Debate day calls for more Wash. U. spirit

Emma Galasso | Contributing Writer

Two weeks ago, the presidential debate lit up the Washington University community into an emblazoned state of spirit—students ran across campus in their Bear apparel, debate water bottles, T-shirts and pins in tow. An unfamiliar buzz of excitement blew from the South 40 to Brookings Quadrangle, as the entire community rallied around an event that, frankly, few of us got to witness in person. I myself was eager to experience all that the weekend had to offer: gathering on Mudd Field in a shot-in-the-dark attempt to be featured on TV, running to the Student Union debate fair to get free food, trying to win a debate poster or jumping up and down with a handcrafted sign in the hopes of being in the background of a Fox News or NBC broadcast.

As I watched the debate at a big campus-wide watch party on Sunday night—one that it seemed almost everyone had gathered to watch—I reminisced on my day-and-a-half of chasing down one debate activity after another. I had joked to my friends that the day felt like Wash. U.’s one and only “real” tailgate— bringing an uncharacteristic excitement into the community. Now, just two weeks later, few students are even aware that this upcoming weekend is homecoming.

As evidenced by the debate, it doesn’t take a Division I football rivalry or a spot in the Final Four to get our blood going. There are other things that get the Wash. U. community enthused about school pride. On debate day, I saw numerous Facebook and Instagram posts written by my classmates, expressing how the weekend made them proud to be a Wash. U. student.

The fact that the debate was able to garner a great deal of pride from our community reveals that Wash. U. students are willing to partake in such spirited events.
The day also spoke to our political involvement and exemplified our ability to rally around something that is not sports.

At many schools, it is the football or basketball games that bring students together each weekend to share in the spirit of college pride. At Wash. U., the community is not as involved with football or sports in general, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to replicate this community spirit through alternate means. While Wash. U. does host smaller club events on campus, most of those are sectionalized and appeal only to a small group of people rather than the whole community.

At schools where sports are the highlight of a weekend, students are decked out head-to-toe in whatever mascot and color their university represents. The event is an opportunity for students to share in their collective affection for the school, and come together with classmates in the name of camaraderie. I want to see Wash. U. engage in more community wide events that emulate the spirit of debate weekend—events where Wash. U. pride is prominent.

The debate made me, and many others in the Wash. U. community, long for a campus-wide calling to more spirit. It doesn’t have to be a large tailgate and a football game, but it definitely should be something. Just because we don’t rally around a sports team, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t rally around our clear excitement for politics. Why not host a debate fair for each debate, or host watch parties for other televised events that the community wants to see? Our lack of top-tier sports should not translate into a lack of school spirit and communal excitement, and to fix that, Wash. U. needs to find what the students care most about, and build events around that.

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