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How lack of Drexel pride impacts students | The Triangle
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How lack of Drexel pride impacts students

Six years ago, on r/Drexel, a Reddit forum populated by Drexel University students, user Topher_4811 posed a question: ”Why does Drexel have less school spirit than literally every other school in the nation?”

The thread of replies included answers such as students being away on co-op, the demanding quarter system, and the lack of a football team since 1973. While not officially ranked as the university with the least amount of school spirit, the post and replies reflect many students’ perspectives. Six years later, all of these factors still stand, raising questions about Drexel’s enduring lack of school spirit. Why is this a persistent issue and how can it be fixed? 

One significant factor is the structure of Drexel’s curriculum, including co-op cycles and the quarter system

Gina DiStefano, a fourth-year psychology major and president of Campus Activities Board, explained how the co-op system impacts school spirit: “The people in classes and the people on co-op are in two completely different worlds at all times… I don’t think there’s a way for everybody to be prideful.” 

Freshman biomedical engineering major Varun Pandian shared his perspective on the quarter system: “Here, the culture is to get all of your work done in 10 weeks, and that’s about it. It’s like you’re here to study, get your degree, and get out.”

When asked how the university can help shift this mindset, especially when students have multiple exams a week, third year architectural engineering major Andrew Cho replied, “I don’t think you can really help it. Maybe if you schedule [exams] across classes and departments to try to have that not happen, but that’s very unrealistic. There’s so many things going on at once, so many classes going on at once. There’s probably an exam that happens everyday.”

“Maybe turning into a semester school, maybe something big like that would cause people to be more inclined to want to have school spirit,” DiStefano suggested.

Since the main goal of higher education is to learn and obtain a degree, school spirit might not seem like an important part of the student experience. 

However, according to Varsity Brands, students with school spirit “perform better academically,…are more socially and civically engaged,” are 88 percent happier and 73 percent more fulfilled than individuals without any school spirit. 

Despite the challenges of the quarter system, Zoe Simmons, a fourth year sports business major and president of the DAC Pack has tried to attend every athletics game: “I definitely schedule myself a lot tighter which then pushes me to make sure my homework is done on time so I can actually go.”

Simmons described keeping a positive attitude among friends with less school spirit: “I have some friends who are like ‘No I’m not going to basketball games, that’s so lame,’ and I’m like, ‘More for me!’ I try to…not let it get to me or ruin my day.”

Furthermore, MIT researchers studying sense of belonging among college students stated that “having a greater sense of belonging…is protective for mental health in year three of students’ undergraduate trajectory, suggesting that belonging might have a longitudinal effect.” 

DiStefano said that a little more Drexel pride could improve her experience during and after college: “If we had even a little bit more [school spirit], I would enjoy it here more and feel like I was coming out of college with like a sense of pride to be a Drexel student.”

On the other hand, junior film production student Ericka Soles from Pennsylvania
State University
explained how the school spirit transcends her time on campus: “It makes me feel like I’m gonna have these people in my life for the rest of my life.”

“Penn State is one of those schools that has a crazy alumni network and a lot of our alumni are really, really proud of where they came from, so that’s really evident with the kind of students that go there because they’re aware of this community,” Soles stated. 

Malissa Pumpuckdee, a freshman civil engineering major, shared her expectations of Drexel school spirit: “Before arriving at Drexel, I was excited to go to basketball games and wear Drexel merch everywhere. Now, I don’t find myself reaching for any of the merch that I bought myself, and I don’t even know about the games until they’ve already happened.”

Now, students still feel like the university needs to promote Drexel Athletics to increase school pride. 

“When there’s a game going on…there’s no one that’s talking about like, ‘Oh, Drexel Basketball is playing some other school’” Cho explained. “I do see that when it’s like a big game, but even then, not really.” 

