“What are these?” It was a more common question than “Who are you?” or “What is this organization?” Last Wednesday, the University of Chicago Class of 2011 filed lockstep into the McCormick Tribune Lounge in the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago to learn one of the most important lessons about living at college: obtaining free food. And ostensibly learn about getting involved on campus. Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs), from Student Government to a mental health organization to fashion clubs, set out tables with smorgasbords from Hyde Park-area restaurants in the hopes of luring freshman to a closer distance to hear their pitches. The freshmen, for their part, were more interested in trying crawdad-and-corn fritters from Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, falafel from Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen, and pizza from Domino’s. Luckily for the beleaguered RSOs, the cost was being fronted by the student activities office as part of its annual Reynolds Club Party.
Aside from the feeding frenzy, other, alcohol-free activities were offered. In Hutchinson Courtyard, the early autumn breeze blew. A student activities officer was getting a fake tattoo from a tattoo artist. “Give me something hardcore,” she said. He painted a Superman logo on her forearm. On the second floor, first-years were competing in a Dance Dance Revolution competition with troubling earnestness, pounding the floor pads with the quiet intensity of monks performing rituals. The party was livelier across the hall, where a karaoke competition was drawing a chorus of jeers.
Aside from a dance party in Hutchinson Commons, the main event was a DIY music video station, where participants danced in front of a green screen to the latest hits dressed in outrageous costumes. A large group of housemates from Max Palevsky made use of a Wonder Woman outift (the first recorded instance not set in a bedroom), a plastic wig imitating a greased back ‘50s-style hairdo, and a glitter-splattered microphone to sing a rock-laced cover of “Son of a Preacher Man.” A short freshman, dressed in outsized sunglasses and a feather boa, carrying a giant foam electric guitar was lip-synching to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback”: “I’ll let you whip me if I misbehave / It’s just that no one makes me feel this way.” It should be emphasized that this was an alcohol-free party.