The informant is a new professional in post-secondary administration. He lives in New Zealand, but he is originally from Apple Valley, California and went to university at the University of California, Irvine, where he was involved in student affairs and studied computer science. His background is Italian and Polish, and he has 3 older siblings.
This piece describes a tradition passed along at UCI’s Orientation, where staff members take new students on unofficial midnight tours and introduce them to lesser known UCI traditions, including the Infinity Fountain.
“So at UCI we have something called Infinity Fountain, so it’s just this fountain that’s on campus and it’s the most recognizable one on campus and easiest to access cause it’s big enough for people to like, get into. And it’s called Infinity Fountain because when the water falls it looks like an infinity symbol. Um, so at our Orientation program, it’s called SPOP, and it’s a two day orientation program, so overnight, there’s usually something—so, the official program ends at like 10, but then everyone is all on the same hall for the night and so they hang out really late and there’s activities that are kind of traditions passed on. But this is one that kind of transcends that.
So after that, people usually don’t want to go to bed and so they’ll tell like ghosts stories or whatever but then there’s like a “Midnight Tour” so people just go out and the SPOP staffers will show the new students around about kind of lesser known things at UCI that you wouldn’t get on a normal campus tour. So we talk about Darth Vader Point and Torture Garden and, um, all these other types of things that are at UCI. And so one thing that a lot of people do, not everyone, but a lot of people get into Infinity Fountain, just cause getting into Infinity Fountain is something everyone at UCI should do because it’s really really fun. So what my SPOP staffer told me is that you need to start off at UCI like in Infinity Fountain, and then you also, like this is the first time you get in this is the start of your time at UCI, and then when you graduate you need to get into the fountain. And so I did that.
That’s what my staffer told me, so when I was a staffer for two years, I didn’t take all the groups on midnight tours because I was tired, but I took a couple of groups out and I took them to Infinity Fountain and told them to get in and told them, “This is the start of your time at UCI, now finish it also in the fountain as well.” So that’s something and I don’t know if it’s something all of UCI did, but that’s definitely something that someone told me and he probably told others.”
This is both an occupational tradition and a more general campus tradition. These midnight tours are not official parts of UCI’s Orientation, but it’s something that returning “staffers” teach to new staffers, as well as something that many staffers would have experienced at their own Orientation. “Midnight” implies a kind of taboo, as it’s at night, after the sun has gone down and the official university-endorsed programming is over. These kinds of tours must be given under the cover of darkness.
The midnight tours describe “unofficial” UCI locations. In telling new students about these places, staffers teach new students how to be “insiders” in the campus culture—the tours contain things that they would not be able to find online or in guidebooks or on a university sponsored campus tour. Locations such as Darth Vader Point and Torture Garden are the students’ names for these locations, not official names. As a result, they can only be learned from current students, which begins the transition from outsider to insider. The staffers further establish the new students as insiders when they enter Infinity Fountain. The actual process of entering the water at the start of their college experience bears an interesting resemblance to baptism.