How many squirrels does it take to ace your midterms? What is the creepiest school song you can think of? How many references to sex toys will the Fresh U editors let me put in here? The answers to all of these questions, and more, can be found below, as I take you through 10 facts you (probably) didn't know about the University of Texas at Austin.
1. Albino squirrels mean good luck.
The squirrels around campus are bold little creatures, constantly flitting in and out of trash cans and straying very close to students. But there are a few particularly elusive squirrels: the albino squirrels. Some of these squirrels are actually more of a blonde color, but they're pretty easily distinguishable from the other squirrels on campus. If you see one on the same day as a test, legend has it that you will get an A on that test.
2. Littlefield home has an exotic tree.
Littlefield home is the out-of-place Victorian abode on the west side of campus near Guadalupe. It belonged to George Littlefield, one of UT's original regents and biggest partons (also the namesake of Littlefield dorm and Littlefield fountain). This guy was so rich that he had an exotic tree, a Himalayan Cedar (shown above on the left), imported along with special soil to keep the tree alive.
3. Every night, the tower plays the creepiest school song in history.
Every single night, the UT tower automatically plays a spooky rendition of "The Eyes of Texas." "The Eyes of Texas" is our official school song, adapted to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." I personally believe it's the best school song in existence. Want to know why? Here are the lyrics:
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
All the livelong day.
The Eyes of Texas are upon you,
You cannot get away.
Do not think you can escape them
At night or early in the morn —
The Eyes of Texas are upon you
Til Gabriel blows his horn.
I kid you not. How something that creepy, to the tune of a children's song, became our official song, I'll never know. But it did, and now I can reap the benefits of seeing the shocked looks people get when I tell them the words.
After all, how else will you be reminded on a nightly basis that an unforgiving, glowing, burnt-orange monolith is monitoring your every move?
4. The tower isn't 100 percent automated.
The tower rings the Westminster Quarters every 15 minutes every hour of every day, so it's no surprise that most of that is automated. However, UT also has a club (yes, you can join) called the Guild of Student Carillonneurs: a band of students who practice songs to play on the tower bells. These songs are often festive, changing with the seasons.
5. We have a Robert E. Lee statue.
The University of Texas is, as you may have guessed, based in Texas. It was founded in the 1860s, right after the Civil War, and you can occasionally see vestiges of this on campus. For instance, George Littlefield, mentioned above, was a confederate officer. But probably the most brazen example of the university's history is located, to this day (I checked last week), on the south mall near Littlefield Fountain. There are five statues, one of which is George Washington, and one of which is Robert E. Lee. Interestingly enough, many students don't know that the statue is still there, hence the reason I felt the need to verify its presence. Many believe that the statue was taken down. Nope. That was the statue of Jefferson Davis (president of the confederacy), which was moved to a museum. The statue of Lee is still there. Old, battered and covered in bird droppings, but still there.
It's my personal theory that this is the reason why there are statues (and statues in miniature) of Martin Luther King Jr. and Barbara Jordan scattered around campus: to compensate.
6. Your desert tortoise does not belong in the turtle pond!
The turtle pond is a lovely little pond located between the tower and the tower memorial. What does it have? Take a wild guess. The pond is home to a few types of turtles that belong in there, but the population is always shifting. Some people occasionally decide that the pond is a good place to get a free turtle. Other times, they decide it's a good place to abandon a desert tortoise. Please do not add or remove any animals from the turtle pond.
On that note, there is a very little known fact about the turtle pond: there is a GIGANTIC turtle in there somewhere. It's incredible to believe, but I've seen it on some students' Snapchat stories, caught on camera. It's not quite as big as a sea turtle, but it's pretty close. To this day, it remains a mystery to me how I can never find it.
7. There's a reason we have a tower memorial.
This isn't exactly a "fun fact," but if you come to UT, it's one of the first things your tour guide will tell you. On August 1, 1966, a former marine named Charles Whitman climbed to the top of UT tower, took out his sniper and shot and killed 14 students. It is the most dramatic incident to ever take place on campus. By the turtle pond rests a memorial listing the names of the students who were killed.
Along with this piece of knowledge, you will also hear complaints about the recent concealed carry law passed by the Texas legislative, which allows individuals with a permit to carry concealed handguns on all public campuses. This law as put into action on August 1, 2016, the 50-year anniversary of the tower shooting. As you can imagine, this raised some eyebrows.
8. At UT, students (generally) prefer cocks, not glocks.
The "Cocks Not Glocks" protest (Spanish: "Penes Sí, Pistolas No") took place during my very first week here at UT. Students were upset about the concealed carry policy passed by the Texas legislature, and they combined this rage with another protest: it is illegal to have sex toys on campus, including dildos. Many students spurned this combination as being hypocritical, and the "Cocks Not Glocks" movement was born. Countless protesters took to the streets with dildos, handing out free toys to anyone they met. The protest has since died down, but the word "glock" (a type of pistol) will forever hold a special meaning to me.
9. You can look up the age of every building on campus.
Using this page on the campus website, you can look up the date every building on campus opened. For most of the buildings, none of these dates are surprising. Still, I loved how this website added an extra element to my view of various buildings: the choice of design, chairs and skybridge between the CLA (College of Liberal Arts) and SAC (Student Activity Center) suddenly made perfect sense. A quick search can also tell you that Littlefield is (unsurprisingly) UT's oldest dorm, with Duren being the newest (also not surprising).
10. Matthew McConaughey went here.
I'm sure UT has plenty of famous alumni, but the alum that everyone knows is Matthew McConaughey. That might be because he's also a teacher at UT. Seriously, here's proof.
That's Austin for you. It can swing between squirrel legends, children's song parodies, tragedy, dildos and interstellar astronauts all in one sitting. Nevertheless, all of these isolated facts help form the identity of UT Austin. And if there's one thing you should never forget about the identity of UT Austin, it's that you should always Keep Austin Weird.
Lead Image Credit: Elizabeth Robinson