Student staffers lead a cheer for incoming freshmen
Student staffers lead a cheer for incoming freshmen following a group lecture during orientation week. Daniel A. Anderson / University Communications

What’s a university campus without tradition? A pretty thin experience.

Here’s a small tutorial on UC Irvine traditions that have evolved over 43 years. And, if you missed it, check out last week’s crash course on UCI legends.


The tradition: “Zot!” is the Anteater athletics war cry.

Origins: Johnny Hart’s “B.C.” comic strip anteater made the “zot” sound when his long sticky tongue zeroed in on prey. UCI students adopted the “Zot!” cheer in October 1965 – even before the anteater became the official school mascot.
The spirited tradition is very much alive with the CIA (Completely Insane Anteaters) – a zany student group whose members wear bright gold T-shirts and passionately cheer Anteater sports teams to victory. Campus activities and services, from the Career Center’s job listing portal (Zotlink) to the campus newswire (Zot!Wire), have incorporated the rallying cry. Even the recycling crew participates by painting on the sides of trucks: “Recycling: Give it your best Zot!” For more on Anteater lore, go to

The Rainbow Festival

The tradition: The annual festival, sponsored by the UCI Cross-Cultural Center, offers speakers, workshops and a cultural fair open to campus and community.
Origins: The Cross-Cultural Center established the first event in 1984 to celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity with the theme “Many Faces, Many Dreams.” Past participants have included The Color Purple writer Alice Walker, author and political pundit Arianna Huffington, and best-selling author and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou.
The tradition continues each fall. The 2007 festival exploring diversity in a global context marked the 23rd annual celebration. The 2008 festival, scheduled Nov. 4-6, will examine diversity, politics and the election.

Midnight Magic

The tradition: Each October, UCI recognizes the start of the men’s and women’s basketball season with an upbeat, nighttime celebration. Midnight Magic typically includes player and coach introductions, scrimmages, a slam dunk contest and a three-point shootout. Students and fans are treated to entertainment, food and prize giveaways.
The University of Maryland pioneered the idea of Midnight Madness in 1970 as a unique way to best the competition by hitting the court the moment the official NCAA practice season began. The concept spread and evolved into large-scale events that commemorate the start of the basketball season and provide fans their first chance to see teams in action. UCI first held its own celebration – the Anteater Basketball Bash – in 1988, and the event was scheduled sporadically during much of the 1990s. In 1998, “Midnight Magic” made its debut and has been a yearly tradition ever since.
Midnight Magic took place at the Bren Events Center until 2007, when the venue shifted to Crawford Court to create a more intimate experience. The popular event has taken on various themes over the years, including Road to the NCAA Tournament (2003), Midnight Magic in the OC (2005) and the ’80s (2007). This year, it will be paired with ASUCI’s Shocktoberfest Friday, Oct. 17, in the Bren Events Center.

Student Parent Orientation Program

The tradition: The Student Parent Orientation Program (better known as SPOP) is a series of summer orientation sessions that introduce incoming freshmen and their parents to college life. UCI’s newest Anteaters enroll in classes during SPOP and are treated to a crash course covering everything from dorm life to nightlife. One of the highlights is a student-staff talent show.
SPOP started 41 years ago as an optional program. Students could choose between the longer SPOP and mini-SPOP – a condensed, one-day orientation. Until 2008, parents also spent a night on campus during their SPOP sessions.
SPOP, now offered exclusively as two-day, one-night sessions for students and as a one-day experience for parents, became mandatory for freshmen in 2007. More than 4,300 students and their parents attended one of 10 SPOP sessions held during summer 2008.

Celebrate UCI

The tradition: Celebrate UCI, the university’s annual open house, attracts thousands of visitors to campus each year. The Wayzgoose Medieval Faire, Car Show on the Green, Earth Day celebration and theater performances are event highlights. Campus tours and academic information sessions also are provided.
UCI’s open house in November 1966 included a demonstration of the computer facility, a psychobiology experiment and the formal opening of the new Irvine Town Center Building. Events in later years included an Ultimate Frisbee tournament, film screenings and a 10K run. Wayzgoose, which began in 1972, was conceived as a way to liven up the campus’s social scene.
The 2008 edition of Celebrate UCI, held April 19, marked the 30th anniversary of the popular event. More than 110 student, faculty and staff organizations operated Wayzgoose booths offering ethnic foods, games and crafts. The latest Car Show on the Green, now a decade-old tradition, showcased 100 vehicles. And, the solar-powered Earth Day celebration featured interactive, educational displays and two competitions. Save the date for Celebrate UCI 2009: Saturday, April 18.

Lauds & Laurels

The tradition: The UCI Alumni Association awards Lauds & Laurels – the association’s highest honors – to members of the UCI community who “demonstrate heartfelt dedication and commitment to the university.” The awards are presented at a formal ceremony in the spring, and proceeds benefit scholarship programs.
Lauds & Laurels was inaugurated in 1971 to recognize the achievements of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. The seven original award categories were: Extraordinarius (the highest recognition); Distinguished Faculty Teaching; Outstanding Senior; Alumnus of the Year; Community Service; and University Service. Formerly, the names of award recipients remained a secret until the spring banquet.
More than 600 UCI alumni and friends have been lauded, and the awardees now are announced before the spring ceremony. Roy Dormaier, the 2008 Extraordinarius award recipient, headlined a group of alumni and university friends honored in May during the 38th award ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

The Medal

The tradition: The Medal is the university’s highest honor. The equivalent of an honorary degree, this award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the university’s mission of teaching, research and public service.
Origins: Jack W. Peltason, UCI’s second chancellor, established the tradition in 1984 by awarding the first medal to founding Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr. The next medals were awarded in 1987, and the award has been presented annually ever since. Inez Owings, a noted Southern California artist and sculptress, designed and cast the medal award.
Today: In the 24 years since the first medal ceremony, more than 75 Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and industry innovators – including 2008 honorees Carol and Ralph Cicerone, James Mazzo and Stanley van den Noort – have been honored. This year’s recipients will be recognized during a two-day medal awards celebration Oct. 3 and 4.