It’s college tour season at UC Berkeley, and large packs of mostly-unqualified high school students are popping up all over campus, no doubt led by Cal’s bravest and brightest tour guides. And while it may seem easy, tour guides have the nearly insurmountable burden of memorizing at least eleven facts about Berkeley to impress prospective students. How many do you know?
11.) UC Berkeley is the #1 public university in the world!:
Berkeley is #1 at a lot of other things, too! High school students are shallow and easily swayed by prestige. For more positive rankings, there’s an entire webpage dedicated to it.
10.) Mario Savio, leader of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley, was born on the Sproul Hall steps:
Most tours start on Sproul Plaza, so it’s good to begin by saying that Sproul was the figurative birthplace of the Free Speech Movement and the literal birthplace of the man who led it.
9.) Sather Gate was originally intended to prevent vampires from entering the university:
Vampires were a serious threat in the early 20th century. Berkeley couldn’t have immortal, blood-sucking beasts running around all willy-nilly, draining students of their vital fluids. A giant gate was the only logical solution to keep the vampires out.
8.) The Golden Bear Café is a great place on campus to grab a quick coffee, snack, or to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning performance in The Revenant:
Four television screens are dispersed throughout the GBC with the scene where Leo is mauled by a bear on continuous loop. Film majors tend to spend a lot of time there.
7.) Dwinelle Hall is a horrible maze, and legend has it that’s because the two architects commissioned to build it had an intense feud and didn’t speak to each other at all during the project:
This is not true, but it makes a good myth. Dwinelle was actually supposed to be two separate buildings. Oh well!
6.) Sather Tower, otherwise known as the Campanile, is a pretty big deal here at Cal, so it warrants an absurd number of facts in proportion to the rest of the tour:
a.) At 307 feet tall, the Campanile is the third tallest clock tower in the world.
The top of the Campanile is almost as high as Berkeley’s rankings!
b.) The Campanile holds an extensive collection of fossils from the La Brea Tar Pits, the actual bones of the T-Rex in VLSB, and the remains of Abraham Lincoln.
How cool is that?
c.) UC Berkeley owns the airspace between Sather Tower and the bay, so that nothing can obstruct the lovely view or interfere the university’s top secret aeronautic weapons development program.
Weren’t expecting that, were you?
5.) There are three university seals triangulating Memorial Glade. But be careful! If you step on one of them, a monstrous chasm will open in the Earth before you, and powerful fire-bodied daemon will rise from its depths to curse you with a low GPA:
What they don’t tell you is that the accursed demonic entity is a just metaphor for difficult classes, grade deflation, and poor time management!
4.) UC Berkeley has countless famous alumni, including Governor Chris Pine, actor Jerry Brown, and campus celebrity Jake Fineman:
This is a neat filler fact while you’re walking backwards towards Moffitt. It might even trick prospective students into thinking they’ll get famous if they come to Cal!
3.) Rumor has it that if you search hard enough in main stacks, you can find the original draft of the Magna Carta, the first printed copy of Hamlet, and multiple couples having sex:
Honestly, any one of those is a plausibility. The Magna Carta is supposed to be super rare, though, so who knows?
2.) If you stand at the center of the half-circle bench in front of Valley Life Sciences Building and whisper, you can hear the sound of your dreams dying in the echo!:
Then again, that just may be for students who step on the seal. Only one way to find out!
1.) Oh, him? That’s just UC Berkeley’s beloved mascot, Oski the Bear!:
A good way to round out any tour is to address the strange person in the creepy bear costume that’s been following the group the entire time. Everyone will definitely understand after they learn it’s Oski!