So We Have A Beaver Statue Now.

Caltech is not a school well known for sport or school spirit. Many undergraduate students have more pride in their house than their school and it is much more common to see people in Blacker or Fleming shirts than it is to see them in the bright orange Caltech shirts. Most of the undergraduate population does not care about our sports teams. And yet, 25% of us are members of one. For such a large sporting population Caltech has an incredibly low amount of school spirit. 

Caltech themselves have been trying to encourage more school spirit with new “Orange Fridays”, telling people to wear orange clothes on Fridays. They even went as far as issuing “violations” to students not wearing orange the Friday before Orange Out, the Caltech Athletics day with many home sporting events. Wearing orange is a very visible marker of school spirit, but it is still a rare sight on campus.

Caltech Athletics is trying a new solution to the school spirit problem. They installed a 4-foot-tall solid bronze statue of a beaver outside the Braun gym. The beaver is a surprisingly realistic depiction of a beaver gnawing on a stick. In addition to the new statue, on May 21st they will unveil a name for the mascot. Caltech’s mascot, the beaver, currently does not have an official name. It does however have a LinkedIn page which claims it is called “Bucky Beaver”. This name was not chosen in a democratic manner, so to try to remedy this error, a new name will be selected. 

The naming process has taken at least a month, first soliciting suggestions from all corners of campus. Then a naming committee met to filter through the 100 or so suggestions. The committee narrowed the list down to 5 entries, selecting based on several criteria including starting with a B, being science based, and a name our opponents couldn’t make fun of. The 5 names selected were “Bernoulli” (Berni, for short), “Byte”, “Beta”, “Bunsen”, and “Buster”.

All of these names start with a B, so the first criteria at least is met. Bernoulli is science based and the shortened version feels familiar and is appropriately gender neutral. It is the suggestion I have heard the most support for. Byte is an appropriately science, or computer science, based and is of ambiguous gender. However, if said as a full name, that is “Byte the Beaver” it could easily be misheard. Beta is also science themed and gender neutral. However, in addition to being a type of radiation, Beta is a so-called “type of male”, and is used as an insult to refer to a weak or submissive person. Bunsen is both science based and gender neutral and I have heard no faults with it. Buster seems like an outlier in that it is far less gender neutral or science themed than any of the other entries.  

The shortlist of 5 names was then sent as a poll to all members of the Caltech. The results of the poll were once again sent to the naming committee to certify the results and chose the final name to be unveiled on May 21st.

The beaver statue itself has been several years in the making. It started with an anonymous donation with the request that the money be used for something they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do. According to Betsy Mitchell, the beaver statue was just the opportunity. Caltech worked with several in house artists who worked on the design of the statue. Once the design was finalized, a mold was made, then finally the statue. In fact, because Caltech owns the model, this statue could be the first of many.

The beaver statue so far seems to be a success. More people are talking about school spirit and our mascot than I have ever heard. Weather it will remain that way once the novelty wears of remains to be seen. Perhaps the beaver statue will become as iconic on campus as the Fleming canon is. Perhaps it will be included in pranks or new traditions. The beaver statue is an investment in school spirit and only the future knows if it was worth the price.