Customs and conventions at the U of C

By Ethan Stanislawski

It should come as no surprise that the U of C campus hosts some of the most quirky, intellectual, and often just downright bizarre traditions. While some embrace our traditions, just as many start cursing when Scav Hunt rolls around each spring. Regardless, here are some of the rituals you should get excited (or scared) about.

Where fun comes to die?

There’s no way you could have applied to this school, much less chosen to come here, without hearing this slogan. It probably convinced a few of your high school friends to avoid the U of C application. But what you’ll find is that fun does not die; instead, the slogan serves as more of an ego boost. People take self-congratulatory pride in working harder and getting a better education than their friends at other schools, thus making self-mockery cathartic. You’ll soon see that “Where fun comes to die” isn’t the only slogan emblazoned on shirts. “If it were easy, it’d be your mom” and “Where the only thing that goes down on you is your GPA” are among the other popular (if somewhat salty) choices.

Aims of Education address

You might say you came to the U of C because it was the best school you could get into, or it offered you the most money. But no matter how you ended up going to this school, you know that the U of C is known for placing a heavy emphasis on the life of the mind. But on the off chance you didn’t, that idea is force-fed into your brain during O-Week. A distinguished faculty member delivers an annual lecture in Rockefeller Chapel to all first-years about life, the life of the mind, art, the universe, and well, just about everything. Past approaches have included education in a global society and the neuropsychological effects of such a vigorous course of study. And to close the evening, a professor visits each dorm house to continue the themes of the address in a discussion format with the wide-eyed first-years.

Shake day

As a college student, it’s only natural that you’ll become quite familiar with the places on this campus that sell food and drinks, especially cheap food and drinks. Einstein Brothers, normally a ho-hum outlet for bagels and coffee, all of a sudden becomes the place to be every Wednesday. That’s because Wednesday is Shake Day, when the store serves yummy shakes for only $1 to cure your mid-week stress. That’s right—if at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning you happen to have a craving for a chocolate shake, not a problem! That is, as long as they’re serving chocolate at that time, as available flavors vary. Still, it’s well worth the wait in line.

Radiation in the stacks

Once classes roll into full gear, you’ll quickly realize that many Chicago students spend the majority of their U of C lives in the Reg. While this is most likely due to the demanding workload and the rigorous work ethic of U of C students, some have looked for other causes. The Manhattan Project, which was based at the U of C, split its first particle in what is now the location of the Regenstein Library. Some speculate that the reason why U of C students are attracted to the gargantuan building is the radiation that still lingers throughout the library. While this is only a legend, you only need to spend more than four hours in the B-Level to start considering it more seriously.


A tradition with origins in the 1893 World Fair, Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko (“Kuvia” for short) comes from an Eskimo tradition for staying fit, physically and mentally, in the bleak cold of winter. Every year dozens of Chicago students and faculty members wake up at absurdly early hours to perform yoga, breathing exercises, and stretches at the Point. It’s a great (though somewhat kamikaze-like) way to start your day, and if you go to every session, you score a T-shirt. Of course, that comes at the expense (or treat) of seeing your Hum teacher in spandex. Kuvia culminates in the notorious Polar Bear Run, a nude streak in the freezing cold across the main quad. Make sure you know what you’re getting into, however, as pictures of the previous Polar Bear Runs have ventured onto the Internet—and not on a University-sponsored website, if you get my drift.

Scav Hunt

You’ll either love it or hate it, but this tradition will absolutely dominate campus in early May. Every Mother’s Day weekend, dorms, clubs, and other random teams compete in an annual scavenger hunt (best known simply as “Scav”). This is no average scavenger hunt, however—in fact, it is the largest hunt of its kind in the world. This being the U of C, the items can get kind of…creative. They range from mind-bogglingly obscure references to extreme absurdity and often can be, well, gross. Highlights from recent years include: an authentic Scav Hunt-themed clip by voiceover master Don LaFontaine (2007), the Aristocrats joke in Dr. Seuss’s meter (2006), a fully functional edible printing press (2005), eating your own umbilical cord (which was actually completed in 2004), and, perhaps most famously, building a functioning nuclear reactor, which was purportedly completed in a dorm room for the 1999 Hunt. Other highlights include a road trip that takes riders everywhere from Branson, Missouri to Princeton, New Jersey; a massive party on the quads Friday night; and a Scav “Olympics” Saturday afternoon. While Snell-Hitchcock and Max Palevsky have dominated of late, it’s still an exciting, mind-blowing four days for any team, if you’re up for it.

The University seal

According to legend, if you step on the seal in the lobby of the Reynolds Club, you won’t graduate in four years. Or perhaps graduate at all. Frankly, it varies based on whom you hear it from, and if you think it’s original, it’s not. Many other schools have similar legends, though some have to do with unwanted pregnancies. So defiantly dance a little jig on the seal if you want; just don’t say you weren’t warned when you don’t graduate.