Uniquely U of I: Get to know landmarks, traditions

By Bonnie Stiernberg

Looking to avoid being found out as a freshman your first week on campus? Hoping to save yourself from that dreaded question, “You’re not from around here, are you?” Familiarize yourself with these unique aspects of our University, and you’ll be able to hold your own with the upperclassmen.

The Undergraduate Library

Commonly referred to as “The Undergrad” or “The UGL,” the Undergraduate Library doesn’t look like much upon first glance. However, looks can be deceiving. The Undergraduate Library was built underground to avoid casting a shadow on the Morrow Plots, and is connected to the Main Library by an underground tunnel.

The Undergrad is part of the University’s extensive library system, which, with 10 million volumes, is the largest public university library in the world. There are two levels to the Undergrad; the upper level is usually a louder area reserved for group study, while the lower level is usually where students go for quiet, individual work.

The Illini Union

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The Union serves as a community center for students and faculty. Located on the north end of the Quad, it provides a place for quiet study or relaxation during the day. Many students can often be found sleeping on the leather furniture. Downstairs, the Illini Union Rec Room offers students the chance to bowl and play pool.

The Union also serves as a venue for special events on campus. The Courtyard Cafe often hosts concerts, and once a month, the Illini Union Board organizes “Illinites,” which feature entertainment, food and activities for students.

The Quad

It may look like a simple grassy area in between lecture halls, but on any given day, the Main Quad serves countless purposes for the University’s students and faculty. On warm days, many students can be found relaxing or playing Frisbee in between classes. It is also home to “Quad Day” at the beginning of the year, where Registered Student Organizations put up displays and try to recruit new members.

In addition to being a place to kill some time in between classes, the Quad has essentially become the University’s biggest bulletin board. Organizations routinely “chalk the Quad” to advertise upcoming events, and those who are campaigning for Student Senate will scrawl their name on the sidewalks in hopes of getting noticed come election time. Additionally, people from all walks of life can be found passing out fliers or holding rallies on the Quad.

The Alma Mater

The Alma Mater sculpture was built by Lorado Taft to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his graduation, and was unveiled at Alumni Day in 1929. It has since become one of the most iconic symbols of the University, and standing tall in front of Altgeld Hall, is the most photographed location on campus.

The statue consists of a woman dressed in robes with outstretched arms who is joined by two other figures, Labor and Learning, meant to symbolize the University’s motto. The base of the statue contains two quotes: “To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings,” and “Her children arise up and call her Blessed.”

The Morrow Plots

Many students like to joke that the University is located in the middle of the cornfields, but actually the opposite is true. The Morrow Plots, the oldest agronomic experiment fields in the United States, are located just a few feet from the Quad, right in the center of campus. The Plots were established in 1876, and now total six-tenths of an acre.

The crops in some of the Plots have varied over the years, but Plot No. Three has been reserved for corn since the beginning, making it the longest-term continuous corn plot in the world. The Morrow Plots were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day

This unofficial holiday began when campus bar owners decided to make up for patronage lost over spring break by celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a week early. In recent years, the date has been moved up a week to avoid conflicts with Engineering Open House.

Green beer is served at the bars, and many students wake up as early as 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. to begin drinking. Public drunkenness and underage drinking have been problematic on this day in the past, and this year Chancellor Herman warned that any student who attended class drunk or disruptively would be disciplined and possibly expelled.

The Altgeld Chimes

It’s a sound that all University students have come to expect on the hour: the ringing of the chimes from Altgeld Hall. For many, it is a warning to hurry to class, and for others it is simply a daily pleasure. While the chimes that ring on the hour and at 15-minute intervals are programmed to ring automatically to play “Westminster Chime,” the musical styling of chimesmaster Susanne Wood can also be heard twice daily.

Wood works alongside four other volunteers to play favorites such as “Hail to the Orange,” and, in December, many holiday songs can be heard ringing from the tower.