Some universities have rivalries. Others have war.
Last month Emory University’s Student Government Association President Amrit Dhir, donning fake military apparel, declared “war” against Washington University in St. Louis during an emergency government meeting in hopes of increasing school spirit and creating an official rivalry. Even though Washington University’s Student Union has expressed no interest in warfare with Emory, Dhir, an Emory senior, said the declaration itself has already boosted school pride.
“A year ago, this rivalry never existed,” Dhir told The Hatchet. “It existed in the minds of some, but today, there’s hardly a student on either campus who isn’t aware of it. That’s largely due to the war.”
It seems as if the “war” technique is working – at the first athletic competition between the two teams this year, there was a record turnout of fans.
“We had well over 500 students show up for the soccer game,” Dhir said. “Last year we had 167.”
Dhir said hundreds of students who attended the game also donned free shirts given out by the Student Government Association that proclaimed “Wash. U was my safety school.”
Shirts denigrating a rival university are something that GW students have become familiar with. This year freshmen Victor Danau, Ariel Goldring and Will Mason started selling shirts that read “Fuck Georgetown” to represent what they feel is an authentic rivalry between GW and its Northwest neighbor. Like Dhir, the trio views their actions as encouraging spirit on campus.
“We started a revolution,” Mason said. “What makes me happy is that when people see the shirt, they light up. (GW already) does a lot for spirit – this is just taking it in another way.”
Goldring, however, said that unlike Emory, GW does not have to create a rival – the disdain for Georgetown by GW students is something that just comes with enrollment.
“It’s sad that (Emory) had to force spirit,” he said. “A rivalry has to be innate. We just took the sentiment from around campus and put it on a shirt.”
For most schools, rivalries go hand in hand with sports. Texas- Oklahoma, Michigan-Ohio State and Florida-Georgia are some of the top rivalries in the country, largely because of their football matchups. In D.C., where basketball is king, Georgetown played GW regularly from 1918 until 1982, when GW’s athletic staff, which formulates the schedule, decided to end the series for unknown reasons.
Brad Bower, GW sports information director, said historically Georgetown is an athletic rival, but since it no longer plays men’s basketball against GW each year it couldn’t be considered the Colonials’ only rival. He said rivalries in GW sports change year to year and vary from sport to sport.
“Georgetown is our most natural rival because of our proximity,” he said. “But it’s hard for me to pinpoint one school and say it’s our rival.”
Bower said that in the mid-’90s GW’s main basketball rival was the University of Massachusetts, and now he thinks it’s probably Xavier University in Ohio. He also said Virginia’s Richmond University could become a rival in the future, since the school is nearby and GW plays it regularly.
Bower noted, however, that several sports teams continue to play Georgetown, including soccer, volleyball and women’s basketball.
Josh Hartman, assistant program coordinator for spirit programs at GW, said that while he thinks GW students have a lot of spirit and pride, he said it is unfortunately not always focused on sports teams.
“Our athletic teams are often overlooked,” he said. “Most students who are here are excited that we go here, not because we have a winning football team or anything.”
Meanwhile, there are no signs of preparations for “war” against Georgetown from the GW Student Association.
“Rivalries are great because they encourage students to get involved on campus,” said Jeff Goodman, SA vice president for judicial and legislative affairs. “However, the Student Association’s role should not be to create rivalries where they do not otherwise exist. Spirit is not a primary focus of the SA. That is the role of the (Student Activities Center) spirit office.”
SA President Audai Shakour reiterated Goodman’s views, adding that he had no interest in following Dhir’s footsteps by proclaiming “war.”
“Last time I checked, I am not constitutionally empowered to declare war on Georgetown,” Shakour said. “The only battles that GW will be engaged in with Georgetown will take place in the sports arena where our athletic teams will prove to be the most formidable in the District.”
Emory’s new rivalry began last month after an attack on its campus, which included several rolls of toilet paper and signs that proclaimed “Emory Sucks.” The attack occurred on the same night that Washington University’s campus was vandalized. But Many believe the rivalry was an elaborate hoax, and that Emory student government officials themselves organized both attacks.
Despite all the hype that the “war” declaration is causing at Emory, Washington University student government officials are staying mum. Although Washington’s Student Union President David Ader could not be reached for comment by The Hatchet, he has told other media organizations that he isn’t interested in warfare.
“I don’t disagree with the cause of school pride,” Ader told InsideHigherEd.com, “but this method is not exactly productive.”
-Katie Rooney contributed to this report.