The alleged north-south campus divide

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Photo credit: Simona Rachapalli

If you’re a freshman who’s been here for eight weeks, you might have heard of the so-called north/south campus divide.

Who hasn’t lived south and been mystified at where Lisa’s Café is, and who hasn’t lived north and wondered about Fran’s?

Juniors Kathy Xie, Jason Frankel and Madhav Ghei can testify the difference is real, but their north/south Northwestern stories are far from simple.

Kathy Xie started off her housing career in Hinman during freshman year and has been living in an apartment near north campus for the past two years. At first, being a pre-med student freshman year meant she had a lot of solo lunches at Sargent while her journalist friends met at Allison. When she dropped pre-med, her major in communication sciences and disorders meant most classes were in Frances Searle. This was a significant factor in her desire to live north.

“If I had a class in Harris, it would take me 20 minutes to walk there, versus [going to class in] Frances Searle, I could speed-walk in 12,” she said. She estimated she’s been to south campus just six times this fall quarter.

Jason Frankel has spent his three years at Northwestern living up north, in Elder for freshman year, a fraternity house for sophomore year, and an apartment off-campus near Ridge and Noyes. Class location played a smaller role in his living decision.

“North campus was really the place to be, socially,” Frankel said, alluding to what he had heard from his friends on campus. Luckily, his classes happened to be close by.

Madhav Ghei zigzagged from Elder to Plex to living off-campus north near Sherman and Noyes. Elder being all-freshman was partly why he chose to live there, though he was also looking to live close to his classes in Tech and avoid a long walk from south to north. He crosses campus anywhere from 1-3 times a week to visit friends who live off-campus south.

Looking back on their time here, Xie, Frankel and Ghei identified some differences between north and south campus while adding some nuance to the divide.

All three juniors noted the concentration of liberal arts majors down south and science and technology majors up north. In addition, Ghei said north campus was more of a “party scene” and Frankel characterized south campus residents as “people who spend their Friday and Saturday nights in their dorm room or hang out with one or two people instead of going to a bar,” although he was reluctant to generalize too much.

What about Greek life? At Northwestern, the fraternity quad is on north campus and the sorority quad is on south. Fraternity parties up north were very far away for hopeful south campus partiers, but women who wanted to rush a sorority got it better living south, when recruitment started.

“Between the events, you could just go home and take a nap and then go back, versus if you lived on north campus, you probably couldn’t do that,” she said.

Ultimately, underclassmen feel the effects of the divide most, said Frankel and Ghei. Frankel said that meeting friends who lived on the same side of campus shaped his social circle for future years. Ghei argued that in the end, people aren’t defined by their location.

“Especially as you get further on at Northwestern, as you become an upperclassman, the distinction gets blurred because a lot of people will have moved around campus during their first two years or ,just by nature of having been there for a while, know a bunch of people,” he said. “After a certain point, the distinction between north and south is not really that big.”

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