Go see a game, or why seeing the Bears will save the school culture

Talk to any Washington University student-socialite and they will bemoan the campus atmosphere. They will say something like, “There is no college culture here.” Campus apparel is rare, there are just a handful of campus-wide functions in a given year and—aside from the academics—there is little differentiating the University from its peer institutions. As a result, the student body can feel disjointed and lacking in shared experiences outside of WILD or appreciating the Bunny’s winter apparel.

Building school culture is not easy, but big universities have found a way: athletics. Nothing galvanizes a student body quite like sports. For the dedicated fan, it is a chance to root and live vicariously for the men and women in your classes. For the party animal, it is a chance to “darty” the day away. For students who wants to feel like they belong to a larger campus culture, it is a chance to move and be moved as part of a dedicated whole.

Turn on ESPN on a Saturday afternoon and you will see hordes of dedicated fans living for every down, three-pointer, run, etc.

At these universities, the school colors fly freely. In Ann Arbor, the stadium is dressed in blue and gold. In Gainesville, it is blue and orange. Student Life will concede that green and red together are not as becoming, but it is joint fervor that makes Stanford fans root for a tree.

Many Wash. U. students have no idea that the Bears have one of the most decorated athletic programs in Division III history. Every year the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics awards the Directors’ Cup to the most successful Division III program. Out of 323 competing schools last year, Wash. U. was ranked fourth. The Bears have been ranked seventh or higher every year for the past decade and show no sign of slowing down. Volleyball is ranked first in the nation; women’s soccer, seventh; men’s and women’s cross country, fifth.

While the level of talent on the field is high, student enthusiasm lags behind. During football’s most recent home game against Rhodes College—a 37-7 rout victory—Francis Field was only filled to half capacity. In the men’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament appearance, students and parents just filled the inner bowl, yet the court still shook with every basket.

As the athletic department continues to expand under second-year director Josh Whitman, the University has made a concerted effort to increase student enthusiasm. To boost attendance, the University recently launched Sophomore Spirit Days across the various fall sporting events. At these games, sophomores receive free concessions and have the opportunity to win giveaway prizes.  

We at Student Life urge the student body to hop on the Bears’ bandwagon. There is no better way to build culture than in joint love of a common goal. That uniting experience can flow over other aspects of student life, building Wash. U. into a more cohesive community.

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