who is smarter, North Quad or West Quad? survey says…

By Oliver Gladfelter

Spends most of their time in their room. Doesn’t have a lot friends. Never goes out. Definitely doesn’t work out. Who am I thinking of? Most Denison students would say “someone from North Quad?” There’s a stereotype about North Quad – if you live there your first year, you’ll meet fewer people, make fewer friends, and essentially won’t be nearly as cool as those first-years who live in Shorney on West Quad.

There are a few structural reasons for these stereotypes: 85% of each first-year class lives on West Quad, while only 15% live on North Quad; the three first-year residence halls on North Quad are small, hosting just 38, 33, and even as few as 25 students – as compared to the hundreds who live in each of the other first-year buildings. Most of the programs geared towards first-years, such as the annual Hilltoppers – LNO outdoor concert, take place on West Quad. And finally, and perhaps the most damning of all, North Quad is a whole 10 minutes walk away from the center of campus – a staggering 500% longer walk than from West Quad to the center.

So how true are the myths? Using answers collected from surveying the student body in the Fall of 2015, I was able to test some of our presumptions about North Quad. The survey measured aspects of student life such as involvement, joining a fraternity or a sorority, and alcohol consumption, which I in turn compared to the key question: “where did you live freshmen year?” The question did not include first years — asking that might have been too intrusive. Instead, this test assesses the possible long term effects of where they lived their first-year.

First and most pressing to our conversation, let’s look at social behavior. Denison students pride themselves in being involved…really, really involved. And as it turns out, there is no correlation between living on North Quad your freshmen year and your level of involvement – North Quaders and West Quaders are both involved in an average of 3 or 4 organizations. There was a difference for involvement in Greek life, however; North Quaders are less likely to join a fraternity or a sorority than West Quaders. About 33.8% of North Quaders joined, compared to 47% of West Quaders.

There was also a relationship between where a student lived their first year at Denison and how often someone drinks alcohol. Students who lived on West Quad their freshmen year report drinking about 2 nights a week, while students who lived on North Quad drink about 1.5 nights a week on average. So over the course of a month, West Quaders may be drinking 2 more nights of the month than their North Quad counterparts. However, there are no differences in how much either group drinks – when North Quaders do drink, they drink just as much as West Quaders – 4 or 5 drinks.

That being said, are there enough students on campus drinking in the first place for drinking differences to matter? In the survey, 22% of the student body reported choosing not to consume alcohol, while 78% did. There were some notable differences in choosing to drink or not between the two Quads – a significantly larger portion of West Quaders (87.3%) than North Quaders (73%)  are drinking. Looking at just the sophomore class, 33.3% of students previously living on North Quad report not drinking, while only 11% of students previously living on West Quad report not drinking. These differences are mostly consistent throughout a student’s time at Denison, and do not equalize until senior year (see Table 1 below).

Table 1 – Across the Board, more former West Quaders are drinking than former North Quaders

Class First-Year Quad Percent that drink alcohol Percent that do not drink
Senior North 87.3% 12.7%
Senior West 90.9% 9.1%
Junior North 71.4% 28.6%
Junior West 85.6% 14.4%
Sophomore North 67.7% 32.3%
Sophomore West 89.0% 11.0%
First-Year N/A 57.0% 43.0%
Overall North 73.0% 27.0%
Overall West 87.3% 12.7%

These drinking differences are also linked to whether a student participates in Greek Life, however not in the way you might expect. In comparing just students who aren’t in a fraternity or sorority, the pattern mentioned above is still true: more West Quaders choose to drink than North Quaders (78.4% vs 59%). However, among students who do participate in Greek Life, both Quads are equal in how many students choose to drink (both at 96%). Therefore while West Quaders are more likely to drink, it does not seem to be a result of Greek Life – they choose to drink more than North Quaders regardless. In fact, Greek Life seems to be an equalizer among the two groups in this regard (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – North Quaders and West Quaders Drink Equally If They Joined Greek Life


Are there other differences in how the two groups of students are spending their time beyond Greek life and drinking? Short answer – not really. Both groups play sports, work, and engage in other extracurriculars equally as much. There was a difference in time spent doing homework, however; North Quaders on average spend more time doing homework. How much more? A staggering one additional hour per day than West Quaders (7 as opposed to 6).

Since North Quaders are spending so much more time doing homework, and because all the supposed nerds live there too, they must have the highest GPAs on campus, right? Not quite. Both groups of students have identical GPAs, averaging around 3.2.  

After looking at the trends, I’m willing to argue many of the stereotypes aren’t true. There isn’t much of a difference between students who lived on North Quad their freshman year and those who lived on West Quad; both groups are getting just as involved on campus, they’re spending the same amounts of time playing sports and doing other extracurriculars, and they’re earning the same GPAs. Sure, North Quaders spend more time doing homework and drink less often, but these differences are slight.

Regardless of what the differences are and aren’t, this opens up a discussion of what we value as a campus. While some differences do exist between the groups, they are mostly negligible or in areas that do not define the core of what makes a Denison student. In terms of campus engagement and academic work, the two groups are cut from the same cloth. Phrased in a way Dr. Weinberg would appreciate, we are all equally becoming autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents, and active citizens of a democratic society. So, that being said, why is it that the West Quad experience is considered the ‘norm’ and North Quad the deviant? Perhaps if upperclassmen stopped apologizing to first-years every time they mention they live on North Quad, or stopped with the stereotypes, these negative connotations would die out in time.

Oliver Gladfelter is a huge advocate of procrastination and spends most of his time finding new ways to waste time. He also studies political science on the side.

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