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TAKOMA PARK, Md.--I am among the minority of students at our University whose parents would really rather have seen me go elsewhere. Specifically, somewhere with a great basketball team, a school you could root for. At the time, I thought they were kidding, or just a little confused. However, as a rising senior I'm beginning to understand. I now know what they meant, and what Harvard really needs.
For background, I've spent the summer working on my thesis in a lab at home in Maryland, with two students from my high school: An incoming Harvard first-year and a rising senior who hopes to attend an Ivy League school. Between experiments, we talk about college admissions and the intricacies of life in Cambridge. As I try to pass on what I've learned, I realized what's missing.
It begins once you're admitted--the answer to constant questions of your newly chosen college usually stops at "Massachusetts" or maybe, if you're brave enough, Boston. If pressed, you mumble Harvard as if you've just mentioned time in your local prison. Once you arrive on campus, it becomes clear that the sweatshirt you bought as a starry-eyed prefrosh will no longer be good for much other than visits home. Basically, we all try to pretend we don't really go to Harvard, in some sort of bizarre modesty or insecurity about what that means about us. Maybe we just don't want to associate ourselves with all the Harvard stereotypes--it's not important, the point is that we all avoid the "H-bomb".
All of that changes once a year for the Harvard-Yale game. I came to Harvard with no interest (or even really a clear understanding) of football. However, The Game is the annual outburst of school spirit on campus. When it's between us and our rivals down south, we're suddenly free to paint our faces, dress in crimson and scream for our school. However, when we all trot down to Soldier's Field, we're in for a disappointment. We are the mighty Harvard Crimson, and, as a color, we have no clear mascot. So, being traditionalists, our school has adopted the head of our founder, John Harvard, as our school mascot.
While this may seem minor, and even a trifle ridiculous, in a school so generally lacking in school spirit I can't help but think that our lack of a real, supportable mascot is part of the problem. Who wants to rally behind a giant Puritan head? Having rowed for Radcliffe, I hope I can speak for athletes on campus in that school spirit and support for our teams is almost embarrassingly low. Something has to be done to revitalize school spirit.
Though it may not be a huge step, choosing a new school mascot (as a student body) would hopefully bring the issue into discussion. Why is it that we don't have school spirit? That we are hesitant to reply with our school's name? What can the administration and the groups on campus do to make us feel more a part of this formidable and seemingly ambivalent institution? Obviously this is only one idea to confront this problem, and there need to be more.
Looking back over the past few years, I genuinely regret missing out on what my friends at Stanford and Duke have had--not simply the championships and winning records (which Harvard actually has, though few of us seem to notice), but the feeling of shared pride and loyalty to your school that comes from a sense of community and support that can only begin at the highest levels of the administration. The reputation and legacy of this school can be almost overwhelming, and there need to be steps taken by the University to rekindle an excitement about our school, simply by showing that our opinion matters, and recognizing the problems we face. While this is a tall order, and a small way of attacking it, there need to be clear signs that the administration recognizes a need to bring the campus together. As always, it would also be great to beat Yale this year, hopefully backed by a more impressive representative of our school than the man of the famed Three Lies.
Sarah E. Henrickson '01, a Crimson executive, is a biochemistry concentrator in Mather House.
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