This year’s annual Spirit Night games drew in a near-record number of attendees to watch the men and women’s basketball teams secure victories against Cal State East Bay. But while our enthusiasm that night was commendable, it’s a shame that the energy died out so quickly afterward. Spirit Night is a classic example of UCSD’s tendency to hype up a select few events throughout the year while rarely filling in the gaps, leaving a rather muted campus atmosphere in their wake. If UCSD is to shed its unfortunate and frankly overplayed reputation as socially inactive, it’s going to take some resolve on our part to change the way we view Spirit Night and other campuswide activities.
Events like Spirit Night demonstrate that, for a campus that supposedly lacks any sort of cohesive identity, we can still come together and show off a vibrant display of spirit, especially when some friendly college competition is added into the mix. However, major events like these seem far and few between. The basketball games against Cal State Monterey Bay held the day following Spirit Night had an abysmal turnout — only a fraction of the previous night’s crowd. Only truly unique events, such as the 2014 water polo championships at Canyonview Pool or when UC Riverside’s Instagram page featured a Triton mascot effigy burning down before the annual homecoming game seem to get any rise out of students. Keeping the energy going, then, should be a top concern.
While we have repeatedly refused to transition into Division-I athletics, our school still boasts a formidable array of sports teams that deserve our support no matter what game it is. The men’s basketball team held an impressive six-win streak this season, our women’s swim team is nationally ranked No. 4 in the division and the fencing squads, along with lesser-known club sports, consistently emerge victorious against tough Division-I foes, providing a welcome alternative to traditional sports matches. The fact that they rarely seem to play against big names like the University of Michigan, University of Southern California and the University of Oregon can only be blamed on our staunch commitment to stay within the Division-II leagues.
Regardless of which opponents we face, it takes only some slight initiative on our part to keep up with game schedules and to show our hard-working athletes some Triton love. Each residential college has dedicated representatives in charge of promoting school spirit, and there should be no reason for decorations and tailgates to be limited to a single night. Spreading out spirit events throughout the year would mean there would always be matches to look forward to, incentivizing students to blow off steam between their midterms without fighting each other for the Spirit Cup. Besides, history has shown that, given our current campus climate, hosting only a few large-scale events as opposed to multiple smaller ones — think Sun God Festival and Hullabaloo — leads to health and safety concerns that threaten their viability in the future.
Now, setting athletics aside for the moment, it’s still hard to accept why our university can’t seem to foster a thriving social life. The problem certainly isn’t that we don’t offer enough activities: Venues like The Loft and Porter’s Pub, the college councils and an untold plethora of student organizations and clubs host everything from movies to dances to mixers and bonfires. The difficulty seems to be getting students to actually attend those opportunities. It’s a big campus out there and UCSD won’t always spoon-feed us with opportunities. Perhaps it’s that the student body has become accustomed to ignoring outreach efforts due to the tidal wave of choices that one encounters on Library Walk. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that current publicity techniques are in need of fine-tuning to draw in targeted demographics. Not only that, bodies like the University Center Advisory Board and University Centers have to step up their efforts to collect public input on the future of student spaces like Porter’s Pub, whose lease is soon due to expire.
As for students themselves, getting involved isn’t impossible. It means taking the time to read the colorful posters put up on random light poles. It means resolving to show up to that one general body meeting or semi-formal. We shouldn’t complain about being bored if we don’t bother going to various events that are already being offered. Without active student participation, it’s no wonder that establishing consistent, high-caliber UCSD traditions seems nigh impossible.
To make the most of our college career, we can’t simply lament the lack of day-to-day school spirit. It’s going to take real effort to don blue face paint, to thrust ourselves into foreign open forums, fundraisers and semifinal games — to make connections that transcend our colleges or majors. Remember that it takes genuine student involvement to make UCSD a truly unique, social locale. Channeling the energy we had on Spirit Night into campus activism and other areas is definitely an attainable possibility.