I read about the University of Chicago’s Hull Gate grotesques in Darlene Trew Crist’s American Gargoyles: Spirits in Stone. A Collegiate Gothic stone arch on the University of Chicago’s campus, Hull Gate is decorated with symbols of a student’s journey through college. There are grotesques to represent each of the four undergraduate class years, as well as the admissions and financial aid officers.
According to Crist: “The Senior: ‘Ah, how sweet it it!’ The proud senior stands at the top of the slippery slope and sticks out its tongue at the lower life-forms below. The Junior: The smug figure representing the third-year class snarls at the figure below it, keeping the lower classmen in their place, while straining to reach the top. The Sophomore: This bug-eyed figure symbolizes the second-year students. After surviving the freshman’s trial by fire, the creature appears more confident as it looks upward. The Freshman: The University of Chicago is one of the few remaining universities in the nation that divides the academic year into quarters rather than semesters; this means the workload is heavy and the time to complete it short. The difficult adjustment that must be made by each incoming class is depicted in this carving with its tenuous grip and unsure footing.” (Trew Crist, Darlene. American Gargoyles: Spirits in Stone. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2001. p.133-135)
I couldn’t find much about the architecture of Hull Gate on the school’s website, but I did learn that it is the site of an important ceremony each year in which incoming freshman say goodbye to their families at the start of orientation.