University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt

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Qwazy Quad Rally, Scav Hunt 2005, item #38.

The University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt (or Scav Hunt, colloquially Scav) is an annual four-day team-based scavenger hunt held at the University of Chicago from Thursday to Sunday of Mother's Day Weekend in May.


During the Scavenger Hunt, teams compete to acquire items off a list of approximately 300 items, with each item written, assigned a point value, and evaluated by a panel of judges. Items may involve performances, construction, arts and crafts, research, travel, or finding obscure objects. Lists typically include at least one item that takes place on the University's main quadrangles while students are in class, a party on Friday night, a road trip (with its most distant point from campus being 1,000 miles or less),[1] an item encouraging team members to donate blood, and Scav Olympics, which includes original games and athletic competitions. [2]


Scav Hunt was founded in 1987 by Chris Straus, who organized the list and judged items collected by other residents of Hitchcock house, with Cassie Scharff, Diane Kelly, Nolan McCarty, and Rick Jeffries.[citation needed] Perhaps the most notable item that has yet been completed was from the 1999 list; a breeder reactor in a shed was successfully built in front of Ida Noyes Hall.[3] The item itself was a joke referring to the "Radioactive Boy Scout" David Hahn. The students irradiated thorium with thermal neutrons and observed traces of uranium and plutonium.[4]

In 2002, Scav Hunt was the subject of a documentary titled The Hunt.[5] The 2007 Scav Hunt was also the subject of a documentary, Scavengers.[6]

The Scav Hunt additionally holds the Guinness World Record for largest scavenger hunt. To obtain the record, the Judges organized a miniature scavenger hunt during the 2011 Hunt. The smaller event was required to meet the Guinness World Record definition of a scavenger hunt. [7]


The Scavenger Hunt committee is a registered student organization at the University of Chicago. The committee is made up of Judges, those who make the list and determine item completion, and non-Judges, who help with other administrative tasks. Judges are known as "Hot Side Hot" while non-Judge members are known as "Cold Side Cold". [8]

The list is compiled solely by the panel of Judges, though the panel also organize other aspects of the Scav Hunt. Judges begin compiling the list after the end of each Scav Hunt weekend, and continue to add items throughout the year. Members of the panel, of course, are sworn to secrecy of the contents of next year's list.

Any University of Chicago student with a GPA above 0.5 may apply to be a Judge.[8] Potential Judges submit applications consisting of a questionnaire and a sample list of 30 items. Applicants are chosen to interview with the existing Judges based on merit. New Judges are often previous team captains or perennial participants of the Hunt. Actual methods of Judge selection, however, are kept secret. Fragments of the sample lists of the newly chosen Judges are often added to next year's list. Applications for new Judges open at the beginning of October. New Judges are selected by the end of the calendar year. Judges are appointed for life, but are required to maintain eligibility to join a student organization to remain active.[2]

The head Judge, known as the Scavenczar, is appointed at the end of the Scavenger Hunt each year. He or she oversees the planning and execution of the next Scav Hunt, until his or her successor is named. The 2014 Scavenczar was Jeremy Ziring,[8] and the 2015 Scavenczar is Emily Tixier.

Notable items[edit]

  • A periodic coffee table. (25 points plus 1 point per element included)[9]
  • A real live, breathing elephant. (500 points)[10]
  • Consume Balut[11]
  • A breeder reactor built in a shed, and the boy scout badge to prove credit was given where boy scout credit was due. (500 points) This item was completed,[12] although the team only came in second place.[13][14]
  • A zeusaphone. (300 points)[15]
  • A Stradivarius violin, viola or cello. (90 points for a violin, 125 points for a cello, 150 points for a viola)


Students at the University of Chicago often consider Scav as part of the "Life of the Mind", that is, the culture of intellectual inquiry that the University strives to promote. In this respect, jokes concerning Scav include:

  • Scav is the largest group of individuals displaying collective effervescence that knows what collective effervescence actually means.
  • Other colleges have an Engineering Department. UChicago has Scav. (This joke predates the Institute for Molecular Engineering, newly opened in the 2014-2015 academic year).

Past lists[edit]


  1. ^ "2009 List, Rules, #10" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  2. ^ a b "About". The University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Items". Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  4. ^ "In Chicago, Ph.D.'s Take a Back Seat to a Degree of Silliness". Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  5. ^ "The Hunt". Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  6. ^ "The Searchers". Retrieved 2011-06-16. 
  7. ^ "Largest scavenger hunt". Retrieved 2012-01-26.  924 people participated in a miniature scavenger hunt event during the 2011 Hunt.
  8. ^ a b c "Bylaws". The University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "ScavOlympics" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  10. ^ "The 1997 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List". Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  11. ^ "The 2010 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt List" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-02. 
  12. ^ "2005 Scav Hunt". 
  13. ^ Gary Wisby (15 May 1999). "UC junior wraps up 'Jeopardy!' college title". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 1. 
  14. ^ Andrew Bluth (19 May 1999). "On Campus: It's that season at Chicago, and Ph.D.'s have taken a back seat to a degree of silliness.". New York Times. 
  15. ^ "The 2008 University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt list" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-05-12. 

External links[edit]