While watching the Saint Louis University vs. Butler men’s basketball game, I overheard one of my fellow seniors saying, “I cannot believe I am cheering for SLU, I never thought I’d actually care this much.” It may be perplexing to hear that it took a student until his second semester of senior year to exhibit school spirit. Much to the chagrin of the SLUnatics, SLU admissions and the Billiken, my friend’s apparent lack of SLU pride is completely justifiable.
Some critics might facetiously ask, “If he didn’t feel proud to go to SLU, why didn’t he just transfer?” Trust me, he has thought about it, I have thought about it and I guarantee you many more members of the class of 2013 have entertained the idea of transferring at one point in their SLU careers. According to SLU’s own fact book, 16 percent of my classmates that enrolled into SLU in the autumn of 2009 chose not to come back sophomore year. Even more concerning, 40 percent of the students enrolled as freshmen in 2009 won’t be a part of SLU’s graduating class of 2013. Why do so many students contemplate leaving? Why do so many choose to depart? Why would it take a student over three-and-a-half years to finally feel an ounce of school spirit? The answer is simple (no, it’s not Father Lawrence Biondi).
SLU students have had very little to hang their hats on. Saint Louis University has a dearth of great achievements, characteristics that enhance the college experience or esteemed qualities that all students can be proud of. Simply put, there is a shortage of attributes capable of invoking school pride in all students and unifying the student body.
In 1818, SLU became the first collegiate institution west of the Mississippi River. Despite being the first university west of the Mississippi, SLU has been surpassed by over 20 schools west of the Mississippi in the US News and World Report 2013 College Rankings. There is no sense of pride associated with being ranked the 92nd best university and playing second fiddle to Washington University in St. Louis in the realm of academics.
Some schools compensate for not providing a world-renowned education by enhancing the “college experience.” Mizzou, for example, boasts a prodigious Greek life, an SEC football team and enjoyable on-campus nightlife. At Saint Louis University, Greek life lacks eminence. Only 15 percent of the student body belongs to a fraternity or sorority. Prominent Greek communities have a “frat row” filled with fraternity and sorority houses; SLU only provides DeMattias Hall, an on-campus dorm. To make matters worse, we have few on-campus nightlife attractions. With the closing of Pierre Laclede’s (rest in peace), students are left with only two noteworthy choices: Humphrey’s or Library Annex.
The scarcity of locations near campus to get some drinks may not mean much to all the non-drinkers out there. Some of you might even be asking, “Who cares if we don’t have the most enjoyable social scene, this is a Jesuit institution, and that is something we all can be proud of.” SLU’s status as a Jesuit institution would definitely be a unifying factor and a source of amour-propre if it wasn’t for one tiny detail — only half of the student body is Catholic!
Without a unifying force, the student body has become sequestered into isolated factions. These groups are based on factors such as whether or not a student is involved with Greek life, which campus their classes are on, religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds. A divided student body can have adverse effects. Some students limit themselves to hanging around only those who share similar views. By so doing, they forgo opportunities to broaden their horizons, discover commonalities with those who are ostensibly much different and build a sense of community. These adverse effects have plagued SLU. Until recently, receiving a weekly DPS robbery report email has been the most prevalent commonality among all SLU students.
Until recently, a second semester senior had never shown school spirit. Everything is about to change. We finally have something that all students can hang their hats on. Folks, the rise of the men’s basketball program can bring us all together. We are in first place in the A-10 and are ranked 18th in the country. We attend a school where a national basketball powerhouse is budding. Last year, the team was good and made it to the second round of 32 teams in the NCAA tournament. This year, they are great and have what it takes to make it past the Sweet 16. Next year, they will return four starters and potentially be a team for the ages. My fellow students, we finally have something we can all be proud of.