UCI Students Need to Rekindle Their School Spirit

Before even stepping into the exciting first days of my life as a college freshman, I recall several UCI alumni warning me of the campus’s strained school spirit. I didn’t think about it much when my summer campus tour guide said that UCI was primarily a commuter campus, with most of the student population disappearing like phantasms into the mist on weekends. I didn’t think about it much when my SPOP coordinator told my group that you have to put real effort into finding things to do outside of class. I didn’t think about it much when I learned the campus doesn’t have a football team, which is typically emblematic of school pride.

But now that I’m a senior, I can say with certainty that UCI is pretty blatantly lacking in school spirit.

I don’t mean to say that there’s a complete absence of Anteater spirit; there’s a solidly large group of students that lead the charge where ASUCI, SPOP and other major programs, events and protests are concerned. However, when you skim this collection off the top, you’re left with a humongous body of students that absolutely do not care about this campus or the things that go on behind the scenes.

Take, for instance, last week’s ASUCI elections. Three days before applications to declare candidacy were due, not a single person had signed up to run for ASUCI President, and the majority of the positions had students running unopposed. In addition, only eight percent of the student body actually bothered to vote this year, despite the ballots being conveniently emailed straight into everybody’s inboxes and available 24 hours a day for an entire week. Even if you’re not keen on ASUCI politics, this turnout was too low to reach quorum for the Anteater TV referendum vying for approval, so it failed by default.

In addition, while the sports programs here try hard to garner student interest, it feels as if there are few takers. Many of the emails advertising sports games on campus have to entice students to come with merchandise handouts or free food, and even then, the games I’ve gone to still had some empty space in the bleachers. When I talk to friends who go to Berkeley or UCLA, there’s a clear difference between how much those campuses cherish their teams versus our lukewarm reactions toward ours.

I am seriously not trying to badmouth UCI as I write this, since I think it’s a fine university with a lot of good qualities that it’s entitled to show off. However, it feels as if the students that go here care as little as possible. Trying to campaign for the ASUCI elections last year was like pulling teeth; trying to get people to care about campus events is nearly impossible. The performers at the single campus concert I’ve attended (yes, I am a hypocrite) had to beg the audience to dance along and actually express themselves. Like, come on.
I’m not necessarily sure how to tackle a problem of this magnitude, since it’s inherent to the campus. We can’t demolish Ayala and trade it for a football team (not that that’s even guaranteed to do anything), and we can’t go to each student individually and convince them to care.

But, regardless, I still think it’s worth trying to light that ember and get people involved. Lowering the ASUCI election quorum requirement just to accommodate student apathy would only be a bandage on a larger wound; we should strive for engagement, not for complacency. Our sports games are good and deserve attendance. It’s just a matter of trying to get students to see all of the great things in front of them they’re not partaking in.

Evan Siegel is a fourth-year literary journalism and criminology, law and society double major. He can be reached at ejsiegel@uci.edu.