Gracing the floor of Laurier’s Hall of Fame is the school’s Golden Hawk, a symbol of all things Laurier: school spirit, pride, community, and everything else the school brochure’s highlight as reasons why Laurier is amongst Canada’s Best. Tour guides and ice breakers alike are eager to tell prospective students or the new batch of frosh the fabled story: students go out of their way to walk around the school’s symbol. For Student Union Board of Directors Member, Laura Gray, she doesn’t walk over The Hawk because “It’s tradition and a sign of respect. And,” she adds, “all the cool kids don’t do it.” Walking over The Hawk, simply, is a sign of disrespect for the academic institution we attend.
Yet there are these “cool kids” who persist in disrespectfully walking over the Laurier emblem. And though I have no idea what the figure of students who walk over their school emblem is, these disrespectful fuckers who degrade The Hawk with the soles of their shoes, will continue to do so for whatever reasons they have.
Although the last thing I would ever consider myself is cool, I am one of those disrespectful fuckers. And yeah, I know the tradition, I know The Hawk’s symbolic meaning, and I don’t care.
But why? The last three plus years have been great, and I couldn’t imagine myself liking any other university as much as I do Laurier. Never in my life have I looked forward to going to school as much as I do now. Laurier is even on my shortlist of schools for an M.A. next year. How can I possibly walk over the symbol of the school that’s given me some of the best times of my life?
Tradition. That lovely word we’ve created that commends and values mindless repetition of something we’ve decided is worth repeating. That’s why.
Ever since an OAC seminar on Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, I have been sceptical of tradition. In short, the townspeople of the unnamed village in Jackson’s story hold an annual lottery that, since its inception, has coincided with favourable growing seasons. So what, it’s a lottery. What sane townsperson wouldn’t want to win the village’s 649? The only catch: the lottery’s winner wins the privilege to be stoned to death by the townspeople to ensure a plentiful growing season. Needless to say, the town’s tradition has nothing to do with the weather conditions in the summer months, and yet the townspeople blindly continue the tradition. If anything, Jackson’s story is a reminder that we should always question and evaluate our traditions before we embrace them.
So when I see The Hawk in the Hall of Fame I see people walking around a stamp of a hawk that isn’t even golden. The sight of it is ridiculous to me, even more so when the halls are teeming with students and the ever-faithful traditionalists continue to walk around The Hawk and add to the congestion in the small hall. Am I the only one who doesn’t see the logic in placing a symbol that’s representative of the school in the middle of the hall where people walk? And do these students even now how old this tradition is? Some know, maybe a lot of people know, but enough people don’t know The Hawk, our fabled and revered school symbol, has only been diverting the flow of traffic for six years (Dave I’m still awaiting verification from e-mail from student body)—that hardly seems like tradition when an English student like myself can count that high. It bothers me that people act like The Hawk is a time honoured tradition when six years ago when the Student’s Union manufactured a silly tradition and told people to follow it.
There’s one thing about The Hawk we can’t say about most of our other traditions. It’s a young enough tradition that, when we think about it, we realize how created it is, and that there’s no reason to continue the tradition because our ice breakers tell us to. Yet there are traditions so old we don’t realize they were created at one point in time. Christmas, for me, comes to mind. I’m not religious so celebrating Christmas on those grounds makes little sense, nor do I think I should celebrate shopping, consumerism, and the fact that I’m privileged enough to be in a position to receive things I don’t need when others are not, as a non-religious alternative.
I’d rather celebrate, of all things, Festivus. Frank Costanza’s creation appeals to me more than Christmas does based on the airing of grievances alone. Choosing Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us, after all, is as arbitrary a decision as walking around The Hawk. That episode of Seinfeld is even older than six years (again, Dave, I’m waiting for confirmation on that).