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Are universities guilty of manufacturing school spirit?

Jessica Brutus | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Justin Labelle

Whether you cheer for your home team, join a student club or association, or simply wear your school’s sweatshirt around town, school spirit is a central part of any university experience. While this pride and support for your university happens naturally to a certain extent—you picked it over all the others—it is also fostered by the school itself. One of the main ways schools do this is through frosh week. This week of non-stop partying is aimed at fresh-faced first years out to have a good time as they get to know their university campus. But because frosh week targets such a specific group of students, it ends up alienating other groups. And school spirit, which should exist all year round, becomes a manufactured byproduct of frosh—a product with a short shelf life.

Students who have delayed attending university and are slightly older than your typical freshman may not be interested in frosh week and may opt out of it—not because they have no school spirit, but because, quite frankly, there are better things to do than shout foul cheers. It’s these students who may seem reluctant to show their support for their school, at least in the ways frosh week teaches us.

For those who do jump on the bandwagon for school spirit, it seems like it quickly fades away once the syllabi come around and the routine of school work and other stresses rears its head.

By Thanksgiving, most people have become sleepless zombies whose priorities have shifted largely to self-preservation. Frosh week aside, the beginning of the school year in general tends to foster more enthusiasm and interest in school sports, clubs, and other events than is present later in the year. A shiny new toy is always exciting before the novelty wears off.

School spirit also tends to fade as students progress in their years of study. Few students are as excited to come back to the same school in the fall of their fourth year as they were in the fall of their first. University is demanding and non-academic priorities may take a back seat.

All this to say that school spirit is not something that is well maintained throughout the whole school year. It’s packaged and manufactured in a nice frosh week kit, and diminishes soon afterwards. But is that such a bad thing? Just because something may not be outwardly visible doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You don’t have to cheer and chant to have school spirit; it’s simply anything that makes you feel like you belong. Even if the U of O sweater may be on inside out, it’s still a U of O sweater.