Robin Jones Kerr: How I learned to root for the home team

Media Credit: Media Credit: Cartoon by Brandon Lee

Updated: April 27, 2015 at 6:49 p.m.

When your team’s doing well, it’s easy to root for them. When they’re not, well, it can take a true fan to keep cheering.

A few weeks ago, I completed GW’s mandatory online graduation survey, which seniors are required to answer before claiming our Commencement tickets. Some of the questions were easy and thought-provoking – how satisfied was I with the classes in my major? How often had I taken advantage of certain campus resources?

But one of the questions gave me pause: If given the chance to do it over again, would I pick GW?

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Robin Jones Kerr

I had to answer honestly – maybe not. As my time at GW comes to a close, I’ve had to reconcile that when push comes to shove, I’m not likely to throw on a GW jersey and root, root root for the home team.

I came here because I liked the campus vibe and have family in D.C. – not to mention the attractive financial aid package. And I might be more cynical than most, but after four years at GW – an institution where the losses seem to hit harder than the victories – it can be easy to grow disillusioned with the school as a whole.

I’ve watched students be disappointed by officials on issue after issue, from academic support to housing. GW has clammed up when students deserve information most and has failed to heed the warnings of faculty about fundraising for massive new buildings.

The constant bureaucracy and, at times, mind-boggling decisions from officials have meant I’ve never had much of a reason to feel like a true Colonial, and I’ve always been disappointed by that fact.

In particular, I’ve grown nervous about the upcoming University-wide Commencement on the National Mall – that’s the day I’ll be required to feel my GW pride to the fullest, and I’m worried that when I need it, it won’t be there.

For any other students feeling a similar way, here’s how I’m coping: I’m trying to remind myself that the other central event of graduation weekend is the ceremony for my own school, the School of Media and Public Affairs, and I’m looking to that as a source of pride.

Ideally, other students can do the same – be proud of the school from which you’re graduating, whether it be engineering, business or international affairs. Hopefully, eventually, that’ll help us come to terms with the fact that we chose GW.

My mom teaches at the University of Michigan, and while that’s a big football school, kids there have always seemed to have pride in their university regardless of whether or not they spend Sunday afternoons in the Big House. I applied there as a senior in high school, and was excited to fall in love with an institution – to identify as an alumna – for the rest of my life. And I’m not even a football fan.

GW certainly wants us to draw our pride from the city in which we live – but after four years of exposure to the D.C.-centric marketing campaign that promises us a lifetime of ill-fitting suits, giant egos and happy hour schmooze fests, that source of pride feels extremely tired.

We’ve even tried in the past to draw our pride from comparing ourselves to who we’re not – namely, Georgetown University. There were still remnants of that rivalry when I came to campus as a freshman, and I was charmed by our underdog status in that fight. The bummer is, our men’s basketball team doesn’t even play the Hoyas anymore – so there goes that rallying cry.

But luckily, I’ve found a small segment of the GW experience that I may be able to rally behind. It may not be the whole franchise, but it’s a starting pitcher, and sometimes that’s enough.

A few weeks ago, I attended the end-of-year awards night at SMPA. I had been last year, and knew it was a casual event where the accomplishments of SMPA students would be recognized, but I wasn’t expecting anything particularly life-changing out of the 45-minute event.

But for some reason – blame senior sentimentality – the event got to me a little bit. It’s easy to go for a long time without reflecting on the work we’ve been doing in our individual schools. We get caught up in the daily slog of going to class, sitting exams and writing papers, and we often fail to step back and realize what we’ve been working toward this whole time: getting a degree in something we (hopefully) are passionate about.

I may have my issues with GW as an institution, but I’ve been thrilled with my school, and the awards event reminded me of that. I’ve loved getting to spend four whole years studying these topics and taking classes with people who were equally passionate about them. I’ve loved interning at feminist organizations because I adore being surrounded by people who think the same way I do – I’ve loved SMPA for the same reason.

So whenever I get worried about the upcoming deluge of Commencement festivities, I’ll try to remind myself that over the weekend, I’ll attend an SMPA breakfast and a journalism honors ceremony, and I’ll “graduate before I graduate” with my fellow media nerds.

Then, when I head to the University-wide ceremony on the Mall, I can rest a little bit easier knowing that, though I may not adore GW as an institution, the part of it that has been my academic home for four years is still going strong – and that’s as good a reason to support the team as any.

Robin Jones Kerr, a senior majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.