Weird Colleges and Weird Students: PROVE ME WRONG

My piece today on the end of irreverent, creative, non-frat-party college fund has gotten a great response. Apparently the University of Chicago is not as uptight as I thought it was (though YOU ARE NO HAMPSHIRE, people, come on).

This has got me thinking: Is your college still weird? Are you weird? I WANT TO BE PROVEN WRONG so, so desperately badly. For the children. For the future.

So I hereby launch the Weird College Fun Project. Please send me any proof you have that what you are doing in college, right now, is weird, irreverent, subversive, mostly rule-free, but IN NO WAY CONNECTED TO YOUR SCHOOLWORK OR CV, and in no way heavily dependent upon alcohol or drugs. Pics, testimonials, links–anything. I will post the weirdest ones as they come in, with as much attribution as you’ll allow.


28 thoughts on “Weird Colleges and Weird Students: PROVE ME WRONG

  1. The oddest and most irreverent moment (actually the ONLY one, I sadly have to say) I have seen in my fifteen years in the academy happened a couple of months ago at Stanford (I have no affiliation): I stepped out of the library when, suddenly, a bunch of stark-naked, and I mean stark naked (other than the tiniest patch below) boisterous young men zoomed past, FULL speed, on skateboards, singing and bantering amongst themselves. Best part? There were families with little kids on campus walking there at that very moment. Kudos to these great young men for injecting some fun into that otherwise nauseatingly uptight institution.


  2. Nothing weird happens at Saint Louis University. The kids are all straight laced and career oriented. I actually observed the other day that they even dress boring- lots of blacks and greys.

    This isn’t a new phenomenon. I went to UMass (finished in 2004) and the campus had been pretty thoroughly de-weirded by the time I got there. People would try on occasion to do something weird, but it didn’t take. The job market in all fields is way too uncertain to risk damaging your reputation by appearing off.


  3. Cornell College – we do One Course at a Time schedule, and over the 4 and a half day block breaks, hordes of students (and a few professors) run around campus with Nerf guns and brightly colored scarves playing Humans vs. Zombies.

    Also, yearly tradition where one of the sororities (all Greek groups are unique to the college) walks around the Commons naked.

    AND – one Living and Learning community has a yearly tradition of going out on a rainy night and dancing to the Rite of Spring by Stravinsky.

    We’re pretty proud of how ridiculously weird we are.


  4. I think we all know this comes down to Vassar v. Reed (v. Hampshire) with MIT and their wonky pranks on Harvard as a possible dark horse wild card.

    But that was true in the 2000s. It’s probably changed a lot now.


  5. As you noted in your article – Reed is still a weird college. My husband and I, both fellow Vassar grads, have a freshman son at Reed and the Inaugural Humanities 101 lecture was graced by the presence of several nude upper class students ostensibly portraying the Greek Pantheon. Though, this annual, yet impromptu(ish) event seems destined for an early demise if this Reed Magazine article is any indication.,-say-organizers.html

    Sorry to see that the Mug is no longer. 😦 I loved that place.


  6. This is incredibly lame on the weirdness scale, especially compared to naked skateboarding, but my fellow grad students and I (and it was just the linguists, not the lit/culture people) built a fort out of the gross, old, 70’s blue furniture that was in our shared office. Someone even brought in an old sheet to cover it. The admin scolded us and made us dismantle it, saying it was “unbecoming and unprofessional.”


  7. I went to both LSU and IUPUI. The only weird I’ve experienced is related more to LSU being in Louisiana, which meant that people took Halloween EXTREMELY seriously, would go to parades, and would break out brass instruments during New Years or after a football victory.

    In graduate school, I find that the lack of weirdness only increases. Most people are either the kind who just go to school, internship, and then home to watch Dancing With the Stars.

    I notice that apart from the classmates of mine that developed outside interests like say, jazz bass, the vast majority is content to behave wholesomely and straight-laced. Also, being a New Orleanian in a city like Indianapolis (which AVClub’s Keith Phipps once described as “aggressively resistant to weirdness”) just further reinforces this impression for me.

