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Thursday, February 29, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

‘What is 101’

UB earns a shoutout on Jeopardy… for a surprising reason

UB appeared as a hint on a recent episode of the beloved game show Jeopardy.
UB appeared as a hint on a recent episode of the beloved game show Jeopardy.

The University of Buffalo received a shoutout on Jeopardy! last week.

That’s right: UB — which was named the University of Buffalo for 116 years from 1846 until 1962 — was one of the clues to a question on the beloved game show Thursday night.

“The OED [Oxford English Dictionary] found the University of Buffalo was the first to use this number denotion an introductory course, in 1929.”

The answer: What is 101?

But it’s unclear if a 101 course actually originated at UB, and if it did, when exactly it did so. UB archivists haven’t found any proof that the university came up with the classification system, and while the OED has long credited UB with coming up with it, it initially got the year wrong and had to change its entry after UB requested a correction.

“Thus far, nothing has been located in the historical records of the College of Arts and Sciences, or any other collection available in the Archives, documenting that someone at UB conceived this method of distinguishing elementary courses from advanced ones,” John Edens, the former university archivist, wrote in 2009. “But, neither has anything been located indicating UB copied the idea from another institution.”

Either way, the shoutout earned the Queen City school recognition on national television, Reddit and the local Buffalo media.

“It’s fun national exposure,” UB spokesperson John DellaContrada said in a UBNow story. “[B]ut it’s also a reminder that UB continues to innovate in higher education — from the creation of 101 courses in the 1920s to the creation of courses in artificial intelligence today.”

Thursday wasn’t the first time UB earned acclaim for appearing on the show.

In 2007, a 25-year-old East Amherst resident named Kevin Holbert became a two-time champion. The UB linguistics major chatted with Alex Trebek about his work on Khoi and San languages en route to $39,823 in cash earnings.

Justin Weiss is the managing editor and can be reached at


Justin Weiss is The Spectrum's managing editor. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or throwing things at his TV when his sports teams aren't winning. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald. He can be found on Twitter @Jwmlb1.



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