Tech’s school spirit issue

Photo by Allie Ghisson, Student Publications

We have a school spirit problem at Tech. This is not the first time people have talked about it, but it is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and I have wanted to write about it for some time. We can see our spirit problem everywhere: in the empty stands in the student section after halftime at football games; in the muttered remarks about how much homework we have to do this weekend and how we hate Tech for burdening us like this; in the similarity that we all draw between Tech and prison when we celebrate “getting out” instead of “graduating.” Not everyone is like this, but I know that I have had these attitudes many times in my years here. From my experience, the vast majority of students here have a fundamentally negative attitude towards Tech, and thus have low school spirit.

Why does Tech have these issues? First of all, Tech is a difficult school. There is no denying that Tech is an academically rigorous place, with standards that are much higher than many other schools. Our students are already high achievers by the time they arrive in Atlanta. We all spent four years in high school challenging ourselves just to be able to get in. Once we arrive, however, we realize that we are really just at the base camp of the real mountain we have to climb. 

Tech’s challenges are enough to turn anyone sour, and this results in memories of our time at Tech being tainted with pain. In my own experience, this sourness has resulted in some strong cognitive dissonance: this pain is self-inflicted after all, so what does my choosing to come here say about me? I suspect that many of my fellow Jackets have felt similar doubts over the years. All of this negativity surrounding our experiences and feelings leads to having low school spirit. Why would we take pride in a place that seems to exist simply to burden us? 

The school spirit that we do display winds up, in most cases, to be a sarcastic way to vent our frustrations. Our songs and cheers (speaking specifically about sports) are all focused on hating that other school in Athens. I hate u(sic)ga probably more than most. I refuse to wear anything red when I have a test as I am convinced that it will bring me bad luck! But our hatred for Georgia doesn’t seem to come from a place of pride in who we are; instead, it seems to come from a lack of self-respect and annoyance at our experiences at Tech.

As an aside, the school spirit I am talking about is not limited to support for our sports teams. I’m talking about pride in our school in general, in a broad sense of joy in being a helluva engineer. This is the school spirit that I try to cultivate in myself and which I see lacking in so many of us, including myself. Without it, we end up where we are now — a surly group of students, counting the days until we are liberated from our prison.

So what can we do about this? Should we care at all? We should! We must care! The change must begin with how we view Tech. The Institute has two parts: its administration, and its students. Administrations come and go, but the students, the student body, you and I — we are the heart of the Institute. We make Tech what it is. The many shortcomings of our administration must drive us to have pride in our school, precisely because we expect more of this Institute. 

At the end of the day, Tech is us. We, the students, are the Institute. If we don’t have pride in ourselves, in the work that we’re doing, in the things we’re accomplishing, we are setting ourselves up for misery and malcontent. We should challenge this by learning more about what has been accomplished at this school. 

Did you know that Georgia Tech was the second southern Power 5 school to start a black quarterback? Did you know that Georgia Tech was the first school in the Deep South to integrate without a court order, and that the movement for integration was led by students? Did you know that Georgia Tech AE students have designed multiple satellites that have been launched into space over the past few years? Did you know that 14 astronauts have graduated from Georgia Tech? I did not know a lot of these facts until I went looking for them. Take some time and read up on these and other accomplishments. 

As a community, we can create new ways of expressing ourselves that are not focused on hating u(sic)ga (although we have to continue to hate them!). We can take more ownership of the atmosphere at sporting events and refuse to bad-mouth our teams even when they are not performing as well as we would like. And we can talk about what we would like the administration to improve without denigrating the Institute as a whole. 

In short, we can realize that Tech is what we, the students, make of it. We can choose to be proud of what we’ve done so far, and strive for better things for future Jackets. We can embody the words of our Alma Mater: “But when the battle seems in vain/Our spirit never falters/We’re ever one in joy and pain/And our union is a lasting bond;/Oh may we be united/Till the victory of life is won!” 

Let’s try to see the Institute as a forge of lasting bonds with each other, and not as a prison from which we’re all trying to escape.