Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 3, 1995

Hopkins Fun Is a Matter of Style

By Mike Gluck
     It's gotta be the name.
     Johns Hopkins. Not John. Johns. With an s. Johnsssssss. 
     Not that it bothers me. Well, maybe once in a while. Like
when I'm flying home for Thanksgiving and the guy in the next
seat asks where I go to school. 
     "I'm a senior at Johns Hopkins."
     "Oh, John Hopkins. That's in Baltimore, right?" 
     "Yeah. Except that it's Johns Hopkins. With an s."
     "Sure, whatever. So, are you going to be a doctor?"
     Resisting the urge to stuff my pack of complimentary peanuts
somewhere that would require him to receive medical attention, I
calmly explain, for about the four-thousandth time since I became
a freshman, that yes, it is Johns Hopkins, and no, I am not going
to be a doctor.
     Hopkins is stressful--no one denies that--but much of the
stress comes from having to deal with the stereotypes that people
have about Hopkins.
     Consider the recent survey conducted by Inside Edge
magazine. The editors of the magazine ranked the most and least
fun colleges in America based on pseudo-scientific factors such
as "student attractiveness" and the ever-ambiguous "happiness
quotient." How'd we do? Not bad, at first glance. We made the top
100, albeit by the narrowest of margins. According to the folks
who write for the Edge, Johns Hopkins is the 100th most fun
school in America. 
     Too bad they only ranked 101 schools.  
     My first instinct when I heard the survey results was to run
up and down the Gilman Hall steps screaming, "We beat the
University of Chicago!" which, for the second year in a row, was
named the worst place to go to school. But I thought that might
be too much fun, so I decided to just go to the library instead. 
     That's a joke, people. Smile. It's OK, honest. Here at
Boring U.--which is what a writer for The Baltimore Sun called
us--we are still allowed to have some fun. We just choose not to,
seeing as how it's easier to make Dean's List.
     To have fun, you have to be relaxed. And most Hopkins
students don't know how to relax. We're an intense bunch of kids.
The computer lab is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So is
the HUT, the undergraduate reading library. When I found out that
Baltimore's nickname was "The City That Reads," I just assumed,
being a Hopkins student, that they forgot to add "All The Time."
The midnight oil never runs out at Hopkins. Somewhere, somehow,
somebody is always studying more than you are. Like I said, we're
intense. Remember Jack Nicholson in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's
Nest"? Put him in a pair of sweatpants and give him a backpack
and he'd fit right in.             
     Of course, not all the blame for our funless atmosphere lies
with the students. Professors who assign 250 pages of reading per
week don't leave students too much time to just hang out and
watch MTV, especially when students decide to take classes with
(gasp!) other professors as well. The administration won't let us
have kegs of beer on the Beach, the grassy lawn overlooking
Charles Street. And, of course, I personally find it difficult to
kick back and relax when I realize that, for the price of one
semester's tuition here, I could buy a really nice stereo system,
plus about 400 CDs to go with it.
     Having fun at Hopkins is not like having fun at other
schools. In fact, there are only two Hopkins events that are
really any fun at all. Well, three if you count sitting around
telling Post Office Lady horror stories, but that's another
column altogether. 
     Most students, if you ask them about fun and Hopkins, will
laugh so hard that they'll forget which level of the library
they're on. But when they're done, they'll probably mention
Spring Fair. What's so great about Spring Fair? Fried dough. Pit
beef. A couple of hundred 5-year-olds with lemonade stains on
their T-shirts running around campus. Reminds me of when I was a
     The second fun thing at Hopkins is the biannual event when
we wake up while it's still dark out and use flashlights to find
our way to Garland Hall. Then we drink hot chocolate and munch on
muffins for five hours until it's time to hand in our
pre-registration forms for the next semester. Sure, it's only fun
because no one gets more than four hours' sleep the night before,
but it's the best we can do without a 60,000-seat football
     But that still doesn't explain why we were ranked below the
U.S. Naval Academy (#91) again. There have to be other reasons,
explanations buried deep within the brick and marble, that
justify our dismal reputation. Which brings us back to the name.
It may be 200 years since Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins named their son
for his great-grandmother, Margaret Johns, but the
philanthropist's name still causes problems today.     
     Think about some of the schools that beat us in the survey.
Most are named for cities or states. Florida State University
(#2). Boston College (#27). University of Illinois (#33). Being
named for a city or state gives a school an instant reputation,
an image that, for better or worse, is tied to the geography.
Something solid. I say Iowa State University (#66), you think
"corn fields." I say University of Colorado (#16), you think
"skiing." I say University of California Chico (#52), you think
"which one of the Marx brothers was he?" Whatever. You get the
     The picture here at Homewood, however, is a bit fuzzier.
Johns Hopkins? Who was he? We have an identity crisis, stemming
in part from the fact that we have to share our name with the
country's best hospital, and aggravated by strangers who can't
understand that his name really was Johns. 
     To be a Hopkins student is to be confused. I've been here
three and a half years, and I still don't know why half the
library is underground. Or why Homecoming is during lacrosse
season. But even more puzzling to me is the insistence on calling
it The Johns Hopkins University. My theory is that whoever's in
charge of naming things around here just wants to make sure that
no one mistakes us for, say, A Johns Hopkins University. After
all, if there were another Johns Hopkins University, the students
there might not care if it's John or Johns. They might not want a
library that's open 24 hours a day. They might realize that it's
true what they say: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
     Now how much fun would that be?

             Mike Gluck is a senior in The Writing Seminars.

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