Drexel tried to increase student turnout at games previously. On Aug. 15, 2015, Drexel Athletics released an app and reward program called Dragon RoarWards to incentivize students to attend university sporting events. By checking in at games, students earned points to win Drexel apparel, an Amazon gift card or Apple products. The last time the program distributed prizes was in the 2017-18 academic year

“I feel like they don’t really put a lot of effort into athletics, as the university as a whole…I know that Athletics as a department is putting in a lot of effort, I’ve seen it,” said Simmons. 

Simmons suggested expanding the university’s promotion of Drexel Athletics: “Right now, all I see for promo is just like the boards in the DAC or a little poster up in one of the dining halls. But there’s screens all over this campus and the university can put up… ‘Basketball game tonight’… or literally any other sport: soccer game in the fall, lacrosse in the spring.” 

Several students mentioned that without a football team, the current sports engagement does not promote the same amount of school spirit that other colleges may have. 

“Honestly, we need a field here,” said DiStefano. “I think taking away Buckley was a horrible idea.”

In 2023, demolition on the Buckley Recreational Field began to turn the green space into a new life sciences building, of which only two floors will be available to students. 

“Obviously, we’re going to be different than these major state schools,” Simmons stated. “The reason why is that they have nothing to do there except go to their school and be active and be a part of their school. We’re in a city so there’s so much for people to do here…We’re not a big state school where there’s like 40-50,000 people who are dying to get tickets to a football game.” 

In addition to rallying for a football team, Soles shared how various opportunities to get involved at Penn State can promote school spirit for any student: “There are a lot of organizations to be a part of… and you don’t have to put all of yourself into these organizations, you can kind of pick and choose… So for people who might have a busier schedule, or [are] athletes, or just don’t have the time… they still find ways to get involved because…there’s something for everybody which helps make it more a community.”  

Student organizations on Drexel’s campus make an effort to gather students, especially CAB, whose mission is to “plan and execute a variety of events reflective of the diverse interests and needs of the undergraduate student body,” according to DragonLink. 

As one of the only organizations on campus that hosts large scale events such as Dragonfly and Block Party, they try to plan events based on what has been successful in the past and enjoyed by students.  

“The students that go to numerous CAB events…are really excited to be going and are excited to be at Drexel because of these types of events,” DiStefano said.

However, according to DiStefano, “one organization doing it is not enough and we can’t cover every basis.”

“I definitely think having more organizations do more things that are tailored to the students wants and needs… would definitely create more school spirit and pride,” DiStefano stated. 

Thus, DiStefano recommended increasing funding to other student organizations: “I know that we’re lucky to have good funding but so many other organizations don’t, and they cannot put on  the events that they want to because they don’t have the funding.”

Alongside promoting Drexel Athletics and student organizations, students want the university to place the student experience as the top priority. Even within the classroom, students do not feel proud of their environment. 

“For our hydraulics lab… we don’t have machines that work,” Cho stated. “One group has to go at a time. So I go there, I wait for 50 minutes out of two hours of the lab, just waiting for other people to finish.”

The lack of funding is a persistent issue affecting seemingly every area of Drexel, despite the already high and rising costs of tuition, a concern mentioned by every Drexel student interviewed. Additionally, students do not feel like a priority as millions of dollars are spent on new buildings and existing spaces are leased to external companies, including Spark Therapeutics, Lockheed Martin, and Schuylkill Yards. Meanwhile, some classrooms remain in the dingy basement of various buildings, such as University Crossing and One Drexel Plaza. 

While Drexel may face unique challenges with its co-op cycles, quarter system and missing football team, the issue of abysmal school spirit is not unique to the university. Several universities have reported a lack of school spirit, including the University of Pennsylvania, Emerson College and Harvard University

To cultivate a stronger sense of community and pride, multiple approaches are needed. Uplifting different departments and organizations within Drexel and improving students’ day-to-day experiences can help to create a university that students are proud to attend. 

This article is part of a grant awarded to The Triangle from the Solutions Journalism Network investigating student mental health at Drexel University.