Thursday, February 4, 2010

GW Spirit: Who Cares?

The administration of The George Washington University just won't give up on "spirit". They insist on marketing the school's athletic program as "lively" and as "contribut[ing] immeasurably to the GW experience, school spirit and community pride." Anyone who goes to school here knows that is quite a stretch of the imagination. Sure, when the men's basketball team wins a few games in a row, interest peaks, as well as attendance at games. But if GW's sense of school spirit hinges on the game-to-game success of our men's basketball team, then we have a spirit problem bigger than our inconsistent athletic team.

GW has tried to drum up spirit in a number of ways. Most of them are ways to create a semblance of spirit by coercing large groups of students to attend games. For example, fraternities and sororities are awarded "points" (I don't know what the points mean) for attending certain games. Usually they leave at halftime. Another example is Colonial Challenge, a program that pits students and student organizations against each other in a Spirit Olympics. Groups are bribed to turn out to GW athletic events by being promised money for their organizations, whereas individuals compete for the chance to win cash prizes and GW gear. Of course, participation is highest in these programs when the men's basketball team is winning.

The administration at GW has to realize that this is a unique school that most students chose to attend not because it's spirit of tradition, or athleticism, but because its spirit of political engagement. GW is positioned to posses a special brand of "spirit" in which students feel most united and proud of their school when the Lisner Auditorium hosts an event featuring all of the living Secretaries of States, or we secure First Lady Michelle Obama as a commencement speaker. Most of the students I know are most excited about going to school here when big political speakers and events occur on campus, not when the men's basketball team wins a few games in a row. Students camp overnight in line for hours to get tickets to basketball games, but they will for an event featuring Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.

If the school wants to continue on their crusade to force spirit down our throats, they should at least attempt to foster spirit in an area that GW students are actually interested in, rather than insisting that the foundation of a school's sense of pride needs to come from it's sport teams.

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