March 10, 2009

Even U of C toilet graffiti is “Uncommon”

Dear editors, what is utility to the student of art history, to the theoretical physicist, or to the playwright?

As a high school student looking for a place to spend the next four years of my life, the University of Chicago was a raspberry in an otherwise standard salad. I never saw “Uncommon” as a marketing campaign, despite what the Editorial Board recently wrote (“Admission Control,” 3/6/09). To me it was a philosophy: a brave, and probably stupid, stand against the major trend of American universities, which are quickly becoming simple detours on the golden roads to engineering, medicine, law, and finance.

Dear editors, what is utility to the student of art history, to the theoretical physicist, or to the playwright? For some of us, creativity is more important than high school transcripts and SAT scores. If this means that we must accept a lower rank in the magical hierarchy of the U.S. News scores, then we’re prepared to shrug off the indignity.

“Uncommon” might be an obnoxiously obvious play on words, but it represents something genuine. It runs deep in the guts and innards of this school. The Core—of which the future doctors and investment bankers are so fond—is Uncommon. Our pervasive inability to live in anything but single accommodations is Uncommon. Even our toilet graffiti is Uncommon.

Besides, even if you absolutely disagree with all this “Uncommon” business, you’ve got to admit that the SAT is bull. The SAT is a standard—but by no means objective—measure of intelligence, and the same goes for high school GPA. People who do well on standardized tests are people who want to do well on standardized tests. That this might, after several levels of abstraction, indicate some kind of cunning intelligence, is beside the point. Good scores are the result of hours spent studying the test or money spent on weekend classes and repeated test sessions, not of intelligence. An admissions essay, though subjective, is a much better way to get a sense of a person. In an era where every Tom, Dick, and Harry who applies to this kind of college has an impeccable academic record, what’s a one point difference on the SAT?

It’s easy to look at that raspberry with cynical disdain. Clearly it’s trying too hard to stand out. It’s being different just for the sake of being different! The peas have a much higher nutrition to calorie ratio. But in spite of the criticism, it’s delicious.

Jose Rojas

Class of 2010