Don’t walk on the hawk – The background of a tradition


Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

The golden hawk on the floor of the first level of the Fred Nichols Campus Centre has a well-known tradition surrounding it, but many students today may not know the origins of why they’re not allowed to step on it.

“It’s intriguing how something so simple can generate a lot of attention and become a source of pride,” said Dan Dawson, assistant vice president of student services at Wilfrid Laurier University.

According to Dawson, the hawk was placed on the floor by the Students’ Union for the very purpose of becoming a Laurier tradition.

“The tradition is only as old as 1996, when the [Fred Nichols] building reopened,” Dawson explained. “There’s many institutions that have traditions around having a mascot or something else they have on their campus — this was an easy and fairly inexpensive way to establish respect as the golden hawk as the mascot for the university.”

From the nineties onward, Laurier attempted to create a rich tradition similar to other universities.

Dawson was on board with the peculiar design because it gave Laurier a quirk that could not be recreated on another campus.

“Laurier has often been accused of not having a lot of tradition,” Dawson said.

“You go to [University] of Guelph and there’s old buildings and lots of history, the same goes for Queen’s [University], Western [University], [University] of Toronto and so on.”

“Those campuses just by virtue of their design and architecture have a lot of history and Laurier is so young compared to them.”

Dawson was a student at Laurier from 1985 to 1989, and has been an employee of the school since he graduated.

In his 29 years, he has been astounded at how loyal students have remained to the hawk since it was placed in the floor.

In fact, when the hawk was removed eight years ago, students had a very strong reaction, Dawson said.

“We had gone through a series of renovations in that area and the last one became controversial when I had just left,” said Dan Robert, Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union president from 2005 to 2006 and current associate director of development: library and student affairs at the university.

“When the project had been taken over, for whatever reason they hadn’t taken the hawk into account and at the end of the project it had disappeared from the floor,” he said. “People didn’t like that.”

Students lobbied against this new redesign and demanded the hawk be retrieved and placed back in the floor. The Union paid to have it put back in.

“It’s intriguing how something so simple can generate a lot of attention” – Dan Dawson, AVP Student Services

“It’s something that bands the students together,” Robert said.

“More importantly it’s something that even our alumni talk about.”

Robert’s class of 2004 will be celebrating their 10-year reunion at homecoming this year.

He explained that even today his classmates still honour the tradition and do not walk on the hawk.

“I think that’s one of the key goals of the university,” Robert said. “To keep their alumni engaged.”

Whether students are avid non-walkers or don’t care about the tradition, the original intentions of 1996 have remained true throughout these last 18 years.

People still know about the unwritten rule — or better yet, people still walk past it.

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