Alumni retrospectives: how writing about graffiti can get you into college

After some recent publicity in the University of Chicago Magazine and the Chicago Tribune, alumni have been e-mailing me with their own memories of UChicago graffiti. With their permission, I’d like to share them here.

Eric Blommel (AB Philosophy ’92) recalls:

  1. I shit, therefore I am shit.
  2. For a good time, call… another school and transfer!
  3. [Written on the TP dispenser] University of Chicago Diplomas. Take one.
  4. The entire text of “Jabberwocky”, each stanza in different handwriting.
  5. [In a girl's stall] Nature abhors a vacuum…that’s why I lost my virginity.


Twenty years later, GianCarlo Nardini remembers from Eckhart math library “Life is like a bowl of cereal. No, life IS a bowl of cereal.”

The library may frown on graffiti, but Caitlin Wylie’s admissions essay won the hearts of the people over at Admissions. To answer a question about why she wanted to go to UChicago, Caitlin (class of ’08) wrote about the graffiti she saw when visiting as a prospective student:

I knew the University of Chicago was for me when I entered the
Regenstein Library. The book smell, the computer tables, the little
study booths, and the silence all seemed pretty typical, until I
wandered into the biggest room I’ve ever seen. I tiptoed down the
infinite rows of tall metal bookcases with my jaw dropped in
admiration. After a while I reached a wall with lonely desks set into
it, and the area was so isolated that I felt a little uneasy. Then I
noticed the writing on the blank wall in front of every desk. The
millions of messages were wonderful, witty and insightful and unusual
and sarcastic. An entire physics problem spanned one wall, floor to
ceiling. There were whole conversations that obviously spanned months
of correspondence between U of C students. There was a drawing of a
gravestone bearing the words, “Here lies the hope that I will ever get
my paper done.” I love that U of C students, famous for heavy
studying, take breaks from their books to leave words of encouragement
and entertainment for their comrades. The attraction of U of C is not
the partying-proficiency of its students, but their dedication, focus,
and ability to have great fun discussing the subjects they love,
verbally or on library walls. In high school, class topics do not
travel outside the room, but, as far as I can tell, discussion and
education happen all the time at U of C.

I’d love to hear more graffiti stories from alumni– feel free to drop me a line at quinn – at – or post to the Facebook page.

Add new comment