Posted by the Editorial Board
The second and third rounds of the field hockey championships this weekend gathered one of the loudest and most enthusiastic crowds for an athletic event the college has seen in years. As the team heads down to Virginia for the semifinals, students applaud a superbly played season. But why was this the first game to attract student attention in so long?
The historically poor turnout for the college's athletic events always wins the same responses: an apathetic student body, a campus-wide lack of school spirit or a school divided between the arts and the athletics. But these kinds of easy labels avoid confronting the much more nuanced culture of student involvement at the college.
We are not a passive student body. An average day at the college sees lectures, games, dance performances, theater productions, music workshops, student exhibits and more club meetings than any one person could attend. Our students devote themselves passionately to their interests, dedicating hours to practices and rehearsals to achieve their best.
But it's hard to ignore how the events that clubs and teams spend hours putting together only gather crowds that can be counted in the single digits. It's embarrassing when departments bring impressive speakers, but the auditoriums echo with the empty seats. Moorebid Ball, The Big Show, Junior Ring, Fun Day – these events, which win mobs of attendees, remain exceptions to a general campus mentality of polite disinterest in their classmates' contributions.
This is a college of participants, not spectators. The empty bleachers at our athletes' games represent a larger campus culture of active participation over passive observation. It's hard to denounce a student body that wants to be on the field, not in the seats. But as long as paintings hang in empty galleries and athletes score goals to resounding silence, there will be a sense of irritated dissatisfaction hanging over the laudable accomplishments that so many students pour hours into achieving.
It's a saccharine cliché, but colleges need school spirit. It keeps students in the classrooms, unites a college divided by diverse interests and ensures that alumni return to their alma mater years after graduation. But we do not express pride in our school just by spending hours practicing and rehearsing. School spirit is forged in full auditoriums, sold-out box offices and roars of approval from the bleachers. When the field hockey team competes against Bowdoin College on Nov. 20, they will play better with the knowledge that they have the support of their classmates at home.
This is the kind of support the college should strive for. Instead of clubs and teams bemoaning poor attendance quietly behind closed doors, a community discussion should acknowledge that the issue is campus-wide. The cast of the Blackbox production should partner up with the players on the Women's Soccer team, with each cheering the other along. If the Bandersnatchers spend a week attending Irish Dance rehearsals, the dancers can do the same. Lectures put on by the Physics Club could see steady attendance from members of the International Affairs Club, knowing the attention will be reciprocated. Formal agreements will form into habitual support: out of that, school spirit will grow.
When the field hockey team won game after game this weekend, they did so with singers, artists and dancers in the stands. That image should become a mission statement for the college as it moves forward. Students here dedicate themselves to their interests, but we need to just as passionately support those of our classmates. We need to learn how to sit in the stands, not just play on the field.