First-year engineering students entering the University of Calgary are fully immersed into faculty lore. Don’t be surprised if you overhear a new engineering student recount a decades-old tale of debauchery while using the pronoun ‘we’ in the coming weeks. Many of these stories are dubiously true — other than the few photos floating around, they’re nearly impossible to verify — but they’re a vital piece of campus history. You’ve likely heard about the car hanging from the U of C’s arch, pictured above, but here’s a few more of the greatest hits.
Students have been spinning the zipper — located in the lobby of Science Theatres — for pre-test good luck since its installation in 1975. Engineers, however, don’t believe in the fortuitous elements of the zipper and avoid spinning it altogether. Instead, they’ve conducted at least two elaborate pranks on the installation. In 2002, a White Nissan Micra appeared in Science Theatres with the zipper protruding through its hood and its body filled with water. The car was removed without a trace overnight, though both campus security and facilities denied moving the car themselves. There’s also rumour of engineering students dismantling the Zipper as a prank before finding themselves unable to put it back together. The artist, Katie Ohe, had to come to the university to reconstruct the sculpture.
Engineering students don’t look too kindly upon some of the other faculties, and that’s most true when it comes to those enrolled in business. In fact, engineers colloquially refer to business’s Scurfield Hall as the “Temple of Greed.” In differing accounts, engineering students removed either every single toilet seat or every sink — and perhaps even stall dividers — from Scurfield Hall’s bathrooms. A giant clown’s face stolen from Calaway Park was also allegedly hung above the business dean’s office. Business students have supposedly struck back over the years, but details of those pranks haven’t survived the test of time.
Rumour has it that decades ago engineering students concocted a fake student named Joe Pillar, who, despite not existing, was a model student in the eyes of the university. Students took turns completing his assignments, writing his exams and pooling together his tuition money — this was back when going to school didn’t cost thousands a semester. Soon enough, Joe was one semester from graduating. But university administration wised up to the fictitious student and ended his academic career only months before his convocation. Joe’s popularity earned him hundreds of write-in votes in Students’ Union elections throughout the late-‘70s and early-‘80s.
Unearthed during the construction of the Social Sciences building, the rocks have been on campus for almost 50 years. Students are allowed to paint whatever they like on the rocks, be it advertisments for on-campus events or commentary on another country’s presidential election. The rock outside MacKimmie Tower has worn hundreds of coats of paint and endured a fair share of abuse in its time. Engineering students once parked a Volkswagen on top of the rock, but they also once turned the rock into a cube using concrete, remnants of which are still visible if you look closely at the ground surrounding the rock. If that wasn’t enough, the rock has made the trip back and forth to Edmonton multiple times as rival students at the University of Alberta drove down Highway 2 to steal it — to say nothing of old students’ hobby of setting the rock on fire before securities cameras were installed atop buildings. Paint burns well, it seems.