Week 02 – Lab + Reading Response

Question: What do students do for fun outside of school and how has that changed over time?

Line of Inquiry: I would need to learn about the different types of extracurricular activities at the University of Illinois and what they each entail. As well, I would need to understand how previous definitions of these activities may compare or contrast from how they are now. If possible, learning the origins of each activity would be relevant as well. In the end, this could showcase the evolution of interests over time or reveal commonalities despite the changing times.

According to the video “Star Course | Music in the Air,” Star Course was a student organization formed to be a “speaker series styled after the ‘Star Course’ literary circuit of Boston” (0:22-0:27). Then, “by the mid-20th century, the organization was an active force in bringing the heat of its generation to student audiences” (1:22-1:28) and is now the “oldest student-run organization at Illinois” (0:29-0:32). I chose to highlight this, because it showcases how despite changes in taste and preference, the Star Course student-run music production continues in popularity. Video: https://youtu.be/eXCP1CR5tfA

According to the video “1868-1919 | How Do Students Live Here?”, the University officially embraced the Greek System starting in 1891 and “Greek houses began appearing on campus in the early 1900s, providing living quarters and instant companionship for students seeking new friends in a new environment” (1:46-2:03). This reveals that the origin of Greek Life was to meet the basic needs of housing and companionship for its members. Video: https://youtu.be/jQZAqPJJhk0

According to the video “1941-1966 | How Do Students Live Here?”, “One student could offer wisdom beyond her years: ‘Pretty much everyone will say that the dorm they lived in their freshman year is the best one on campus!’” (2:07-2:16). This perspective reveals that many people at the time based their identity and social life on their dormitory, and thus, they felt a lot of pride attached to their chosen residence hall. Video: https://youtu.be/AY879GDcptk

According to the “Fraternity and Sorority Tour: 1912-1913,” many former fraternity and sorority houses encompassed space along Green Street. This is a lot different from nowadays, because those houses no longer occupy Green Street, and the area nowadays is largely seen as a commercial area for recreation, food, and drink.


From the tour and data, I learned that student life at the University was largely attributed to and dictated by housing choice. This can be inferred from the rise of the Greek System as one of the reliable sources of housing before public housing (for males) was offered by the University, as well as the general feeling of pride for one’s residence hall. Nowadays, such pride for one’s dorm is not as prevalent—likely due to the rise of technology making communication and coordination among students living in different places more seamless. A few texts and a bus ride later, people could be having lunch with their friends all across campus. The identity and social circles of a student is not bound by their dorm and its physical confines but rather the course schedules and bus timesheets. Additionally, the Greek System has likely risen in popularity in terms of a student’s identity with a series of traditions and standards one must meet in order to get a bid, which is a far cry from its original goal of meeting housing and companionship needs. The identity and social life of a person can indeed be outlined by their fraternity or sorority in today’s time. At the same time, student organizations like Star Course, which itself hosts music productions, have remained largely the same in mission despite the decades since but its execution in terms of music genre of course differs from reggae to rap to rock depending on the time. 

My analysis is definitely incomplete, and my perhaps deficient analysis is largely influenced by the finite source material of the digital exhibits and historic maps. At the same time, I have to consider how the objective of the videos I used as evidence was to highlight the change in housing over time in an energetic manner, and I largely had to extrapolate my findings and apply my current perception of student life in order to deduce social change on campus. Whether I myself am that comprehensive of a source on student life remains to be considered, but it definitely leads to a weak answer to my question. There is a lot of further research I could do involving Greek Life specifically, the evolution of Green Street, the growth of RSOs, and the effects of technology on social life—even then, these are only a few ideas. There are a lot of additional questions I have as well: how did the balances of certain student persona types’ average daily time spent doing activities (e.g. studying, RSOs, Greek Life) change over the decades? How was this influenced by race and gender? What was the perception among students of other students (e.g. stereotyping)? The intersection of these topics surrounding social life is where a lot of my questions rest.

Reading Response

In order to demonstrate the ability and worth of the DRES community, Tim Nugent relied on several uncommon strategies in order to prove to an audience that believed them to be incompetent and worthless to the University community. At the start of 1949, the initial 14 paraplegics admitted to the University were explained in The Daily Illini “individually, by name, age, major, and reason for the paralysis that ‘forced [them] to use wheelchairs'” (Reagan 52). It’s clear then, that this dehumanization and objectification was not being cast on others but merely students with disabilities as it was viewed acceptable to openly discuss their bodies rather than afford them privacy. Nugent continued to lobby against these injustices–including how the change to wheelchair-accessible sidewalk curb cuts was not being done quickly enough so “Nugent and a group of students then went out late one night and broke curbs with sledgehammers, forcing the university to ‘repair’ them with curb cuts” (Reagan 54). This sort of renegade thinking and action allowed for the increased accessibility of sidewalks as the University did not feel compelled to update them for wheelchair access unless they already had to update them due to a general need for repair. At the same time, Nugent’s standard for new buildings to be built with wheelchair users in mind in 1953 was already 15 years before the federal Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and was the first of its kind on college campuses (Brown 173). While the University may seem somewhat slow and unprogressive in addressing the needs of students with disabilities, it was in reality lightyears ahead of its peers and competitors in doing so. Nugent’s work a long way in dismantling the current status quo of the time where those with disabilities were not expected to go to University, nonetheless participate in recreational activities like sports (“Expanding Horizons” 3). In that light, his work did a lot to illuminate DRES students in their own terms and allow them to do a lot of things that they previously could not, such as participate in education at a large university and do sports.

2 thoughts on “Week 02 – Lab + Reading Response”

  1. Nugent dedicated his work and effort to the students with disabilities and devoted his time to ensure that his program would make an impact to these students as well as the rest of the world. His innovative strategy raised eyes from other universities, even through heavy criticism.

  2. Those with disabilities were cast aside, like criminals, away from public view. This was more or less the cultural perspective and a barrier that DRES had to overcome. This was overcome by the creation of DRES, and it was also the first barrier that they had to overcome. Nugent shepherded a program that succeeded in shattering longstanding, pervasive institutional, physical, economic, psychological, and other barriers that marginalized and ostracized people with disabilities.

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