Talking and eating in the library


On a typical Tuesday evening Broadview Hall’s library contains some students hunched over laptops, a few seated around a table working on a problem set. But last night at 8 o’clock it was jam-packed with residents, there to meet with the University’s president, who just happened to be stopping by. “An Evening of Conversation about Music and Other Topics with President Don Randel” was presented by the Broadview RH and RA staff, house staff, kitchen managers, and program coordinators. Though music was the promised discussion topic, Randel assured, “I’m happy to talk about anything. Well, more or less anything.” Over coffee, tea, cookies, and fruit, he and dorm residents discussed matters from the history of musicology to Chicago’s “Uncommon Application.”

Answering students’ questions, he explained why both music and the University of Chicago play vital roles in the world. “Music has never been seen to be essential to the national defense,” said Randel, lamenting the lack of government arts, education, and research funding. Recent budget cuts in those areas, he said, would “undermine our future.” And his favorite art has such practical applications: the one necessary question to determine roommate compatibility, he said, is, “What kind of music do you like?” He added, “From that [information] you invent an entire personality.”

Randel believes Chicago’s personality is different from other elite universities. When peer-institution alumni discuss what they got out of college, he noted, they mention close friendships and spouses. Chicago alumni, on the other hand, often say the University “taught me how to think.” (They do not say, he pointed out, that they were taught “what to think.”) “We are not interested in trying to look like every other institution in America,” he said. “For the right person, [Chicago] is the only place.”

By Phoebe Maltz, ’05

January 12, 2005