Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Friday, May 30, 2003
I was fipping through our beloved school newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, when I noticed an article proposing that Chicago reinstate Division I athletics. Now, I grew up near Knoxville, TN, home of the Tennessee Volunteers. I have had my fill of football-mad crowds, drunken guys wearing face paint--and that's just from television. So no, I'm not very keen on the idea of my university becoming another jock school. But the opening sentence of the article made me take another look:

"The University of Chicago... is that a state school?"

I've had this experience before, of course... even from people who live in the Chicago suburbs. Anyways, the author contends that if we re-enter the Big Ten (we left in 1939 to do more important things with our football stadium, like the world's first nuclear self-sustained reaction*), people will actually recognize our school's name and we won't have random people think we go to UIC** He also mentions the extra benefit of alumni coming for the big Chicago-Northwestern game who will be more likely to donate to the University.

At first this argument looks tempting. Even I have wished on occasion that we could play Northwestern and Notre Dame. But then I realised something. Our fellow universities in the University Athletic Association (aka the "Nerd Nine") have better street cred than we do--I don't see anyone looking askance at Emory, NYU, or Carnegie Mellon. So there's got to be another factor.

But how do you build name recognition anyway? Wash U.'s certainly done a pretty good job of it by sending every high-scoring PSAT taker enough brochures, postcards, and viewbooks for the name to sink into everyone's conciousnesses. Maybe Chicago needs a marketing blitzkreig--send stuff to students you know won't be coming but will actually look at the brochure. I think the University's appearance in "The Core" will help, as will frequent mentions by the news media on Ahmed Chalabi's math Ph.D. from here--and maybe also note that Paul Wolfowitz got his PoliSci Ph.D. (1972) around the same time as Chalabi (1969)***. A television special: "Chicago: Crucible of the War in Iraq" would be possible, with interviews from John Mearsheimer, Paul Sally, and the like. (Dr. Sally's eye patch will interest channel-surfers: "Hey! Pirate movie! Oh, wait, it's just some guy with an eye patch.")

*Okay, so it wasn't the intended reason, but merely a side effect of sorts.
**Before I get protests from UIC students and alumni: My mother went to UIC.
***For some reason foreign news sources call us "Chicago University". Look, the rules that you use for Oxbridge name usage (either "X University" or "University of X" are acceptable) don't apply to American universities, all right? Oh, and never put "state" somewhere even if the university's a state school... Tennessee State University is not the University of Tennessee.

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