Where’s the spirit?

With Homecoming already underway, Case Western Reserve University should be overflowing with the expression school spirit. However, as we walk through the quad it is obvious that this is not the case. Instead, students’ tepid interest is making it abundantly clear that this is one area in which CWRU is severely lacking. And this is not an issue that is only reserved to homecoming week. In fact, this problem can be traced throughout the entire school year.

For evidence of this claim, check out the attendance statistics for our home athletic events. From what we’ve seen, it usually ranks somewhere in the vicinity of abysmal. True, this is not on its own an indicator of our (lack of) school spirit; CWRU is a proudly self-admitted “nerd school,” and spectating at sporting events often does not rank highly in students’ interests. However, poor game attendance combined with a dearth of all-campus events which might otherwise replace sports as a channel for spirit does indicate a larger problem.

CWRU has few all-campus events to begin with, and those that draw crowds do so for pretty transparent reasons. People attend the Thwing Study Over (or the first 45 minutes of it, anyway) for the free food, and campus swag. They attend Greek Week because, for a significant subset of the campus community, it’s mandatory. Perhaps the only genuinely all-campus event that is well attended on its own merit is Springfest. And while that is all well and good for one day out of the year, that still leaves 364 days when our approach to school spirit could be described as Case Western Reserved.

Before this editorial goes any further, it does bear noting: CWRU has pride; what it lacks is spirit. As an ad hoc committee set up through the Office of Student Affairs to look into the spirit issue defined, pride is the feeling of satisfaction people have when they enjoy being a part of a group, while spirit is the outward expression of that pride.

This committee and The Observer are not alone in recognizing CWRU’s school spirit issue, and several groups on campus are working to turn our pride into spirit. The Class Officer Collective is trying new initiatives to solidify class communities, notably with its homecoming competition, pitting the classes against each other in a battle of attendance. It’s a strong effort, and a way to build community within each class as a stepping stone to building whole university spirit.

Athletics, too, is aiming to bring in more student interest with more unique sporting events; activities like last year’s inaugural live-action battleship in canoes in the Veale Natatorium aim to draw students where more traditional sports such as football are largely failing to do so. These are only two more noteworthy examples of the many groups throwing their effort into attempts to raise the student body’s spirit. It’s great to see that CWRU is working on it.

With school pride a non-issue and programs in place to increase our spirit, then, why is this still such an issue? One explanation is that students here are putting their demonstrations of pride toward specific groups rather than the school as a whole. There is no shortage of events happening on campus, but most of them are limited (by design or, more frequently, just by who chooses to show up) to a specific subset of students associated with whatever group is throwing the event.

Perhaps the most convincing explanation for this continued scarcity of spirit, though, is the scarcity of spirit itself: it’s a cycle. A few students show up at an event, see that it’s laughably under-attended, and head back to their dorms disappointed. The next time they see flyers for an event, they remember that time they went and were bored and they decide not to attend, thus contributing to this event being under-attended as well.

Given this explanation, the best course of action to right our lack of school spirit is clear: we simply need to participate. In the end, school spirit cannot come from on high, and no amount of administrative intervention or COC pep can make school spirit happen. If each of us contributes simply by lending our presence and willingness to interact with each other, we together can create this spirit.