A very parents’ weekend campus tour

Michael Drummond/File

Because it’s homecoming weekend, you should be preparing to give your parents a taste of what UC Berkeley is all about. Most likely, this involves a campus tour. But where to take them? And what to tell them about our amazing campus?

The Daily Clog met up with a campus tour guide to uncover some of the quirky, lesser-known stories and histories of our fabulous campus, which are essential for an ultimate blow-your-parents-away campus tour.

“The Football Players” statue 


Between Strawberry Creek and the Valley Life Sciences Building you’ll find UC Berkeley’s very first statue, “The Football Players,” unveiled to an enthusiastic audience of students, faculty and alumni May 12, 1900.

The statue was created by Douglas Tilden, who lived at the California School for the Deaf, which used to be located where Clark Kerr Campus is now. San Francisco Mayor James Duvall Phelan purchased “The Football Players,” and in 1898, it offered it to the first school, UC Berkeley or Stanford University, to win two consecutive Big Games in football.

The Big Game had only been played since 1892, but with four wins for Stanford and three ties, Cal had yet to win a game, and as it was a bigger and older school, this was embarrassing.

In 1898, however, under coach Garrett Cochran, UC Berkeley posted a record of 8-0-2, including a 22-0 win over Stanford. In 1899, UC Berkeley went 7-1-1, including a 30-0 win over Stanford. These were some seriously good days. We convincingly won the trophy with a combined score of 52-0 over two years, and “The Football Players” statue was brought to UC Berkeley in triumph.

Dwinelle Hall 

Lorenz Angelo Gonzales/File

Lorenz Angelo Gonzales/File

Also known as “the freshmen maze,” Dwinelle Hall is rumored to have been built by two feuding brothers because of its impossibly confusing layout. The truth, however, is much less exciting. The university needed two different kinds of buildings — one for classrooms with high ceilings for ventilation and one for offices — so the floors of the two buildings don’t meet. Because Dwinelle is built on a slope, four different floors are ground level! The saying is, “If you can navigate Dwinelle Hall without a map, it’s time for you to graduate.”

Invisible Free Speech Monument on Sproul Plaza


Students walk past a 60,000-feet sculpture every day without knowing it. In 1989, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, the Berkeley Art Project established a monument on Sproul Plaza. The monument is a 6-inch circle of soil and the column of air above it, framed by a 6-foot granite circle, and it is a space completely free from laws and jurisdiction that extends all the way to the limit of U.S.-controlled air space — hence the 60,000 feet. The inscription of the granite circle reads: “This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be part of any nation and shall not be part of any entity’s jurisdiction.”

Wheeler Oak


An oak tree that shaded the eastern portion of the Wheeler steps was a favorite meeting place for students. Apparently, former UC Berkeley president Benjamin Ide Wheeler himself would relax in its shade and chat with students. When the oak tree died, it was replaced with the current tree a few feet west of the original. It was so missed that students banded together to purchase a bronze commemorative plaque that was placed on the sidewalk. This was removed once when they repaved Dwinelle Plaza, but when alumni protested, the plaque was quickly found and restored to its original location.

Coach Pappy Waldorf statue on Faculty Glade


Coach Pappy Waldorf is one of UC Berkeley’s most beloved coaches, under whom we won 10 seasons. He was the football coach from 1947 to 1957, and he led us to three consecutive Rose Bowls. We have not been back since. In fact, we’ve had the longest curse of Division I college football in the nation, and we haven’t won the Rose Bowl in half a century — but we’ve gotten close many times!

If you stand behind him, you’ll notice that Waldorf is positioned in such a way that his eyes are fixed on a very particular spot — a statue of a naked tree nymph. Apparently, Waldorf liked his women, so to honor him, his statue’s eyes are eternally fixed on what is also known as the Last Dryad statue. On gamedays, however, we want Waldorf to be entirely focused on the game, not the naked nymph, so if you pass by the statue, you’ll notice that his eyes are always blindfolded. During the Big Game with Stanford, the Rally Committee will guard the coach for an entire week in advance in fear of Stanford student pranks.

The Last Dryad statue that Waldorf eternally gazes at:


4.0 Hill


During the last week before finals week, you’ll see students rolling down the slight hill next to the faculty glade. This is due to the myth that rolling down the hill will grant you a 4.0 for the semester. Conversely, if you step on the UC Berkeley seal, you’re supposedly cursed for the year and can kiss that 4.0 a sweet goodbye.

The Campanile

Dean Ignacio/File

Dean Ignacio/File

The Campanile is the tallest clock tower west of the Mississippi River. Stanford also has a clock tower named Hoover Tower, but because it’s only half as tall, it’s only half as cool. Before the Big Game in 1960, some campus students pranked Stanford by dipping bear paws in blue and gold paint and scaling the tower with the paws. The next day, the Stanford Daily condemned the prank and accused UC Berkeley of desecrating their landmark and being immature, ending its rant with a demand that we “take down the bear paws.” The next morning, there was a new set of bear paw prints — this time scaling down the tower.

The Campanile is notorious because of the myth that during an earthquake, the Campanile will break off and fly down to the Berkeley Marina. But the Campanile is scientifically the safest building on campus. Because it’s built on rollers, the building will sway from side to side. And because it’s so safe and has just the right temperature, some of the university’s most valuable artifacts are held in the Campanile. It’s not just a pretty face.

South Hall


South hall was built in 1873 and is the only building that remains from our initial campus. The smallest bear statue on campus is located on South Hall, and visitors always spend a while trying to spot the bear. If your parents are really struggling, you can point it out to them: It’s in one of the circles on the balcony banister.

Doe Memorial Library

Edwin Cho/File

Edwin Cho/File

Doe Memorial Library is the only library to possess a book bound in human skin. There was a French poet who was so into his work that when he died, he willed his book to be published in his skin.

Hearst Memorial Mining Building


Look familiar? The interior of Hearst Mining Building is designed to look like Grand Central Station. The building held the first three majors on campus, which were mining, military and agriculture. As the agriculture major got bigger, it got its own campus — UC Davis. It’s why you may sometimes hear them referred to as “the Aggies,” and it’s presumably why their student newspaper is called the California Aggie.

The Berkeley Hills


While not strictly part of campus, the Berkeley Hills are definitely part of the Berkeley experience. If you do take your parents for a hike, tell them about Pedro — the dog belonging to an early university president who was lost one night in the Berkeley Hills. After a fruitless search, the president promised to cancel that year’s exams if the dog was found. Since then, at the end of every semester, the cry of “Pedro!” resounds across campus, as optimistic students hope for the dog’s return. We encourage Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to offer a similar challenge!

Image Sources: rmcnicholasDavid AbercrombieMichael Ballrmcnicholasmichaelz1WonderlaneLotus CarrollTom Borton, under Creative Commons

Contact Tala Ram at [email protected].