Off the Beaten Path: UChicago’s School Spirit

UChicago students derive their sense of community in unconventional ways.

By Ashton Hashemipour

Every Saturday, every sports channel I turn on shows images of college students repping their school’s colors, bands playing their school’s fight song, and universities united in cheering for their students. It’s clear that UChicago, however, does not have this traditional school spirit. We don’t have a sport, tradition, or organization that we all get behind. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of pride on this campus. Students take pride in the organizations that they’re a part of: from MUN, to Greek Life, to sports teams, we care about the communities that we’re involved in. Interestingly, however, these organizations don’t unite us: though we have competitive RSOs that win awards on the national level and relatively good sports teams (both our men’s and women’s soccer teams are at the top of their divisions), students outside these organizations don’t really take pride in their peers’ success.

If there’s no organization, group, or team that brings us together, what do we have that unites us? We have some fun traditions, like Scav or Humans vs. Zombies, but these don’t unite our university by any stretch of the imagination. Honestly, I don’t think that more than a third of our student body cares about either (sorry, Snitchcock). The Cubs and Donald Trump’s victory sort of united us last year (for very different reasons), but these moments were fleeting, at best.

It seems to me that the main concept that unites us is the way in which we talk and think about this university. UChicago students, when engaging in small talk, have a tendency to deprecate the university. We talk about how terrible our football team is, how weird we are, and we actually embrace that this is the place where fun goes to die. If outsiders were to hear these conversations, they’d definitely think that we suffer from an inferiority complex.

But we also feel superior to other universities. It’s common here, after some sort of semi-philosophical conversation at night, to hear “that is such a UChicago conversation to have”—as if these sorts of intelligent conversations are unique to our university. We unabashedly shame schools with similar reputations in academia by saying that they have grade inflation and that UChicago’s education is the most rigorous.

We think that we’re better than everyone else but express it in a very unique way. In the words of my housemate, it’s just one giant humble brag.

It’s our simultaneous tendency to both undermine the university and put it on a pedestal that epitomizes our community. We don’t blindly express love for this university—there’s no alma mater song that we sing (we probably have a fight song, but I’ve never heard it) or team that we all rally behind. Rather, our expression of pride comes out of a sense of self-consciousness.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While we don’t have traditional school spirit at UChicago, it’s not something that makes our university experience any worse—it just means that our sense of community comes from a different place. And, honestly, many of us were attracted to this university precisely because this traditional school spirit doesn’t exist (though we probably didn’t think of it that way). Our humor at the expense of our university and our simultaneous arrogance about it can be a bit overbearing sometimes, in that we could come off an elitist or , but honestly, I don’t think it’s any more problematic than the craziness that students of other universities go through to show their love of school. In fact, I prefer our more subdued school spirit to the likes of Duke’s Cameron Crazies, Texas A&M’s Midnight Yell, or the USC’s worship of Tommy Trojan. Just like most things about this school, the way that we show our love for our university is unique and would seem foreign and strange to outsiders, but that’s just part of what makes us UChicago. 

Ashton Hashemipour is a second-year in the College majoring in political science.