The following article, “Look at Purdue” by Arthur Utay, appeared several years back in the Exponent and is reprinted with the Exponent's and the author's permission.
Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis, is a school renowned for its academics - and conservatism.
The academics of this “land-grant”, public institution are well-known, with strong departments in engineering, agriculture, pharmacy and veterinary science. Especially respected are the engineering schools, which are continually highly ranked and heavily recruited by industry; and the agriculture school which advises and consults numerous agencies in government and industry, in addition to performing basic research to improve farm technology. Courses at the upper class levels in most curricula are taught by professors. Freshman lectures are led by professors and are often accompanied by smaller “recitations” taught by teaching assistants.
The campus is ideally suited for half the student population of 30,000 it now supports. The strain on facilities necessitates the class day to stretch from 7:30 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. during the week, with Saturday classes from 7:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. Night classes also exist for some courses as do night exams for freshman and some upper class courses.
The student body is 75 percent “home-grown” Hoosiers, with the remainder composed of students representing all 50 states and 37 foreign countries. The ratio of guys to girls has been approaching unity in recent years with a current proportion of about 1.5:1. With all the diversity of the student body, however, the attitude here is one of general apathy towards campus, national, and international issues.
Almost half the student body lives off campus, with the dorms housing about 12,000 students, and the Greek and Co-Op systems sheltering under 5000 students.
Of the three housing options, the residence halls are the least admired. Purdue still has restricted visitation hours for men and women in its dorm system, with men allowed in women's living areas (and vice versa) only between the hours of 12:30 to 11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The weekend hours are extended to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with a corresponding rollback of the morning hours to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Visitation is heavily enforced on the female side by matrons who guard the entrances after hours, and by the counseling staff which “writes up” offenders. Sanctions against the offenders by the dorm or Dean of Students may result.
Seven of the thirteen dorms are co-ed; however, this means only that meals are eaten with members of the opposite sex. Living areas for males and females are in separate buildings.
The administration has fought successfully against open-visitation proposals, claiming alumni support and academic integrity as reasons to maintain the status quo.
Greek life is big on campus - at least for Greeks. Many sororities are as strict as the dorms, but fraternities are largely unsupervised. Forty seven frats and twenty five sororities have houses here, and a general animosity between dormies and Greeks exists, as can be evidenced by the annual scuffles on the opinion page of the Purdue Exponent.
Off-campus housing is popular, although some of the older sections of West Lafayette have been termed ``slums'' by locals. Even with declining (sic) enrollments, off-campus housing is tight, and apartment hunting season begins around spring break. Usually the lease goes for 12 months starting from June or August. If you don't plan on being on campus during summer time, subleasing apartments is a popular trend.
No “college town” atmosphere exists here, as the land around the University is almost exclusively residential with only a few eateries at opposite ends of the campus. About six miles away, on the U.S. 52 bypass, almost every national franchise is available, as are a few places a half mile east of the campus on the “Levee.”
There are a few bars and alcohol stores in West Lafayette area, though a recent crackdown on underage drinking has resulted in the only under-21 drinkers being those with false IDs. Parties are mostly off-campus or at frats since restrictions against alcohol consumption are rarely, if ever, enforced. Some parties happen in dorms, but only behind closed doors so as not to attract the attention of the counseling staff.
Drug busts occur whenever authorities are aware of their (sic) presence, regardless of location. Dormies are especially vulnerable due to the presence of counselors.
Frequent concert appearances by top name groups draw many students, as do numerous films shown on campus each week. Students are fanatical supporters of Boilermaker football and basketball teams, selling out almost every home game. Grand Prix, an annual go-cart race is a popular student attraction, as are the evangelists who entertain students on the malls when the weather becomes warm.
Editor's note: Total enrollment on the West Lafayette campus, as of fall 2003, is close to 39,000, with 59 percent male and 41 percent female students, who come from 50 states and 126 foreign countries. 59 percent of undergraduates in West Lafayette campus are from Indiana. 35 percent of all students live in the 15 on-campus housing units; 18 percent of the undergraduate students are members of the 50 fraternities and 28 sororities on campus. The visiting hours in the dorms have been extended to more reasonable times. Apartment hunting season now starts in winter, right at the beginning of the spring semester.
