You now attend an elite university that’s got some for real cheddar, and should you ever forget it, living in Burton-Judson will remind you. Vaulted ceilings, arched walkways, vines of ivy climbing the limestone, wood detailing in the rooms, a tower—hey, at least you’re getting something for all that cash you put up for tuition.
All right, so maybe the dorm is a little more gloomy than the bay windows would indicate, but don’t listen to the Max residents who tell you they carry biohazard suits just in case a visit to Burton-Judson is absolutely necessary.
Usually just called B-J, the dorm consists of seven houses and a dining hall arrayed figure-eight style around two grassy courtyards. The houses are some of the smallest in the residential system: Most have between 40 and 50 students, for a total of just over 300 in B-J.
Each house has its own table, and at least on the B-J half of the dining hall, nearly everyone stays at that table. It’s comfortable in that most people will be able to eat with friends, but it also limits contact with other houses. (We’ll get to that in a little bit.)
Rooms are mostly singles and decently sized at about ten by twelve; as a point of reference, doubles in Pierce are nine by eleven. B-J’s doubles are two-room suites, with the larger room having a bay window and in some cases a potentially functional fireplace.
Each house has a small lounge where housemates gather for meetings, episodes of The Office, Smash Brothers sessions, or just to get away from the books.
Those lounges are popular spots, but that can have its drawbacks. Students rarely hang out in other houses, and the combination of smaller houses and lots of intra-house bonding makes for an atmosphere that is alternately intimate and claustrophobic, depending on whom you ask and when.
During O-Week, house pride dominates as B-J nationalism often precludes residents from even looking at people from other houses.
As the year goes on, however, claustrophobia may set in, leading to more trips to other houses or more activities outside of B-J.
The distance between B-J and the main section of campus can be troublesome. Usually it’s a fine walk, not overly difficult to get to Bart Mart for some late night nibbles and usually not painfully far from most parties on the weekends. But like everything at the University of Chicago, you have to consider the winter factor.
During the colder months the Midway, which separates B-J from everything else, is essentially a highway of blistering ice-wind from the lakefront directly into your face.
For those looking to branch out without making the voyage across the Midway, B-J has a variety of common areas: a TV lounge, a library, several study rooms, two Steinway-equipped reading rooms for the musically inclined, and a mercifully air-conditioned computer lab that’s perfect for typing papers once June rolls around.
There’s also the Pit, a basement area with ping pong, pool, arcade games, and the skeleton of what used to be a very convenient snack shop. Unfortunately, the only food in the Pit this year comes out of a vending machine. Maintenance issues led to the demise of the snack shop last year, and until next year, the perennial gripe remains: There is no community kitchen in B-J.
B-J residents do, however, have the pleasure of using community bathrooms, which end up being much better than they sound. They don’t afford much privacy, and it’s no fun walking back to your room in a damp towel in February, but someone else buys the TP and keeps them spick and span. On balance, most folks like the convenience. Hey, more time reading Schmitt, less time scrubbing…tile.
Depending on the house, some bathrooms are gender neutral. Your mom probably did a bad job of acting calm and casual when she heard that, but gender neutral bathrooms are infinitely more convenient than the alternative—you can always use the bathroom on your floor, and you never need to walk up or down the stairs just to wash your hands.
Overall, B-J is a fine dorm. It can be restricting, but so can every dorm. The small size of the houses helps everyone know everyone, and it’s always good to share that view out of B-J’s bay windows with 50 friends.