UC Hastings students have quietly resurrected an old college mascot, dubbing their Student Commons “The Shark Tank,” which, in addition to a ping pong table and a motley collection of mismatched institutional furniture, contains a mounted plastic shark.
The theme fits with perhaps the first-known meme, that lawyers are sharks. And the concrete plaza in front of Snodgrass Hall at 198 McAllister is inexplicably named “The Beach,” and has been so for decades.
In 1988, the Hastings Society for Esprit de Corps announced that students had overwhelmingly selected the shark as the college’s “official” mascot. Less popular choices included “The Reasonably Prudent Persons,” “The Concrete Commandos,” “The Winos,” and “The Frank Watsons.” (Editor’s note: No, I don’t know what most of those mean. Please don’t write in to ask. And don’t call. Really.)
In the campaign to elect a mascot, one student writer noted that “inanimate objects can be just as lovable as any animal,” and pointed to the success of the Singing California Raisins. Other students begged their peers to adopt nontraditional mascots, in homage to the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slug. “We can learn from Santa Cruz’s experience with do-gooders who thought they knew what was ‘appropriate’ for a mascot,” reported college newspaper staffer writer Daniel Torrance ‘89. “Students there suffered with the panty-waisted Sea Lions for five years before the edict was overturned by a mass uprising.”
The UC Hastings mascot campaign lasted a grueling five weeks, just shy of that year’s presidential campaign.
Matthew Davis ‘89, the executive editor of the college newspaper, wrote that the administration “has yet to give the mascot any bite,” nor had it appeared on any college letterhead. The shark logo did eventually make it on stickers, mugs, shirts, etc.
Davis’s report contained this dubious quote from a UC Hastings official who did not want to be identified: “We are studying the issue to make sure that the image conforms with the very positive image of the school which we’re trying to convey. There’s so much good news coming out of this place, and we want to make sure our selection of a mascot helps to depict this.” (Editor’s note: Please ignore the poor grammar. We assume this official has since retired.)
Davis, now a top San Francisco litigator with Walkup Melodia and numerous multimillion-dollar verdicts under his belt, said he is still pro-shark. He notes, in other shark-related news, that there are about 10 UC Hastings alumni who regularly swim at the South End Rowing Club, at Aquatic Park. Burk "Buck" Delventhal ’69, who is also an adjunct professor, is credited with recruiting most of them. Delventhal has been swimming daily in the Bay since 1978.
Rising 3L and ASUCH President Joy Siu was a proponent of naming the student lounge in the 200 Building the Shark Tank. “I love that our mascot, official or not, is a shark,” she says. “To me, adopting the shark as our school's mascot was a step towards embracing a typically disparaging analogy and treating it with humor. Although lawyers are not typically known for their sense of humor, I think demonstrating that the UC Hastings community has one is a good thing. I'm proud to be a shark!”
Ashli Weiss ’14, founder of UC Hastings’ Fashion, Art & Design Law Society, featured a shark in her winning design of a T-shirt to promote Student Engagement & Philanthropy Week. "In designing a t-shirt for UC Hastings, I latched on to the idea of utilizing a shark, because it is a symbol of strength, instinct, confidence and fearlessness."
Editor’s Note: There is also rumored to have been at some point in UC Hastings history an actual shark tank, possibly stocked with at least one small shark. This rumor could not be substantiated.
Hat tip to Librarian Justin Edgar for another successful UC Hastings archive research project.