School Spirit at All-Time Low

News Feature

In 1956, Harvard lost the Yale game, 54-0.

It was so bad that Yale put in its team manager to kick its extra points, says Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, who was in the Harvard Stadium audience.

But even with such an abysmal score for the biggest game of the year, Harvard football games still drew "25,000 to 30,000 regularly," Jewett says.

"These were the days before massive television coverage," he says. "You had to go to the games."

The numbers contrast sharply with football attendance today.

Harvard's first three home games drew an average of 8,728 each, according to Michael A. Jackman, assistant director of the sports information office.

And despite a new coach and a bright new future this season, the numbers are even down from last year, when attendance averaged 10,069 for the first three games.

"I think [school] spirit is dead and as far as I know, it hasn't been here in my four years," says Joshua D. Liston '95, who ran for Undergraduate Council president on a platform calling for increased spirit and a new Harvard mascot.

Two years ago, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps even established a special committee to reverse the decline in spirit and ease a sense of fragmentation on the Harvard campus.

"Our main challenge is to develop a sense among students of the college as a whole and a person's place as something larger than themselves," Epps says. "The Spirit Committee was intended to promote this development."

The committee is inactive this year, Epps says. And the dean has decided that the burden of promoting school spirit has to fall to undergraduates.

"School spirit is held in the students themselves," he says. "The administration can only act as a catalyst."


Many students say spirit is just not part of the Harvard character, even when crowds do show up at a game.

"This just isn't the rah-rah type of group that you would find at a Big Ten school," says Matt L. Bruce '96.