The Invisible 200: Behind the Curtain

Jason Aricon Image.jpg

By Jason Arican '15

This article is part two of a two part series.

It's lunch time and the Winter Garden is bustling with activity, which is great cover because I am about to sit down with a self-proclaimed member of The Invisible 200 and begin my quest to uncover the most exclusive group at Booth. As I try to politely ward off a friend so that we can start our interview, he pulls out his laptop. "I'm feeling overwhelmed right now," he remarks to no one specifically. "I'm booked until January."

His tone is playful, but the message is clear: he's kind of a big deal around these parts. A few minutes go by as he furiously fires off several emails before finally pausing to address the article.

"Wait... is my name going in this?"

Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to talk to people affiliated with The Invisible 200. As it turns out, The Invisible 200 isn't a secret society. They aren't trying to push a hidden agenda on faculty and administration. They aren't behind the shortage of green apples on the C-level of Harper, but it should also be noted that they aren't exactly doing anything about it either. There are no jet packs and, for your curious writer, there were no rides home from Hyde Park.

As it turns out, The Invisible 200 broadly defines a group of people who really just don't give a crap.

Membership is subjective. There is no central nervous system, no structure, and no leaders. It is a lot like Occupy Wall Street in that sense, which is funny because these people either are or will soon be members of the ultra-elite 1%. Let's pause for a moment to appreciate that lovely bit of irony.

There was a wide spectrum of thoughts from the people I spoke with. Some lamented about being so distant from classmates.

     That's not fun. That's not what I came here for.

Some wore it as a badge of honor.

     I like to promote an aura of exclusivity.

But everyone agreed that trying to put a box around The Invisible 200 is impossible and completely arbitrary.

Coming to a graduate program where there is significant value in the network and then actively deciding to not participate is a curious choice. I found that a lot was situational - having significant others, or living in neighborhoods outside of the Loop. But sometimes I found that people just thought it was cool to be counter-culture. As much as they would hate the comparison, The Invisible 200 are basically the hipsters of Booth.

This is not to say that "networking" should solely be defined as "going to TNDC". And the fact that you don't know someone should not somehow be indicative that no one else interacts with that person. Most importantly, far be it for me or anyone else to judge how someone decides to spend his or her time. Okay that's not true, I'll probably still judge.

But there is something here. Just the simple fact that a lot of people expressed conflict about having limited interactions with classmates should demonstrate that this is desirable. The question is whether or not they will change their behavior in the short time that we have left. In fact, I was able to catch up with a guy from the mysterious group I sat with that memorable day last winter and this internal conflict was obvious.

"I'd like to hang out more. But..." And then he trailed off, never finishing the sentence.