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  • Mari Kauffman, Staff Writer

Opinion: Should you step on the seal?

Updated: Apr 9


The bronze seal in front of Hatfield Library. Photo by Keenan Yoshizawa

The bronze Willamette seal depicting a beaver is located outside the Hatfield Library. The seal is known to all Willamette students and faculty; professors and students pass it by as they head to the Bistro, to classes and to Goudy. However, the superstition that stepping on the seal will automatically cause an individual bad luck is a mystery in itself. Perhaps the answer to how it became a superstition will never be known, but the ultimate questions are: Should students step on the seal? And … could all of this be a lie? 


A step on the seal is not unlike the phrase, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” The superstition is not legitimate, but people avoid it anyway, and for what reason? The fear of failing midterms and finals? To avoid breaking their mother’s back? While it may be understandable to purposefully maneuver around the seal, being manipulated by a fictitious curse is quite frankly absurd. Why not step on the seal? The superstition has yet to be proven. As far as actual evidence goes, a student cannot be proven to have failed their exams because they accidentally stepped on the cursed seal. So, why are students avoiding the seal? 


After speaking with several students, a common opinion appeared to be that most people avoid stepping on the seal, so the seal’s “bad luck” is never tested. Emma Matthews (‘27) also mentioned, “Knowing that [students are] stepping on something that’s considered bad luck gives them bad luck.” If a person is unconsciously aware that they're stepping on the seal, they won’t be cursed with an “F” on their next exam.

However, Sofawni Gay (‘27) stated, “This superstition was made up to try to keep the seal clean. ….  I haven’t stepped on it yet. … my dog won’t either.” So what does it mean? Either Willamette really cares about the cleanliness of the beaver, or it’s just paranoia guiding students in a different direction. Either way, it’s concerning that people let an unproven superstition control the way they walk to Goudy and the Bistro. 


A foot daring to step close to the seal. Photo by Keenan Yoshizawa

Paranoia and fear are the common themes in motivations for avoiding the seal. But is it rational? There’s no documented evidence that anyone has failed their exams from stepping on the seal. If there’s no evidence, what makes the decision to not step on the seal comprehensible? If anything, it’s the reason to step on the seal — people like to rebel. 


People come from different backgrounds; backgrounds shape their personal beliefs that might make them avoid the curse of the seal. However, some people couldn’t care less about the superstition and prioritize getting to and from classes. 


All students are different, and yet all seem to share the same fear that “stepping on the seal will mess up exam scores,” according to Ciandra Choun (‘27). But how can that be accepted if there’s no hard evidence that this superstition is true? For any kind of apparition sighting, evidence is significant in proving its validity. If there’s no history behind this idea, isn’t it fair to speculate that the person or people who continue to convince students that they will fail their exams if they step on the seal, even years later, may have just created a myth? 


The temptation to step on it is right there, in the middle of Jackson Plaza. It jumps at students every time they pass through it. It tugs at their hearts, but still, the feeling of paranoia is controlling them. Failing is in no way connected to stepping on the seal. Why not step on the beaver? It’s not like some kind of discordant sound is going to ring in the background as the foot touches the face of the beaver! 


So, should students step on the seal? While most of the superstition has to do with personal beliefs, half of it is the tales that students have heard on Bearcat Days and through the campus tours. Really, it could just be propaganda spread by the administration to entice high school students to join the Willamette community. 


Students don’t want to take the chance of failing their exams. They avoid the beaver by circling around the bronze Willamette seal. There’s no certainty that this superstition is real. This could all be a lie to keep the seal clean, as Gay mentioned.  Is it really worth avoiding the seal based on gossip and a coincidentally failed exam? This all could be fictitious. Some students are more superstitious than others, but all the situation comes down to is personal belief.


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Inez Nieves
Inez Nieves
09. Apr.

I stepped on the seal first semester and then a couple weeks later my colon stopped working and I had to take a medical withdrawal. Probably a coincidence, but hey, I'd rather play it safe.

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