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Editorial: Tradition is key to school spirit

Issue date: 10/10/08 Section: Opinion
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This year's Alumni Weekend, which took place last Thursday through Sunday, is said to be to be the most successful Alumni Weekend ever, though exact attendance numbers were not available at press time. In fact, executive director of alumni relations Dan Clancy said it was probably the best that he had seen in the 18 years that he has been involved with the Alumni Relations office.
"We certainly had more alumni come back," he said. Clancy thinks - and we agree - that part of the positive response has something to do with the upward direction in which the university is headed. Barbara Snyder, the symbol of positive change at Case Western Reserve University, was visible and present at every program, from the Grand Classes Luncheon on Friday afternoon to GospelFest on Sunday.
As is tradition, Alumni Weekend overlapped with the majority of Homecoming events, including the parade, football game, and soccer doubleheader. However, despite a greater turnout at Alumni Weekend, Homecoming attendance seemed to comprise the same people who always show up: those involved in organizing events or those with connections to athletes or Homecoming royalty candidates.
What's up with the lack of spirit among current CWRU students? What is it that gives alumni such enthusiasm about coming back when most of the people who live here don't bother to celebrate?
First off, maybe we need to redefine spirit: it isn't simply rabid support for varsity athletics. As Clancy pointed out, though many of our athletic teams have done well in recent years, we're still not considered a football or a soccer school. Even so, "schools that aren't football or basketball powerhouses have good school spirit," said Clancy. Where does it come from?
For one, CWRU alumni have fond memories of their university days, especially traditions involving a bit of friendly competition. Mather College alumnae in particular remember "Mather Stunt Night," in which women competed with songs and other acts. Now, 50-year Mather reunions will often incorporate performances first seen at Mather Stunt Night.
In addition, CWRU alumni are able to appreciate the education they got here. The bitterness over being worked to the bone has dissipated and has been replaced by a distinct gratitude.
It's a lot to ask of Case students to let go of the bitterness, so we'll focus on creating tradition. The Hudson Relays are a fantastic start, but there are still too many students that decline to participate. We need to focus on constructing a tradition that will build spirit and appreciation for our experience at Case. After all, "spirit is that invisible thing," said Clancy. "You know when it's there."
We don't feel it quite yet.
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