Syracuse has reinvented itself entirely since it was founded in 1832, changing its name (it was originally called the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary,) its location (from Lima, NY, to Syracuse, NY) and its mission. Its Methodist founders got sick of being stuck all the way out in isolated Lima by 1870, so they decided to pick up the entire college faculty, student body, library, and even its two secret societies, and move closer to civilization. The first classes at the new Syracuse University happened in 1871, and the school opened the country’s first degree-granting College of Fine Arts not long after in 1873.
Construction at the new hillside location spread out from the “Old Row,” modeled after Yale Row. Slowly, the school expanded and shifted its focus from its liberal arts curriculum to broader, more research-oriented offerings. In 1942, William Tolley took over as chancellor, and during his 27-year tenure, the school saw enrollment almost triple from 5,600 to 16,000, its financial assets skyrocket from $15 million to $200 million, and over 20 new buildings constructed on campus.
Syracuse still enjoys steady growth to this day, but students have shaken things up from time to time. The 1970 Centennial celebration was turned upside-down by students rioting, protesting, demonstrating, and boycotting everything from class to football games over heated racial issues. In 1988, the entire Syracuse community was shaken by the loss of 35 students, who were victims of the Pan-Am Flight 103 terrorist bombing. University administrators were severely criticized for going ahead with a scheduled basketball game that evening. School officials apologized, and every fall, Syracuse holds an annual “Remembrance Week” to commemorate the loss.
No history of Syracuse would be complete without mentioning the color orange. Campus has been colored with variations on blue, pink and olive green since the late 1800s. Yet it wasn’t until a decade ago that Syracuse became one of the first schools to adopt a single color, orange. Now, the mascot is the same as the school color, and Otto the Orange has since been on the ESPN top 10 list of worst mascots for the past couple years.”
Syracuse is set on a hill overlooking the town after which it’s named. Campus style ranges from Romanesque red-brick to glass-and-concrete contemporary, and students take advantage of Syracuse’s bus system to shuttle between Main and South Campus to avoid the steep climb and brisk winter winds.
Main Campus, also known as North Campus, is anchored at its center by “the Quad,” a grassy square surrounded by academic buildings including the College of Arts and Science. For most of Syracuse’s students, this is where the action is at—-nearly 16 residential buildings on this end house 5,000 students, and almost all class and academic buildings are located nearby, as well as several theaters, the Carrier Dome, Hendricks Chapel, the Hall of Languages, Sutton Pavilion, and Crouse College (where visual arts and music programs take place).
The South Campus was created after World War II, when university administrators came up short on housing for returning veterans. The military-style dorms built to fill the order were replaced in the 1970s by apartment-style upper-class housing, as well as a handful of smaller residential halls for freshmen. SU Athletics has its headquarters on South Campus, as well as the Institute for Sensory Research, the Goldstein Student Center, and several other administrative and athletic buildings.
Recently, Syracuse has looked beyond its own borders to keep expanding. The school leased and bought twelve buildings in downtown Syracuse (Communications Design and Advertising Design programs both moved to “The Warehouse” building downtown to be closer to the community), and a new performing arts center, the Community Folk Art Center, is town-bound as well. The school and city are currently collaborating on the Connective Corridor project, envisioned as a way to better keep the university connected as it expands downhill.
Syracuse students have staked out spots on certain streets in the nearby town, but they remain wary of large parts of formerly-thriving Syracuse. Marshall Street, Euclid Street, Ostrom Avenue, Westcott Street, and Comstock Street border campus and house mostly student apartments and houses, bars, stores, and restaurants. If students have a car (and an ID that says they're over 21), they venture as far downtown as Armory Square or Clinton Square. Both offer a more upscale off-campus environment.
There is no doubt that Syracuse is an industrial city, but Syracuse students make the most of it. Between the project blocks and factories lay safe areas that host concert performances at the OnCenter, entertainment at the city bars, quality food at a plethora of restaurants, and a pleasant place to hang out off campus. Carousel Mall, soon-to-be 'Destiny USA,' is another popular area for students to shop and watch a movie at the gigantic cinema on the third floor. And for the adventurous, there are numerous camping sites and hiking routes around central New York.
Each year, students get a freebie day off of school in late April right before finals start and classes end. Well, the day isn’t such a freebee, technically. Mayfest is a designated day for SU students to take off from classes and learn outside of the classroom by attending educational lectures, poster displays in the Dome and other meaningful learning activities that are never on anyone’s agenda. Since many professors don’t make the Mayfest educational experiences mandatory, students switch gears and make the most of the short-lived sun by throwing sloppy parties at apartment rows just off campus. All students are welcome to attend the festival of cheap beer education. With a name like Mayfest for a celebration day in April, things are already turned upside down.
Other occasions to take advantage of the brief spell of good weather include the Block Party, a spring concert drawing national touring acts and organized by the University Union, and Juice Jam, a Labor Day-weekend staple that includes an outdoor concert, as well as an activities fair to present incoming students with their extracurricular options for the year ahead.
