Kuvia polar bear posing in front of The Point

A Brief History on Kuvia

As compiled by Aneesa Sonawalla and William Rhee

In the year 1983, the fresh, new Dean of the College, Donald Levine, suggested that members of the College community, first-years and fourth-years alike, participate in a week-long winter carnival of sorts, to combat the dreary and spirit-dampening conditions of winter. Levine, according to Jean Treese, former Assistant Dean of the College, insisted that the carnival’s name include “Kangeiko” (寒稽古) a period of resistance and discipline training that derives from Shinto and Buddhist traditions of ascetic practice.

Treese, in her capacity, sought to support Levine’s vision, and suggested the word, “Kuviasungnerk”, upon encountering it in a book about the Inuit. “The word Kuviasungnerk refers to a time when the fish are plentiful—therefore a time for happiness,” said Treese. Other translations denote the word as “the pursuit of happiness.” The name stuck, and “Kuviasungnerk” became the branded name for the University-wide winter event. “Kangeiko” referred specifically to the morning exercises and warm-ups.

Sprinkled throughout the week of Kuviasungnerk, or Kuvia, for short, were activities such as cross-country races along the Midway and team contests which involved pulling the old Volkswagen Beetle of Dean Herman Sinaiko around the Quad. The Polar Bear Run—to date the only sanctioned streaking event at the University—was a later addition to the event.

Some time between 1983 and 1986, management of Kuvia was turned over to the College Student Assembly, the predecessor of the Council on University Programming (COUP). Advised by the Dean of Students Office, the group oversaw the yearly winter event, and grew to institute their own changes to carve out traditions.

By 1987, that group had morphed into COUP, which made the decision to break away from the Dean of Students Office and become a formal Recognized Student Organization (RSO). The transition was not without its own share of mistakes—apparently, one year, Kuvia was canceled by COUP because they thought it was “too nerdy”. In response to the uproar raised by students—and Don Levine—Kuvia was re-instated the following year.

Now, Kuviasugnerk/Kangeiko approaches its 2016 season, and COUP is excited to bring back this classic University tradition and promote both the former and future experiences of house lore and early-morning camaraderie. We are proud to present a slew of new stretch leaders and RSO partners, as well as reintroduce several beloved mainstays.

However, in line with COUP’s history, this year’s Kuvia will come with some of its own innovations and changes. We are thrilled to announce our brand-new partnerships with Kitchen Sink and Doc Films for Kuvia 2016, allowing us to proudly present a night of painting and creativity at the Logan Center for the Arts and a Frozen sing-along in the cozy warmth of Max Palevsky Cinema, located in Ida Noyes. Join us again this year for free ice-skating on the Midway rink, with an appearance from your favorite polar bear, and don’t forget to come out for a night of free class mugs and hot chocolate by way of the Student Alumni Committee.


Oh, and don’t forget about streaking. As in past years, the winner will receive a free Kuvia T-Shirt.


PS: This will be the first Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko which the late Don Levine will not be part of (he passed away last March). Kuviasungnerk, since instituted by Levine in 1983, has been running and servicing as an avenue for fond memories for the past 33 years.