Taekman: Spartan School Spirit

Sarah Taekman, Columnist

Imagine your archetypical college football game.

The screaming student section and the echoes of the marching band bouncing around the stadium as a player gears his arm back and throws, full-force. A moment of near tangible tension as the ball sails into the end zone, an explosion of noise when it neatly lands in his teammate’s arms. Touchdown! The crowd goes wild—they rush the field, hoisting the players on their shoulders. With pride in their voices, the packed field starts a battle cry: “Spartans! Spartans!”

In other words: not really something that happens at Case Western Reserve University.

It’s not really a secret that CWRU lacks the enthusiasm for sports, chants and overwhelming school spirit that your typical high-ranking university would have. Saturday night football games. We are getting better thanks to the school spirit organization Blue CWRU, but still relatively low in attendance. Tailgating? Eh. A rowdy student section? Not often.

The lackluster CWRU spirit expands past just the playing field. For example, the number of people that actually know what CWRU is outside of campus is dismal. Maybe you’ll find a person or two in S.T.E.M. careers that will approve your decision, but for the most part you’ll get blank stares. (“Case Western Reserve University? Is that a military school?” seems to be a classic question.) Students don’t hesitate to speak of CWRU as their second, third or even last choice school, listing preferred Ivy Leagues and top 10 schools as easily and comfortably as breathing.

More than once, I felt uncomfortable telling people I was coming here. Why pay so much for a non-Ivy? If you go to another school instead, won’t you get more name recognizability and job offers? Why not opt for this slightly higher ranked—and more spirited—school instead? For all its achievements and high-quality academics, CWRU didn’t feel like something to be proud of.

But now that I’m actually here, I wouldn’t have chosen a different school for the world. In fact, the amount of school pride I’ve felt and encountered here has far surpassed what I was expecting.

Yes, we have some work to do on the sports front. But for all the grief that students give the school, I still see a large degree of student pride for CWRU. It just manifests in a slightly different—and less sporty—way.

I see it on social media all the time: a prime example being my Facebook wall when, everywhere I looked, everyone had shared CWRU’s 32nd place finish on The Wall Street Journal’s rankings. I’ll get articles from relatives detailing scientific discoveries and research done here through the university’s students.

I see it in the overwhelming amount of student involvement we have here. If students here are moping over their lost Ivy opportunities, they’re definitely doing a good job of masking it behind their abundance of activities. The people I’ve met thus far on campus are some of the most involved I’ve ever encountered; sports, clubs, student government, jobs, charity work and Greek life—the typical CWRU student generally is involved in at least three of those fields.

And I see it in the free CWRU shirts frequently worn around campus, telling souvenirs from campus events and student activities past.

We don’t talk much about our love for CWRU. But we show it—whether it be through social media, community involvement or even simply donning Spartan garb. School spirit here isn’t in the form of sport support; it’s more centered around representing the school name.

And we do a good job of it. We take pride in our studies and research, we pitch CWRU as a charity and science powerhouse in the Cleveland community and student achievements spread a positive Spartan brand to the rest of the country. While some people might have initial trepidations about getting into the Spartan spirit, the tide of student involvement and positivity helps them get over it pretty quickly.

It’s not really your stereotypical sports-centric school spirit—but at a university like CWRU, does that surprise anyone?

Sarah Taekman is a first-year student planning to major in Biology.