While Syracuse frosh were once forced to wear beanies, marking them as upperclass targets, the modern-day incarnation of the “Goon Squad” is much friendlier. When the freshmen move into the dorms the week before school starts, upperclassmen students can be a part of the Goons, who help move them in. It’s a cool process where the upperclassmen can move up early and meet freshmen ladies/guys. And it’s fun to see what the incoming freshmen bring, as they live in tiny dorms and you see them with piles of stuff.
Syracuse’s Kissing Bench comes with a tradition that’s either scary or romantic, depending on your point-of-view. The bench first came to the ‘Cuse in 1912, as the first gift a graduating class ever gave to the university. Rumors of the bench’s “magical” properties have since become school lore: Any couple who kisses on the bench is destined to be married.
Joyce Carol Oates (1960) is an American writer, known for her novels, short stories, literary criticism, and poetry.
Betsey Johnson (1964) is a fashion designer known for her colorful, fun style.
Taye Diggs (1993) is a TV and stage actor.
Ted Koppel (1960) is a TV and radio anchor and reporter.
Dick Clark (1951) is a radio personality and TV host of American Bandstand and Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.
Eileen Collins (1978) is the first female commander of a space shuttle
Jim Brown (1957) is a Syracuse and Cleveland Browns football star, and original wearer of the lucky number 44 (11 All-American players have worn this number since 1954).
With the exception of the women’s ice hockey team, all the Orange participate in the Big East Conference, where they’ve been regularly fielded competitive teams in a number of varsity sports. The University’s commitment to fostering school pride at athletic events is evident in the recently-constructed Carrier Dome, which is the largest football stadium in college athletics today (the capacity is 50,000) and the only one with a dome.
Syracuse has a history of launching legendary football players like lucky number 44, Jim Brown, but recent years have made major success stories out of the basketball and men’s lacrosse teams. Since entering the Big East conference, the school has enjoyed numerous trips to both the NCAA and NIT tournaments and has racked up an impressive 31 NCAA tournament appearances, four Final Four appearances, and played in one NCAA Tournament Championship (as well as 11 NIT tournament appearances) in its history.
While men’s lacrosse came to the athletic scene a little later than basketball or football, the men’s lacrosse team has already established a mini-dynasty, winning nine national titles between 1983 and 2008 (although the 1990 national title was later taken away for rule violations). Before lacrosse became a powerhouse, Syracuse was also known for its early-century men’s crew dominance: It took home an impressive five national titles between 1904 and 1920.
Intramural sports are also offered year-round. Basketball’s the biggest, but options like dodgeball, whiffle ball, broomball, and kickball make room for less-traditional balls at the ‘Cuse.
Author Stephen Crane attended Syracuse for only one semester. He later admitted he was more interested in playing baseball than studying.
Following a series of pranks-gone-wild before football games between Colgate, Cornell, and Syracuse, administrators met to negotiate the “Cazenovia Pact,” which banned the use of paint in pre-football hijinks, as well as personal violence and property damage.
Syracuse has had almost as many famous dropouts as Harvard, although many of them later received honorary degrees and are counted among Syracuse alums. They include Stephen Crane, Marv Alberts, William Safire, and Vanessa Williams.
Syracuse University provides optional campus residency for all full-time students. There are eleven residence halls on campus, interspersed throughout North and South campus. North campus housing is preferable, as South campus dorms are inconvenient and resemble trailers. Nonetheless, some students prefer South campus, where they can separate their social living arrangements from their classes. South campus also provides spacious multi-bedroom apartments for upperclassmen. Upperclassmen usually block out the apartments with their friends, cultivating a bit of a neighborhood feel. Most athletes live in south campus apartments—-not only to accommodate their overgrown bodies, but also because the apartments are adjacent to the state-of-art gymnasium.
Almost all freshmen live in campus-provided dorms. All dorms except Butterfield (an old sorority house-turned-girls dormitory) are co-ed by floor or room. Freshmen are predominately rounded up into Day, Flint, Brewster & Boland, Lawrinson, or Sadler Hall. The “Mount,” located on Mount Olympus Drive (the highest point on campus) is freshman territory. Freshman living in Day or Flint hall usually have extraordinary relationships with their floor-mates, because they are somewhat separated from the rest of campus. The mount is connected to the center of campus only by the “drunk stairs” on the west side, and a long set of more than 300 stairs on the east side. Though the stairs are a bit of a huff and puff, they certainly provide a way to keep off the freshman 15. And if that’s not enough, Archibald gym is located at the bottom of the stairs – get the hint?
Dorm rooms are generally spacious in comparison to other schools. Students can request a standard double, split-double, single, or four-person suite. Occasionally, a student will be assigned to a triple-bedroom suite. Students prefer split-double bedrooms, because it allows a person to have a roommate, but the permanent division in the middle of the room provides necessary privacy.