OP-EDS

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May 19, 2009

Chronic dullness

The U of C shouldn't send future students The Chronicle.

I was once 17. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was an age of foolishness, it was the epoch of boredom: It was the end of my senior year of high school.

My schedule, foreshadowing the upcoming years, was jury-rigged to allow me to sleep in until my first class at noon—Intro to Film. Like most high school seniors, I spent the bulk of my time dreaming of an escape from the rigidity, an opportunity to spread my proverbial wings at what would become my alma mater. Suffice it to say that the prospect of rocking Advanced Placement tests had long since become an unappealing endeavor.

After waking up to The Graduate and assorted Hitchcock, my schedule allowed for a lunch break to recharge my batteries and coast through my remaining classes. After the last bell sounded, I would cross another day off my calendar as I peeled out of the student parking lot, Biggie blasting out of my '94 Camry.

The sunroof was open, as it was the season of light, the spring of hope. And then I’d get home and open my mailbox.

Every month, like clockwork, the University of Chicago was determined to remind its admitted students that while their peers were headed to tropical utopias filled with beer-drinking, class-skipping and football-watching, we were headed straight the other way. It could almost be considered taunting; how dare they send me a copy of The University of Chicago Chronicle?

The tales of groundbreaking discoveries in astrophysics bored me, the aggrandizing announcements of obscure faculty honors and fellowships disgusted me, and the unrelenting wave of obituaries depressed me. Suddenly, the structural imprisonment of public high school seemed like a suitable alternative to four years of apocalyptically cold weather, intellectual pseudo-torture, and rampant self-importance.

Purposeful repression has cured my memory of the exact headlines from four years back, but next year’s first-year class currently opens their respective mailboxes to such thrilling stories as “Faculty panelists discuss fine balance between intense debate and civil discourse” and “Pippin, a leader in interdisciplinary work, elected to oldest learned society.”

Ted O’Neill, why are you sending The Chronicle out to high school seniors, a group preconditioned to be frightened, worried, and impressionable? Does it seem necessary to further drive home the point of “this school is really serious” to students who have already been accepted here? What about the cryptic admissions essays and incessant expounding on the value of the Core Curriculum in admissions propoganda didn’t get that point across?

The Admissions Office should instead choose to showcase a better, or at least more realistic, portrayal of life at U of C. How about a DVD featuring a pre-packaged set of overachieving students and their everyday life on campus, or perhaps pre-screened school news and updates written by admissions officers or any number of the freelance writers the University employs throughout the year? Really, anything would be a step up from that miserable rag showing up in a manila envelope every month.

Another problem is that by sending The Chronicle home to students, the administrtion essentially camouflages it as the student paper. At least that’s what I thought as a senior, and it lead to great angst. As an athlete, I understood that the University wasn’t the most receptive environment, but damn, no mention of sports at all? At the very least, they should send out a disclaimer that The Chronicle is not meant for anyone born after the Vietnam War, and should carefully be passed along to the prospective’s parents (i.e. he who writes checks).

At a basic level, I think it’s important to assure prospective students that things happen on campus outside of classrooms, award ceremonies, and mortuaries. The harsh reality is that high school seniors often make college choices on a very arbitrary basis, and admissions should take that into account.  There’s no reason that the administration's marketing gurus can’t come up with better and more interesting content than a paper that has a potential application as a prescription-strength sleep aid. Quite frankly, they need to.

With a yield rate that is still significantly lower than peer institutions and a new head of admissions next year, perhaps it’s time for the University to rethink how it seduces the students it chooses. Just as the Core preaches the development of well-rounded students, it’s important that our school project a well-rounded image—one which The University of Chicago Chronicle has no part of.

Steve Saltarelli is a third-year in the College majoring in Law, Letters, and Society. He is an Associate Sports Editor.