May 9, 2003

Scav Hunt grips University: After list found Thursday morning, students put aside work, sleep, sanity to compete in spring quarter tradition

"It's a crazy time around here at the University," said Mihai Sturdza, a first-year in the College, as he dropped off another student in his homemade rickshaw, made out of a broken chair and an industrial spool.

Sturdza was carting passengers between Kent and Cobb.

"I guess this definitely puts a welcome change in the atmosphere," he said, proudly brandishing a t-shirt reading "F.I.S.T." and "Delusian Potato."

And so it begins: another chapter in history of the University's scavenger hunt, an annual celebration of insanity and spring fever that infects hundreds of undergraduates, grad students, and even a few professors.

Advertised as the world's largest scavenger hunt, Scav Hunt has grown to become spring quarter's showcase for ignoring term papers and repudiating the College's reputation as dreary and lacking in excitement.

At the center of the maelstrom is the Scav Hunt list, a treasured compilation of 300 items. Meticulously created by a panel of Scav Hunt judges, the list not only requires random searches for obscure objects, but also has Scav Hunt members use their intellectual ingenuity first to find out what they're looking for, and then see how they can get it.

Daryl Osuch, a Scav Hunt judge and University alumnus, said that the judges carefully constructed a list over several months.

Subjects the judges used in preparing the items, according to Osuch, included simple bits of trivia, performance, and construction art.

"We like to have topical and culturally relevant items that can be used as a sort of commentary as to what is going on in the world around us at the time," Osuch said. "But all of that aside, we want the items to be challenging and cool, funny and interesting."

Scav Hunt's repute has garnered attention nationwide. Andrew Bluth, a writer for The New York Times, reported on Scav Hunt in 1999, referring to its birth from the Chicago philosophy that "Chicago students can have fun if they really put their minds to it."

Many first-year participants got their first taste of how challenging and interesting Scav Hunt could be while searching for the list--which the judges had buried on the 57th Street beach.

By 3 a.m. Thursday morning, only three original copies of the list were found, so other teams had to photocopy the list. The first team to find the list was Snell-Hitchcock, a dorm known for its expertise and winning history with Scav Hunt.

Each team consists of various groups--one for constructing items on the list, and one for finding list items on the Internet, like a creme filled tube steak (14 points) or a picture of a National Geographic editor in a swimsuit (4 points).

A special group of Scav Hunters goes on a road trip to various destinations set by the list.

Another Scav Hunt event, the Scav-Olympics, earns Scav Hunt teams extra points for performing "extracurricular" stunts, such as reciting monologues from Glengarry Glen Ross or starting a jump-rope marathon.

ScavOlympics cap off the end of Scav Hunt at Ida Noyes Hall, where the team with the most points will be announced the 2003 Scav Hunt winners.

Stephen Dranger is a second-year in the College and captain of the Max Palevsky team, the winner of last year's competition. He stressed that the spirit of Scav Hunt is in cooperation, sportsmanship, and just having fun, emphasizing that it has the ability to bring houses and groups together that normally would not interact.

"To do interesting things, to be challenged," Dranger said of Scav Hunt's benefits, "Burninate! It's basically a test of ingenuity and creativity."

One of the more interesting Scav Hunt teams this year is Lush Puppies III and F.I.S.T. II (Federation of Independent Scav Teams), a conglomeration of independent teams working together for the Scav Hunt.

Matt Billmire, a fourth-year in the College and captain of the independent team, said F.I.S.T. was formed by students who wanted to highlight the fun in Scav Hunt rather than the competition.

"We are united by the love of the game and the desire to do the best," Billmire said. "Our group's existence is post-modern, but we're fun because we have ninjas and potatoes."

For many administrators and professors, Scav Hunt brings fond memories of past experiences. Michael Jones, associate dean for progress and development, reminisces about his involvement in a past Scav Hunt.

"I remember a team came to my office looking for a complete edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations that did not have a blue hardback cover," Jones said.

"I was proud to say I had a copy. It was a lot of fun."