Fostering School Spirit

The College hardly exudes school spirit. While a student at Williams can innocuously strut around campus dressed in a purple cow costume, most students at Amherst would rather don that same outfit than dress up as the mascot Lord Jeffrey Amherst (because honestly, despite its absurdity, a purple cow is by the far the more huggable of the two). The turnout at most athletic and extracurricular competitions rarely far exceeds the players or members themselves. And no, the first word of “A Hymn to Amherst” is not “what.”

This Friday, the College will be having a pep rally in LeFrak Gymnasium. At first glance, this seems like exactly what the College needs. After a year of divisiveness, fueled by disputes over the Multicultural Resource Center and whatever other elephants in the room, the College’s spirit seems as fragmented as ever. What better way to mend those cracks than to get together and have a good time? No pretensions, no obligations, just a carefree moment to cheer everyone on.

Well, not everyone. For many students who are killing their theses (and dying in the process), there is only silence. It is, after all, a fall sports and not a thesis pep rally. While everyone should be happy and eager to cheer their peers on, if any endeavour is to be commended, each and every endeavour must be also be commended, because in the end, Amherst students, like most people of achievement, at times can be petty. When praise is the norm, a lack of acknowledgement becomes an affront. To single out one is to alienate the rest. In lieu of the fact that the event was motivated, at least partially, to give thanks to a generous donor, one is left to wonder whether the pep rally really aspires to help the school come together as a whole or whether it is designed to cater to only a particular subset.

Pep rallies are a somewhat novel concept at Amherst. Maybe they should stay novel. If one’s college is truly a reflection of one’s self, a strong spirit is a balanced spirit, a cohesive spirit. While the whimsical outburst of coordinated cheers and movements can give the veneer of school spirit, the fabric of a strong spirit can only be weaved by a heartfelt mindfulness towards others. It is the “good job” when credit is due, the friendly “hello,” however awkward it may be. It does not manifest itself in grand gestures, but rather the mundane events that flow through daily life, too often neglected. To encompass the diversity of the College, the mind and heart must be generous and all-inclusive, in all contexts and at all times. Only then can the school’s spirit flourish. While common sense might suggest that some is better than none at all, sometimes, it’s all or nothing.