The Big 'C'

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The Big 'C' is a giant concrete block built on the Berkeley Hills in 1905 by the students of the University of Berkeley, California, of the class of 1907 and 1908. The monument measures 60 x 27 ft. and is painted gold for the school colors. It overlooks the entire city of Berkeley and has been noted for its great view of the Bay Area. The Big 'C' is often seen as a physical manifestation of the school’s spirit. The hike up to the Big 'C' is seen as a rite of passage by many students and student organizations in UC Berkeley.

The Big C


The Big 'C' began construction in 1905 in an attempt for the administration to “alleviate interclass tensions” between the freshmen and sophomore students. It is said that construction on the Big 'C' occurred even in the rain, where one could see both classes “[forming] a human chain to relay building materials up the slope”. At the time of its completion, it became the sophomore’s jobs to keep the Big 'C' clean and painted gold, but since then the responsibility of maintaining the Big 'C' has fallen onto the UC Rally Committee.

The Song

A song named after the Big 'C' was composed by Harold P. Williams in 1913, with lyrics by Norman Loyall McLaren. This song was later entered into the Daily Californian’s annual school song competition in the same year and won against its competitor, “Jonah”. “Big C” is traditionally the first song played by the marching band during the pregame.

       There is some controversy behind the song when UCLA took an arrangement of “Big C” for their marching band and wrote new lyrics to it while renaming the song “Sons of Westwood”.  “Sons of Westwood” continues to be used as UCLA’s fight song, despite the fact that the original tune was written for UC Berkeley.


The Big 'C' is often a target by rival schools of UC Berkeley. Schools like Stanford will sometimes attempt to paint the monument in their colors during game day or important events between the two schools. To prevent the recoloring of the Big 'C' before the Stanford game or a coast championship game, the area around the monument is outlined in electric lights and guarded through the night.


During 2012, the ASUC passed a bill that claimed its support of a $75,000 renovation project for the structural reinforcement of the Big 'C'. Repairs were deemed necessary as no formal reinforcements were made to the Big 'C' since its construction in 1905. Prior to the project, the Big 'C' was determined to be dangerous as the soil around the monument was weak and could not support the weight of the concrete, causing the Big 'C' to sink and slide. In the bill, the ASUC “[endorsed] the UC Rally Committee’s efforts to reinforce the Big 'C' to preserve and promote Cal spirit for generations to come”.