    The only way I’ve managed to avoid the lack of weirdness within school is to repeatedly form friendships with German exchange students and engage in cross-cultural confusion + cooking. That friendship eventually resulted in dragging the Germans to New Orleans, ransacking an abandoned Mardi Gras float, then training them to yell “go back to Ohio” at tourists.


  8. This thread helped me to become more clear of a change I’ve been noticing on campuses over the past ten years, without exactly having the language to describe it.

    As an artifact of the good weird college life that seems to be vanishing, I provide the website of the fantastic (legendary?) 8th Note Coffee House located in the Union building of UW-Milwaukee, located in a multi-purpose room with all the windows covered in paper to block out any exterior light. See the prices, look at the guidelines for getting a show there. I stepped on the low (step-high) stage twice there and back then it felt like a passage underground. It is not the kind of place that a campus tour group in the 21st century would stop. Of course, such places still exist (but not in Madison…).


  9. Sorry, let me paste the full text from their self-description:
    “If you’re looking for a place where the lighting is not so bright, where the music is eclectic, where conversation is a competitive sport, or where smoking and napping are expected, stop searching. If you’re looking for the gritty underbelly of the union, where unique students go to kick up their feet and relax, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for poetry, local music, or something a bit different, then congratulations. You’ve found the 8th Note.”


  10. For all of you who think the “weird” has to be restricted to the liberal arts colleges, I’ll just leave this here:

    (dorm at MIT circa 2004. I can confidently say that quite a lot of this was done with minimal alcohol/drugs. And this was the year BEFORE they started building a roller coaster out of 2×4’s every year as part of welcoming the new freshmen. From what I hear not much has changed in the past decade…)


  11. I took this picture of two undergraduates last year at my ten-year Oberlin College reunion. I met them in the bathroom of a dance party in the basement of the student union building; the fact that they have decorated their armpit hair with glitter, and were excited at the prospect of posing nude for an unofficial campus publication called the Oberlin Grape, suggests that my old school will not be turning boring any time soon.

    (I don’t want this picture shared in a blog post, since I don’t wish to subject the subjects to unwanted attention, but hopefully you will receive MANY entries from Oberlin students.)


  12. LOL about U Chicago. I remember once seeing a bunch of guys who were hanging out in front of their frat house…discussing Nietzsche.


  13. Ok, this isn’t weird at all, but at the SLAC where I am currently adjuncting, the students have organized “We ❤ contingent faculty" and they are declaring next week Contingent Faculty Appreciation week, and students will be going to adjuncts' classes with cookies, words of praise, and will be spreading the word about contingent faculty, who we are, what our working conditions are, and are having a press conference on Wednesday with a local politician to bring attention. It's not weird, but definitely highly awesome. 🙂


    • That’s terrific, LonelyABD!!! Solidarity! Thanks for sharing! Sending Contingent Mental Energies your way for organizational success. 🙂


  14. I wonder how social class plays in here? The list includes mostly pricey SLACs. Is it that students there have time to be “weird” because they aren’t working full time, going to school full time, and dealing with family responsibilities? Do working class schools have fewer spaces for “weird” on campus? And do their students have more adult responsibilities, and thus less time for “weird”?


  15. Ok, Portland State is the hellmouth for street preachers who like to come to the center of campus and rant. The ranting then turns into competitive heckling as soon as a crowd forms. But that is an incidental weirdness. I was lucky to be an inherently weird course (Russian) and had weird friends from high school, from whom I could borrow props (such as giant glasses that were literally impossible to see out of) for class skits. May Day used to be a big deal, where the Wobblies would show up, and then Chicano groups followed, with the anarchists providing a teary final act. Portland has actually become less weird thanks to tourists scouring for whatever weirdness they can dredge up and the little things like bathroom “groutfitti” (book and grout related puns scrawled on bathroom tile grout) are being erased.


  16. Colleges: Reed, Sarah Lawrence, Evergreen State, Warren Wilson, Bard, New College of FL, Bennington, Marlboro, Hendrix, Antioch, Oberlin.

    Universities: UC-Santa Cruz, UC-Berkeley, Oregon, Northern Arizona, Michigan, Columbia, Brown, Montana.

    Specialty Schools: School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Southern California Institute of Architecture, Berklee School of Music, MassArt.


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