Query: Eatery on wheels--"The Faculty" (1894)

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Wed Apr 3 06:10:52 UTC 2002

I'm  getting caught up on old email after an out of town trip, which is why
this reply is coming through so long after Gerald Cohen posted his query.
(I hope to have my inbox completely clear by next Tuesday, when I leave for
three weeks in Guatemala and Mexico.  I know I'm not Barry, but even some
of the rest of us do manage to get out of town once in a while.)

"James A. Landau" wrote:
> In a message dated Wed, 20 Mar 2002 11:09:31 PM Eastern Standard Time, Gerald Cohen <gcohen at UMR.EDU> writes:
> > The student members
> > facetiously referred to the building as "the Faculty, probably from
> > the fact that the building has wheels."
> A long-shot: were VIP's then referred to as "wheels" or "big wheels"?

I misread the date of the original and made an even wilder guess.  I've
modified it to apply to 1894 rather than whatever later date I thought was

In living memory (mine!) there were lots of universities which did not
allow students to have cars on or near the campus.  Sometimes the rule
applied only to first-year students*.  Surely there weren't enough
automobiles for anyone to have created a "no student cars on campus" rule
in 1894.  But bicycles were quite popular towards the end of the 19th
century.  Is it possible that Yale had a  rule prohibiting student-owned
bicycles on campus 100-odd years ago?  With such a rule, only faculty
members would have wheels.

-- mike salovesh   <m-salovesh-9 at alumni.uchicago.edu>   PEACE !!!

*There's a reason why I say "first year student" rather than "freshman". I
was an undergraduate at the old, old  College of The University of Chicago,
then the realm of Robert Maynard Hutchins. Entering students spent their
first week on campus taking placement tests.  Hutchins believed that it was
a waste of time to require students to study things they already knew.
Those who passed a placement test were therefore given credit for the
course before they had spent even one day in a U of C classroom.  The
average entering high school graduate usually ended up with 36 to 54
semester hours of credit at the end of that first week.

Given what Hutchins thought about not requiring students to "learn" what
they already knew had another consequence. He also believed that the last
two years of high school were likely to be a waste of time for the kind of
student who would be successful at the U of C.  He therefore allowed anyone
in the second year of high school to take the U of C entrance exam.  Those
who passed were admitted directly to the university despite having
completed only two years of high school. The average early entrant, 15 or
16 years old,  was likely to have nine to twenty-seven semester hours of
credit at the end of that beginning week of placement tests.  (I came in
with around 200 other early entrants in the fall of 1946, when there were a
total of fewer than 3000 undergrads on campus.)

There were plenty of students who got no credits through placement tests,
of course, and that was not regarded as any kind of shortcoming.  It was
simply taken to mean that they had not yet learned what the undergrad
courses were designed to teach.  At the other end, once in the history of
the old system there was a student who passed the placement tests for all
126 semester hours in the courses required for the bachelor's degree.
Since there was a rule requiring at least three quarters' (i.e., ca. 9
months) residence to  qualify for any U of C degree, this guy got both an
A.B. and an A.M . at the Spring Convocation of his first year at the U of

Given the wide range of credits a student might have at the end of the
first week on campus, it just didn't make much sense to say that a student
was a "freshman" or a "sophomore" or anything like it.  It was perfectly
clear, however, that some students were in their first year on campus,
hence the label "first year student".  Most people who were high school
graduates on entering the U of C got bachelor's degrees by the end of the
second year; the only ones who *had to* take four academic years to
complete their degrees were those who came in after only two years of high
school and got no credits through placement tests.  (Even they could
finish  in three years by spending two summers on campus carrying a 9
semester hour load each of those summers.  The normal academic load for
undergraduates worked out to 36 semester hours for the normal academic year
-- the equivalent of 12 hours per quarter. 9 hours in a summer quarter was,
therefore, a "light" load.)

N.B.: My first mention of the U of C in this message follows the official
orthography mandated in the Hutchins era.  The name was "The University of
Chicago", with an initial capital T.  That rule has been abandoned, and
even official publications of the U of C now style it "the University of
Chicago", with intial capital T only at the beginning of a sentence.

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