Hitchcock House- An investigative report: part one of one

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 14:30

How’s it going everybody, Walker King here, office of Undergraduate Admissions “creative intern” and rising 3rd year in the college. Since I’ll be a recurring blogger over the summer, you should maybe know a little bit about me. I’m from Portland, Oregon, I write articles for the Chicago Shady Dealer (the University of Chicago’s only intentional humor publication), I’m a member of Hot Side Hot, the group that designs and judges the University of Chicago Scavenger hunt, and I’ll be studying abroad in India in the fall. For the last two years I’ve lived in Hitchcock House in Snell-Hitchcock residence hall. Since housing is one of the things we do pretty well here at UChicago, I thought having a current student talk about might be fun and educational. Here are some things that I think everyone should know about Hitchcock house, and house life in general.

8033112353_0187ae3bd9_o.jpg(the assembled Hitchcock first years during O-Week 2012, I'm on the far right in the black shirt and inadvisable haircut)

I came to Chicago from the West coast without knowing anyone at the University, and I think I shared with many of my classmates a general malaise about having to make new friends so soon after we, at long last, had perfected the making of friends in high school. Putting all the nervous people together, if only for a week, is critically important, both to creating a house culture and to helping people make friends. I was able to enter into the house equal, knowing that no one else had any kind of social advantage over me. Embracing the chaos of those first few days was actually very comforting.

Hitchcock, like most other houses, meets weekly in our common room for a house meeting. Hitchcock house meetings are storied among all house meetings for their length and tendency towards arcane discussion on topics more, shall I say, easygoing people would deal with quickly and efficiently. For instance, intramural sports reimbursement and Scav allocations both require half an hour long debates that we, frankly, don’t need to have quite so often, and if you miss enough house meetings your tender underbelly is vulnerable to impeachment (as I found out this spring, when I was ignominiously removed from my position as section representative). But there’s still something wonderfully purifying about a byzantine debate over whether or not to buy new ping pong balls for the common room, and if so, what contribution should we demand of Snell. These are the times when one truly sees the measure of their housemates, and we all emerge from the fire stronger because of it.

Anyways, house meetings aren’t wholly the rules of parliamentary procedure; we have weekly house minutes, which, far from being straight accounts of the weeks business, come in wonderful formats like “surrealist play” and “House Meeting if it was a game of Pokémon.” The position of house secretary is responsible for this weekly bulletin, and the ranks include many storied and illustrious Hitchcock alumni including both Enrico Fermi and Carl Sagan (well, they both lived here, and you can’t prove that I’m wrong...). Elections meetings are particularly exciting, as they culminate with the ancient and storied tradition of “ponding”, in which newly elected house presidents are thrown into Botany Pond, just adjacent to our home on the Quads. Ponding is actually so fun, that the tradition expanded to include both incoming and outgoing RAs, RHs, and Scav Captains following the scavenger hunt.

A Hitchcock tradition that long lay dormant until being revived recently is the Hitchcock Film Festival. Films submitted for the festival may be in any genre, and of any length. The most popular genre, by far, is “Experimental Film Parody” but narrative filmmaking does make a couple of appearances, usually to  warm reception. The winner two years running is my roommate for the summer, Tahoe Schrader.

The least serious meeting of the year is the annual House Meeting: the Musical , which happens the week after someone gets it together enough to write a script, and stars the entire house council in an off-key but enthusiastic riff on a famous musical. Last year I joined my RA in a honey-voiced rendition of “On My Own” that left no dry eye in the house. This year the musical concerned the adventures of our beloved, acerbic resident head, a UChicago political science PhD. student who recently left us for some kind of “professorship” at an “important research university elsewhere in the Midwest”.

There are, other, more tangible benefits to living in Hitchcock. It has really big rooms. It’s uncannily close to everything, we just got new carpets, etc. but those these are just the delicious toppings that make the camaraderie and social atmosphere of housing even more fun than it already is. But don’t get the impression that I live in the only fun house on campus. Other houses may not have film festivals or musicals, but they have karaoke nights and Oscars watching galas and ballroom dances and bad movie nights: all kinds of zaniness! There’s no one “UChicago” house, just like there’s no one “UChicago” student. Part of the beauty of housing, and of the college, is the strange and wonderful little niches, and there’s a little niche out there for you, too.

That’s it for this time. You may have noticed I skipped Hitchcock’s most famous house activity, the University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt, but that’s because I’ll talk about that later, from a totally different perspective. Other posts might be about the humanities,  Model United Nations, or the Shady Dealer. If there’s any thing you desperately need to know, or would like to see a blog post about, you can hit us up at UChicagoAdmissions.tumblr.com.

-Walker King