U of C Traditions

Rituals to relish, or run from

By Asher Klein

It should come as no surprise that the University of Chicago is home to some quirky, intellectual, and often downright bizarre traditions. While some embrace them, just as many run for cover when Scav Hunt rolls around. Regardless, here are some of the rituals you should get excited about—or scared of.

Scav Hunt » May flowers bring Scav Hunt to campus, purportedly the largest scavenger hunt in the world. Teams must search for, create, or perform items on a student- and alum-written list with hundreds of entries. Scavs past have seen at least one team build a famed nuclear reactor, and recent years have featured Bedouin weddings, hot-dog catapults, President Robert Zimmer flinging snowballs, and push-pin mosaics of “The Scream.” For four of the first nice days in spring, students from every dorm and beyond spurn class and days’ worth of sleep to get in on the most meaningful bit of chaos this side of the Rio Grande.

Shake Day » Every Wednesday, thirsty students line up in the C-Shop in the Reynolds Club to buy a shake. The shakes come in, like, 10 different flavors (although only one at a time, so you never know what you’re going to get!), plus two toppings of your choice, but the best part about shake day is still the price: just $1.

T-Shirt Slogans » “Where fun comes to die” isn’t just our most popular slogan—it’s also part of a booming cottage industry on campus. House t-shirt sales fund a range of student activities, both reputable and otherwise, and nothing moves more shirts around here than a dismal, self-deprecating slogan. “Hell does freeze over” is worn proudly across the backs of students enduring the walk to class in subzero temperatures. Proudly our shirts proclaim, “We are 95% confident that we are 1.96 standard deviations above the mean,” or that “the only thing going down” on anyone here is their GPA. Just remember, all of that’s said in jest. Mostly. Except for the parts that are dead-on accurate.

Summer Breeze » After what feels like nine months of winter, the University welcomes the somewhat warmer weather with the outdoor Summer Breeze festival. The event features moon bounces, a mechanical bull, tons of food, face painting, and other carnival fare. The day culminates in a concert at Hutch Courtyard. Past performers include Nas, Broken Social Scene, Run DMC, and U2.

Obsession with Ted O’Neill » The University’s head of admissions for over 20 years, Ted O’Neill was kind of a big deal among students for his ability to seemingly be at prospie functions on three coasts (that’s East, West, and North) at once, for his love of everything Uncommon, and as the person we credited with getting us into the U of C. O’Neill stepped down a little more than a year ago to focus on teaching, meaning yours is the first class he didn’t recruit himself, Class of 2014. Watchful, lucky diners at Cobb Café will spot O’Neill and his perfectly maintained coif of hair sit down for a cup of very lucky coffee; even luckier students will get him for a quarter of Human Being and Citizen.

Kuviasungnerk/ Kangeiko » “Kuvia” for short, this series of events is supposed to have roots in an Inuit tradition of keeping your body fit and your mind sharp during winter, although it really developed out of an annual retreat to Wisconsin and the need for a Winter festival. For one week in January, students and faculty convene at Henry Crown before the sun rises to do yoga, stretches, and other exercises; those brave enough to attend every session get a free T-shirt. The grand finale on Friday of Kuvia week has two parts: first, a 6 a.m. walk from campus to greet the sun at the Point, then a polar bear run on the quad, where you can see your peers streaking for glory and away from frostbite. The only thing more shocking than participating is watching.

The University Seal » You probably remember this from the Reynolds Club portion of your campus tour: “Watch out! Legend has it that if you step on that gold seal in the lobby, you won’t graduate in four years. Or perhaps…graduate at all!” Charming, but legend also has it that nobody really cares, and that this rumor was propagated by facilities workers who didn’t want the metalwork worn down by foot traffic. People step on that angry phoenix’s face all the time. Then why do we avoid it every day, you ask? Well…it can’t hurt.

Hating the Core » If you don’t know by now, then we’re sorry we had to break it to you, but the University of Chicago has a few more required classes than most schools in the country. Six classes in the humanities, six in math and the sciences, three in social science, plus language and P.E. requirements—the Core has it all. Everyone thinks it’s a hassle and, staunch supporter of the liberal arts though you may be, there will come a desperate time when reading one more page of that Marx-Engels Reader you can’t stand, much less comprehend, will feel like some seriously alienated labor…and that’s about when you feel the spectre of watch-bootlegged-movies.com creeping up on you. Just keep in mind that the Core is the least demanding it’s been in decades.