Students talking on the quad

Hillsdal-ology: Ten Terms You’ll Hear on Campus

Written by Aaron Andrews & Kokko Tso

Listen up freshmen! Hillsdale’s unique culture has given rise to the development of a quirky vocabulary. Here are ten words and phrases that you might hear around campus.

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“Up the Hill”  As Dr. Michael Ward noted in his Commencement speech last year, the name “Hillsdale” is something of an oxymoron, since a “hill” and a “dale” are polar opposites. In a similar fashion, the phrase “Up the Hill,” is a bit of a misnomer, since students from more topographically-diverse areas of the country might describe the “hill” on which the main campus buildings are located as more of a gentle incline.

“Paradise”  Affectionately named after the third book in Dante’s Divine Comedythe upper level of the Mossey Library is filled with noisy printers, happy (and therefore noisy) people, and an entire collection of VHS tapes (don’t worry, we also have modern media, like microfilm). It’s a great place to people-watch, especially five minutes before five on a Friday afternoon. That’s when all the wait-till-the-very-end procrastinators and write-till-the-very-end perfectionists emerge from the bowels of the library in the great race to print out their papers and sprint them over to Moss Hall.

Purgatory  The busy and quiet students who are actually trying to study sequester themselves in the second floor of Mossey Library.

“Hell”  When students say, “We’re in Hell,” it can mean multiple things:

  1. They could be speaking metaphorically about their state of mind.
  2. They could be referring to hectic and stressful period of time that is the last week of classes before final exams.
  3. They could physically be in the lowest level of Mossey Library.
  4. All of the above.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

“The Tunnel” – When it’s pouring or snowing outside, you didn’t bring rain gear, and you need to get from Lane Hall to Kendall Hall, take the convenient tunnel connecting the basements of the two buildings. It’s great for staying dry, as well as the occasional impromptu dance party.

“SAGA” – No one is sure what to call the Knorr Family Dining Hall in the Grewcock Student Union. Nicknamed SAGA after the previous food service company, we’re still trying to figure out what to call it now that the excellent Bon Appetit, Inc. runs it. Bam-Co? Steve’s? You come up with one, and let us know so that we can update this list. Oh, and when you head there to grab a bite, remember to say hi to SAGA Steve!

“Getting Arnned” – What is the good, the true, and the beautiful? Don’t know? Well, you’d better start prepping your thoughts now (it’s probably a good time to re-read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which the Provost assigns to all incoming freshmen) because you will inevitably be interrogated by Dr. Arnn about the higher questions of life sometime during your college career. It’s one of the most interesting, thought-provoking, and terrifying experiences you will have at Hillsdale. Quick tip: however clever or smart you think your answer is, you will be wrong – trust us, Dr. Arnn’s been examining these questions for way longer than anyone here. It’s okay! That’s what we’re here for: to pursue a greater understanding of the higher things.

“Thatcherball” – Thatcherball is an extreme team sport unique to Hillsdale’s campus and played during the winter. Male players run a football from one side of Central Hall to the other in attempts to score by touching the football to the statue of Margaret Thatcher. Players score eight points for a touchdown, minus one point for every article of clothing the scorer is wearing.

“D minus minus” – What this isn’t: the end of the world. You might see this grade on some of the first essays you write, especially for Great Books. But, it will be okay. Virtus tentamine gaudet, “strength rejoices in the challenge.” And remember to follow the instructions “Drop by my office to discuss” that usually follow the trail of red ink. The professors here are awfully nice; chances are, they will help you avoid the dreaded “almost-but-not-quite-failed” grade.

“Hillsdalian” – Look into a mirror. That’s a Hillsdalian. Because you’re one of us now. We’re a fun-loving, hard-working bunch of people who are willing to endure caffeine-fueled all-nighters and bone-chilling Michigan winters in order to pursue truth and knowledge. The journey will be tough, but the reward is great. Plus, you’ve got the support of the rest of us – students, professors, and staff. You’re a Hillsdalian, and we’re in this together. Welcome to the family!

Aaron AndrewsAaron Andrews, ‘18, is studying English, Latin, and whatever else crosses his fancy. He spends his summers in North Eastern Washington, rural Stevens Country, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where he goes for weeks on end with no internet. He spends his free time photographing local herds of cattle, and frolicking in Washington’s famous amber waves of grain.


Kokko TsoKokko Tso graduated from Hillsdale College in 2013 with majors in music, Latin, and history. He currently works for his alma mater as the Digital Content Manager.