Deposited evenly throughout the Northeast is a confederacy of seven schools, all very prestigious and very old, whose collective name is enough to make any college-bound student weak at the knees.
So why isn't Johns Hopkins part of this elite union, the Ivy League? Founded in 1876, Hopkins is only 11 years younger than infantile Cornell. Academically, Hopkins is comparable to the Ivies no matter which rankings you consult. Hopkins even has ivy growing on it--just look at the Gatehouse!
One popular rumor among the student body is that in past years, Hopkins has been invited to join the Ivy League, but that administrators have declined the offer for a multitude of reasons, be it athletics, academics, or the cost of joining the organization.
"I've heard the rumor that we get asked to join every year but we turn them down because we'd have to give up our lacrosse scholarships," said sophomore Jenn Carreto, referring to the Ivy League's policy of not granting athletic scholarships.
One common variation even includes the self-aggrandizing detail that Hopkins turned down the Ivy League because "we're better than them."
However, according to Hopkins administrators, the entire rumor is just a myth.
"I've been working at Hopkins for 28 years, and every few years this rumor comes up," said Jerry Schnydman, the Executive Assistant to the President. "But it's not true." Schnydman mentioned that there may have been an inquiry into Hopkins joining the Ivy League in the past, but that neither side seriously pursued it.
Schnydman also added that the prospect of Hopkins joining the Ivy League would be logistically difficult, as it was originally formed as a Division I football conference, and Hopkins is Division III in every sport except lacrosse.
The term "Ivy League" was first coined in 1937 by Caswell Adams, a writer for the New York Tribune. The seven schools--Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale--had competed for years in sports like basketball, ice hockey, baseball and swimming. When these schools banded together in 1954 to form a football league that coupled an interest in intercollegiate competitiveness and academic pursuit, Adams' quip was turned into the conference's official name.
"The cost to bump all of the sports at Hopkins up to Division I is so high that the prospect of spending that much money seemed to me, on a personal level, to be inappropriate," said Schnydman, who was a two-time All-American lacrosse player while at Hopkins, leading the team to a national championship in 1967.
For many students, the impetus behind the rumor seems relatively obvious. "I think that Hopkins is a second-choice school for a lot of people," said Carreto. "The rumor serves to justify to these people where they ended up."
Carreto's statement reflects upon Hopkins' relatively high acceptance rate. According to U.S. News & World Report, Hopkins' acceptance rate in 2002 was 35 percent, which stands in stark contrast to that of Harvard or Princeton, which both accepted a mere 11 percent of applicants.
To students who feel this way, the Ivy League represents much more than famous professors, high tuition, and bad football teams.
"I think a lot of students here wish they were at an Ivy League school because they think that it would make them a better person or a better student," said sophomore Aaron Levy-Forsythe, "but I don't think that's true."
"People use the rumor to prove that Hopkins is just as good a school," said freshman Tim Youn.
Despite the negative interpretation that these students have attributed to the rumor, for many, it just represents the reality that Hopkins is competitive with the best of the best. "If Hopkins is a top academic institution, there should be no reason we'd have to be labeled an Ivy League school to prove it," said sophomore Meredith Clayton.
So while Hopkins has never been invited to join the Ivy League, optimistic students feel that the rumor proves that they're fine where they are. "To warrant that kind of rumor just affirms Hopkins' reputation," said Youn.