The phrase “school spirit” tends to evoke a specific kind of image.
We see big university athletics and packed stadiums overflowing with bright red, burnt orange or maroon.
We remember high school pep rallies, halls lined with glittery poster boards, and the change in the air as game day approached.
It doesn’t matter if we were the ones in the uniforms or the ones rolling our eyes at the elitism of it all. We each have our own images, our own memories, but the essential elements of it remain the same: tradition, authenticity and community all wrapped up in a competitive package.
So when we hear people talking about school spirit as it applies to UHCL, a conversation that has been noticeably loud this year, it’s easy to be a skeptic.
This university doesn’t have competitive athletics or a thundering stadium full of fans. We never wonder if there’s a bar fight on the other side of the state over whether the guy sitting next to us in class will be drafted next year.
It’s easy to feel like we have nothing to rally behind.
We know this isn’t a traditional university. We don’t feel like traditional students.
Our average student age is not the standard 18 to 22 years. We have more students living in the real world than we have anticipating it as they pursue a higher education.
Many of us have to find our balance over and over again every day because we’ve taken on more roles than any sane person would. We have families, jobs, internships and responsibilities that reach far beyond campus.
Now there’s talk of dedicating a specific day of the week to wearing our school colors – just as if we had game days.
Hearing about this during the semester before our doors open to freshmen and sophomores can make it feel less like authenticity and more like a marketing ploy.
It’s easy to find a reason not to bother with it, to say there’s no time or motive.
Except a large part of what makes us so non-traditional is that we are exceptionally talented at avoiding what is easy.
We Hawks like challenges.
We have the elements upon which school spirit is built. Our tradition is in our differences. We find our authenticity in our peers. We know the person next to us didn’t come here because he was following his high school friends or because she was under pressure from her parents.
What unites us is that each of us made a conscious choice to be here. We aren’t trying college out.
We know we want it.
None of us started out here and, in a way, it feels like we’ve all paid our dues.
We’re a community because of that.
Even if we weren’t before, all of this talk about downward expansion has bonded this student body more than any organized attempt ever could.
As soon as the words come out there’s an almost audible groan from anyone within earshot.
There are students worried the guy in class sharing NASA water-cooler talk is going to be replaced by an 18-year-old with Bieber Fever.
There are students excited but also very bored with the conversation – those who wish it would just happen already.
Whether we were annoyed or excited in the beginning of the process, we’re all ready to quit discussing it now.
That could be where skepticism about a new spirit day will evolve, though.
Is this something we will do because we want to, or is it something we’re supposed to do to sell the university to incoming freshmen?
The incoming freshmen haven’t paid their dues. Right now, this one common thread connects us all.
Next year we lose it – there will never be another first freshman class at UHCL.
Yes, we’re worried that next year will rearrange our entire campus culture. We like our non-traditional school and our non-traditional peers. We like things the way they are.
Maybe that’s why we should do it.
We should embrace this spirit day idea. Our desire to hold onto the environment we have won’t stop changes from happening.
Next year could change the entire culture of this school, but if we make an effort to pass down what we have now, maybe it won’t.
What we have now is a community and all of the quirks, complaints and inside jokes that come along with it.
What we have now is an environment where any student can be involved, no matter how non-traditional he or she is.
We need to pass down that inclusiveness.
We don’t need to do it for the new kids. We need to do it for us – to preserve what we’ve found here.
We need to make sure the first freshman class knows to welcome everyone. We can only do that by showing them that we think our current culture is a source of pride.
Wednesday morning, when you get dressed, reach for something blue or green. It doesn’t have to be a UHCL shirt from the bookstore. Grab the blue button-up or the green scarf.
The beauty of making this a student effort is that you can make it as big or as little as you want to make it.