe alternative to walking alone in the dark. Students can request a Safe Ride through the app. The scheduling software to help you plan your schedule each quarter. It’s useful for visualizing what your schedule might look like while avoiding potential time conflicts. 

SESP: An acronym for the School of Education and Social Policy. As one of the smallest undergraduate schools, SESP hosts five programs and concentrations.

StuCo: Slang for NU’s Student Theatre Coalition representing a collection of theatre groups on campus. It operates as its own student-led organization.

When2Meet: The scheduling aid everyone uses to plan meeting times.

Wildcard: Refers to your NU ID card. It’s used to get into your residential hall, certain buildings, dining halls and more. It’s probably the most vital item to carry with you.

Willie: Willie the Wildcat, affectionately referred to as Willie, is our mascot. You’ll probably see him in the stands or on the field at football and basketball games.

Zoom: That software you’re probably way too familiar with and no longer want to encounter. Even though classes have in-person modalities, professors may choose to record their lectures or host office hours on the platform.


Deering: Short for Deering Library, it has the reputation of resembling Hogwarts. It houses the McCormick Library of Special Collections and University Archives and the Art Library on the third floor — the prime study spot at Deering. There’s also an underground tunnel from Deering to Main Library.

The Garage: Located within the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, it serves as a hub for student entrepreneurs. The Garage hosts several programs and resources to help students get their ideas off the ground as well as a space to work on projects.

Lakefill: It’s essentially the strip of land adjacent to Lake Michigan and the Lagoon in front of the Kellogg Global Hub. It’s great for walking, running and biking, and in the spring you’ll see the Lakefill filled with hammocks.

Lincoln: From time to time, you might hear an upperclassman refer to one of the North Campus dorms as “Lincoln.” Though originally termed after the street on which it’s located, as of June it’s been renamed Schapiro Hall in honor of University President Schapiro.

Main: Slang for University Library, it’s the largest library on campus. Separated into multiple, connected towers, Main holds a variety of book and newspaper collections. Brewbike, a student-run coffee shop, is conveniently located within Main in case you need caffeine and a place to spend your dining dollars. Some of the popular spots in Main include 1 South and Core for group studying and the Periodicals and Newspapers Reading Room for a quiet alternative. 

Mudd: Short for Mudd Science and Engineering Library. It’s located on North Campus, next to the Technological Institute, and has two floors of study rooms and spaces for students to occupy, including two rooms open 24 hours a day for night owls (or early morning birds). The third floor houses computer science faculty offices and more study spaces open at limited hours.

Norbucks: Slang for the Starbucks located on the first floor of Norris University Center. You can use your dining dollars here.

Norris: Short for Norris University Center, it’s the home of student group offices, conference rooms and retail restaurants. This building also serves as a study space and social spot, as well as the venue for many theatrical and musical performances. 

Plex: Slang for the Foster-Walker Complex residence hall. There’s also a dining hall, convenience store and package center here.

Sarge: Slang for Sargent Hall, which also has a dining hall. Some say the omelets at Sargent are the best on campus.

Sheridan: Refers to the main road running through NU’s campus. It gets really crowded during class transitions, especially with rogue cyclists and skateboarders.

SPAC: Slang referring to the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion. As the primary recreational facility on campus, it houses weight rooms, tennis courts, an indoor track, basketball courts and a swimming pool, among other fitness spaces. Students can take advantage of free group-fitness classes — including yoga, weight-lifting and cycling — that NU Recreation hosts at SPAC, as well other services such as white light therapy and wellness massages. Plus, at the end of your workout, you can use your dining dollars at the Protein Bar & Kitchen conveniently located near the front entrance.

Tech: Short for the Technological Institute. This building is located on North Campus and is the location for most of the STEM classes you’ll take at NU. It’s easy to get lost in the depths of Tech, so you might find the Tech Room Finder website to be useful when searching for your classes. Tech is also connected to other buildings like Mudd and the Segal Design Institute by skybridges, which come in handy during the brutal winter months.

Traditions and oddities

Dillo: Short for Armadillo Day, this student-organized music festival invites several musical acts to the Lakefill toward the end of Spring Quarter. 

“The gnats”: These aren’t your friendly, everyday gnats — the NU variety comes in swarms and will quite literally bug you for at least a week. Be prepared to face them just as the weather starts getting warm in April.

Marriage Pact: A new annual tradition, students fill out a questionnaire about their preferences and opinions to get matched with a student deemed compatible based on the survey’s algorithm. It’s become pretty popular at NU since it came to campus in fall 2020.

NUDM: An abbreviation for NU Dance Marathon. This student-run event occurs in Winter Quarter and has students up and dancing for 30 straight hours to raise money for charity.

Primal Scream: An NU tradition. At precisely 9 p.m. the Sunday of Finals Week, students — whether outside or in the library — will let out a cathartic scream. 

Reading Week: Week 10 of the quarter, also known as the week before finals. Typically, only Weinberg students have this break to study — or procrastinate — before finals. Classes in other schools might choose to honor the week, proceed as normal or even administer finals during this period.

The Rock: Located next to University Hall, this rock frequently gets painted after student groups guard it for 24 hours. There’s even a webcam livestreaming activity at The Rock.

Now that you’re fully equipped with the NU lingo, you’re ready to walk down Sheridan and navigate like a seasoned student.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @amittal27

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