Unique Traditions

From adorning dorm room walls with original Picassos to participating in a 72-hour scavenger hunt, College students partake in traditions that are distinctive to the University of Chicago. The most cherished—like Scav and the Latke-Hamantash Debate—go back decades.

1. Houses

The University of Chicago’s founding president, William Rainey Harper, remarked in 1896 that “ideal college and university life” comes about only when “the life of the individual is brought into closest contact with the lives of many other individuals.” Today, the College sustains Harper’s belief with a Housing & Residence Life program that offers a vibrant residential community through 39 distinct houses. Together, students create house mascots, compete against each other in events like the Chairman’s Broomball Cup, and develop new traditions that shape their distinct College experience.

2. Art to Live With

Through the Art to Live With program, students living in College housing have the opportunity to borrow original works of art from the University’s Smart Museum of Art for the duration of the school year. Designed to inspire intellectual curiosity, the collection includes pieces by such renowned artists as Marc Chagall, Eleanor Coen, and Pablo Picasso.

3. Scav Hunt

Scav, the College’s beloved 30-year-old annual scavenger hunt, is a 72-hour search for hundreds of encrypted clues, riddles, and seemingly impossible items on campus, in Chicago, and across the country. A competition between residence houses that has solicited everything from biking backwards, to mapping the Chicago Pedway in the style of The Legend of Zelda, to road-tripping to Oklahoma for a statue of King Kong, Scav is one of students’ favorite ways to apply their curiosity and love of learning.

4. Latke-Hamantash Debate

The Latke-Hamantash debates were first created at the University of Chicago in 1946 to settle the age-old question of which of these two staples of Jewish cuisine was superior. Faculty members, including some Nobel prize winners, have since spent decades trying to find the answer using their own areas of expertise—and a little added humor—to remind us of the many different applications of rigorous inquiry.

5. Dollar Shake Days

Every Wednesday during the academic year, students gather in the Reynolds Club to relax with friends and drop a dollar on a delicious milkshake, complete with free toppings.

6. Reynolds Club Seal

One of the first lessons College students learn: watch your step walking in the Reynolds Club! A longstanding belief on campus is that any student who sets foot on the gold seal won’t graduate on time.

7. Kuvia

Kuvia, short for Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko and named after both the Inuit word for ‘pursuit of happiness’ and the Japanese tradition of winter training, is a weeklong festival where students wake up at dawn to join each other for yoga, s’mores, and dance classes. The final day of Kuvia begins with sun salutations along the lakefront and ends with a race across the quads, to help students rejuvenate as the winter quarter begins.

8. Summer Breeze

Every spring quarter, the Council on University Programming and the Major Activities Board host Summer Breeze, an annual festival to help students enjoy the close of the academic year with a day of free food and games and a nighttime outdoor concert.