OPINION | Tulane students tackle school spirit by working towards better institution

Anna Dixon, Staff Writer

“To have pride or not to have pride? For many students, that is the question.” Gabe Darley | Senior Staff Artist

School spirit can be measured in a variety of ways. Mainly, it is the expression of pride in one’s school. Traditionally, it is demonstrated by student engagement in athletics. The stereotypical image of a spirited school is a football stadium packed with students dressed from head to toe in their school colors, or a tailgate filled with current students, family and alumni.

By contrast, Tulane University, despite engaging in Division I Athletics, certainly lacks a diehard enthusiasm for school sports. When attendance at games was allowed, the liveliness found in other schools’ student sections seemed to be missing. Football is the sport that garners the most attention from the student body, with basketball and baseball games drawing smaller crowds. Even amongst the students attending tailgates, few make it into Yulman Stadium, choosing instead to continue partying. Interest in party culture can be viewed as the overarching theme of the Tulane student body, but it does not reflect school spirit. 

Simply wearing Tulane merchandise, or having a bumper sticker on one’s car, is another way to express school spirit. This representation of the school is typically to casually showcase one’s university in the form of promoting their academic achievements as the school’s prestige increases. On one hand, this can be viewed as school spirit, as it shows pride in being a Tulane student. On the other, it can be seen simply as a subtle brag. It is also an individualist action: wearing Tulane merchandise is a tool to promote one’s own accomplishments, not bond them with a group. 

The gathering restrictions in place due to COVID-19 further reduced the already limited school spirit at Tulane. With the inability to attend sporting events or university sponsored events, at times it feels as though there is nothing connecting the student body. The responsibility falls on students to get involved and feel like a part of the community. The same could be said pre-pandemic, but the need to restrict one’s social circle makes getting involved more difficult. 

Despite lacking a tangible display of school spirit, especially when COVID-19 restrictions make it more difficult, the student body is altogether happy and proud to be Tulane students. In 2019, Tulane ranked fourth for happiest student body. The general attitude on campus is that students are happy they chose Tulane, even if they cannot pinpoint the exact reason. 

At the administrative level, Tulane attempts to generate school spirit by associating it with the culture of New Orleans. One of the most unique experiences Tulane offers is that it allows students to live in New Orleans, a city unlike any other in the U.S. This is often used simply as a sales pitch. While the administration advertises the involvement of the Tulane student body in the greater New Orleans area, the “Tulane bubble” disconnects students from the rest of the city. The administration tries to bridge this gap with campus events such as Crawfest that lean into the culture of the city, but they often fall short of the goal. It solidifies the idea that students do not have to leave campus to experience what New Orleans has to offer, making the Tulane bubble more prominent. Furthermore, Tulane frequently capitalizes on the culture that Black people have contributed to New Orleans while failing to diversify its student body

This lack of diversity, both racially and financially amongst the Tulane student body in comparison to the city furthers the disconnect. In many regards, Tulane has failed to progress with the times, as exemplified by its hesitation to rededicate buildings named after historical figures that owned slaves. Last spring, the bell in front of McAlister Auditorium was removed after discovering that it originated from a plantation. While this was a necessary step, it further emphasized that the school has a long process to confront its racist history. 

The student body recognizes these flaws of Tulane, and many times are the ones calling upon administration to better the institution. For one, the Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution in 2017 to rename F. Edward Hebert Hall, which the university has yet to do. The continuous effort of the student body to make Tulane a more progressive institution, especially when the administration fails to do so, reflects their dedication to the school. If they had no pride in being a Tulane student, they would not be working so hard towards the improvement of the university.