As the story goes, when other college teams met the Purdue football squad they were in awe of the size of the Purdue players. Believing that no man of academic ability could be so enormous, rivals were sure that the Purdue team was made up of workers from the old Lafayette Boiler Factory. Hence, Purdue was the victim of many insulting names, one of which was “Boilermakers.”
Other tellers of this tale (probably Purdue opponents) state that the team members actually were boilermakers and not students. Do not believe them. Purdue, being a famous agricultural school, attracted many farm boys who were typically large, healthy, and powerful.
Many Boilermaker alumni have distinguished themselves in one way or another. A few of them are Neil Armstrong, Birch Bayh, Earl Butz, Eugene Cernan, Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Durwood Kirby, Chris Schenkel, Orville Reddenbacher, Roger Chaffee, Virgil Grissom, Abe Gibron, John Wooden, Hank Stram, and Herbert Brown.
Sports have always been big at Purdue, gaining the support of students and nearby residents alike. As a member of the Big Ten football league, Purdue went to the Rose Bowl in 1967 and beat Southern California 14-13. In 1978 the Boilermakers went to the Peach Bowl and beat Georgia Tech 41-21. In 1979 they went to the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl and beat Tennessee 27-22. The 1980 Liberty Bowl saw Purdue squeak by Missouri, 28-25. Then Purdue suffered three straight losing seasons, before an impressive 1984 season, which ended in a 27-24 loss to Virginia in the Peach Bowl. The team then languished in obscurity until the arrival of coach Joe Tiller. Tiller's Boilermakers have now played–and won–the Alamo Bowl two years running, returning pride to the hearts of fans everywhere. As of 1999, the men's basketball team has shared six Big Ten championships in the last 16 seasons. Three of them came from 1994, 1995, and 1996! The 1987-88 season was the sixth straight year the team won 20 or more games and qualified for NCAA tournament action. Not to be left behind, the women's basketball team was national champion in 1998! If you want current Boilermaker sports info, visit http://www.purduesports.com.
Although Purdue offers no music performance degrees, 650 students participate in various band ensembles for credit each year. The “All-American” Marching Band is one of the largest university bands in the Big 10 and the nation with 320 members. Highlights of that band include the World's Largest Drum (Built in 1921) and the Golden Girl (A tradition since 1954). The Department of Bands also boasts two to four concert bands each semester and three jazz bands, as well as a 100-member symphony orchestra and the university's pep bands.
The present Purdue seal was adopted in 1974. The griffin head sits on a 3-sectioned shield which represents the 3 educational thrusts of Purdue: science, technology, and agriculture. The lines representing the griffin's mane are for the 5 campuses: West Lafayette, IUPU Fort Wayne, North Central, Calumet, and IUPU Indianapolis.
The Purdue Mascot is the Boilermaker Special V, the locomotive which can be seen around campus primarily before home football games.
Purdue is one of 68 land-grant colleges established with the Morrill Act, an act signed by President Abe Lincoln by which the federal government offered to turn over public lands to any state which would use the land to maintain a college for the study of agriculture and the mechanical arts. The Indiana General Assembly accepted $150,000 from John Purdue and $50,000 from Tippecanoe County. In 1874 classes began at Purdue University with 6 instructors and 39 students.
The West Lafayette campus, including housing areas, recreation areas, the airport, and service areas, covers 2,307 acres. Additional lands away from West Lafayette are used for agriculture and recreation.
The Edward C. Elliott Hall of Music (seating 6,077, it is considered the largest and best-equipped theatre of any educational institution in the world), the Loeb Playhouse (seating 1,052), the Experimental Theatre, the Memorial Union, Stewart Center, Slayter Center, Ross-Ade Stadium (capacity 67,861), and Mackey Arena (seats 14,123) make Purdue a cultural and recreational center for northwestern Indiana.
The Purdue Radio Station is WBAA 920AM or 101.3FM, “The Fine Arts & Information Center on Your Radio Dial;” available online at www.wbaa.org.
The Purdue Airport, established in 1930, was the first university-owned airport in the country.
The Tippecanoe County morgue is in Lynn Hall on the south edge of campus.
The School of Veterinary Medicine provides veterinary services to the public and has even treated the lions at the zoo. They will care for injured strays when people bring them in.