Diana Kugel: Beating the “buff and blue” blues

A few weeks ago, I logged onto my e-mail account only to find a message advertising “Thurst-tees.” The e-mail proudly proclaimed that this year’s freshman class has had the most EMeRG alcohol response cases in the University’s history. To commemorate this momentous occasion, a group of young entrepreneurs produced these cleverly named T-shirts, paying tribute to the location where most of the medical emergencies took place.

The glorification of excessive drinking to the point of needing medical attention aside, these T-shirts bothered me on another level. The fact that there is an apparent market for such apparel demonstrates something rather sad – this is what our sense of school spirit has come down to. While students at some other schools associate the same amount of pride with their college’s name as they will experience when their first child is born, GW students find the need to rally behind messages such as “most EMeRGed class ever!”

However, as disheartening as this is, maybe all of the blame does not fall with the students. As it is now, GW is not exactly the kind of school that fosters legendary college school spirit. Sure, we manage to make our fair share of noise at the basketball games, but on a day-to-day basis, let’s just say it’s not that hard for students to contain their enthusiasm.

For starters, what exactly is our mascot? Is it George Washington, some sort of generic colonial-era man or our unofficial hippo? Other colleges are able to unite behind a single symbol that promotes school pride – our wide array of mascots simply promotes confusion. Also, as was also pointed out to me by several people, it’s kind of hard to get excited about being “buff and blue.”

Maybe we could get away with these multiple mascots if there was already a sense of camaraderie on campus. Unfortunately, this is not the case. More often, we just seem to be 20,000 young adults all clutching Starbucks cups while rushing around the same several city blocks. Perhaps that is actually the root of the problem – we see ourselves as part of a city, not of a campus.

Again, that may not really be entirely our fault. Just try and figure out where exactly the Foggy Bottom campus starts and where it ends. One of GW’s major selling points is its prominent location in the heart of D.C. However, we may have done a bit too good of a job of integrating GW into its urban surroundings. While students are very well in-tune with what’s going on in the city, the feeling of campus solidarity from a physical standpoint leaves something to be desired.

It is understandable that it would be hard for any college to compete with such a vibrant city. When students can identify themselves as citizens of the same city of the president and powerful politicians, not to mention monuments and cultural centers galore, why would they want to primarily see themselves as students at a school that is only a very small part of a very important city?

A possible remedy could be to clearly identify what exactly campus is. This includes statues, banners, “Welcome to GW” signs – anything that would make people feel like they are entering an area that is uniquely a college campus, not just several more city blocks. Other urban schools, like Columbia University, manage to have a somewhat traditional campus even within an urban setting.

It can be argued that GW’s Mount Vernon campus is the solution for those who crave brick buildings surrounding a grassy quad. However, it’s not so much the construction of a “traditional campus” that is necessary. Simply being able to differentiate between being on and off campus would be a good start.

Actually, there is a chance that we may already be heading in the right direction. Rumor has it that the new University president, Steven Knapp, might be moving into the Alumni House, which is located right in the heart of campus. If true, this would bring GW a step closer to having that traditional campus feel, and I sincerely hope that students will be able to be respectful enough to entice him to stay.

It would really be in the school’s best interest to nurture a sense of school spirit in its soon-to-be alumni. People will be much more likely to give back to a school to which they still feel a strong tie, rather than one that was simply a place holder until they could enter the workforce. We all want to be able to look back with pride at our years as Hippos … I mean George Washingtons … I mean Colonials….

-The writer, a freshman majoring in psychology, is Hatchet contributing opinions editor.

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