There is a narrative that Drexel students do not have a lot of school spirit. Some people blame this on the fact that Drexel doesn’t have a football team. However, the seemingly apathetic spirit on campus is the result of a more complex combination of factors.
One reason for a lack of school spirit is the demographics of students. Drexel does not follow the traditional model of American universities. With co-op, the quarter system and no summer breaks, students who attend Drexel are more likely to be those who prioritize tests over tailgates.
This is something Drexel’s Manager of Marketing and Fan Engagement, Stephanie Abello, understands.
“I think that our student body is very unique in the sense that our students are working hard at all times. I feel like with our quarter system, it is always midterms, some big project, paper, or exam due. I think that our school spirit is unique in that sense. There is some kind of unity in that struggle and it translates into this interesting bond, mutual understanding, and respect amongst students,” said Abello.
A study of high schoolers by the Connecticut Association of Schools found that “students with higher levels of school spirit are substantially more likely to say that they often felt happy during the past school year than those students with low school spirit (76% vs. 13%).” While the nature of high school and college school spirit may vary, the basic principles are the same. Students who feel a strong sense of community in their educational institution are happier.
The power of school spirit and the community that can stem from it is not lost on Abello.
“Athletics is very unique, here at Drexel and anywhere really, in the sense that it can create a sense of community and belonging that transcends everything else. People all come together and root for the same team in a way that creates a sense of belonging, unity, and community,” added Abello.
While some may think that Drexel’s athletic program does not lend itself to the immediate community building that can be found in a big school like Duke’s student section, Abello sees some big advantages to the small Drexel athletics program.
“I think that connection [at Drexel] is so much more prevalent than at other bigger schools. I mean at home games, you can come down to the court and high-five our basketball teams after they win and you just don’t see that at other schools. So I think it can create that sense of community and belonging both within the fans in connecting to the team and the athletic department, even the staff,” said Abello.
Everybody on Drexel’s campus has their own story to tell surrounding school spirit and Homecoming week was the perfect time to visit the DAC to get some answers.
It is a chilly Thursday night. Inside the Daskalakis Athletic Center, which sits at the heart of Drexel’s campus, the Dragons are taking on conference opponent Monmouth. Banners and posters advertising free entrance into the game line Lancaster Walk. Music is blaring out towards pedestrians through speakers. And yet, some students keep walking past. After a historic 5-0 start to conference play, why are students not lining up to watch the men’s basketball team?
“Honestly, I didn’t know there was a basketball game,” admits Carlos. His friend Kunaal chimes in, saying, “I got homework to do.” He also adds that he has, “not been to a basketball game since [he] came here.”
Speaking on Drexel’s overall school spirit, Isabella discusses her belief that, “Drexel doesn’t really have school spirit, it is just the college we go to.”
On the other hand, Maya and Michael both convey a desire to increase their school spirit. Maya says, “I want to have more school spirit but I am not connected to Drexel enough yet.” Michael described his view, saying, “I feel like I have my Drexel stuff on a lot, but I don’t actually go to events.”
While outside of the DAC students were speed-walking to get out of the freezing Philadelphia night, inside the DAC almost 1400 Dragons were packed into the stands. To keep in with the theme of “Bluau”, the bulk of the student section wore blue Hawaiian shirts and yellow leis. While there were certainly some empty seats in the general admission bleachers, the student section was packed. The DAC Pack, Drexel basketball’s most passionate supporters, stood and cheered all game long, taking up the first five or so rows of the student section.
On a frigid Thursday night, where students could easily find another activity to fill their evening, the hundreds of students in attendance did not regret their decision.
Noah, who was attending his fifth Drexel basketball game, explained, “It’s fun to support a team that you have a connection with, plus the games are really fun and the stadium is really small so you can get an intimate experience and a sense of what the game is like up close.”
Another fan, Justin, explained that his motivation to come to the game was simply to, “watch some good basketball.” He identified himself as someone whose school spirit was about average, but explained that he thought the student body would feel their spirit increase if, “Drexel could win some games at home. I’m tryna get some Shake Shack too so I want them to score 70”, in reference to the Dragons’ promotion with Shake Shack where fans receive a free hamburger if the team scores 70 points in a home win.
One student, Zizi, was emphatic in her school spirit.
“I just love to support my school, like ‘Go Dragons!’ We gotta have spirit we gotta show out.” When asked why she comes to games, Zizi explained, “I feel like it’s a fun part of the environment and after a long day of classes I wanna come here and celebrate with other Dragons and have fun and support…I’m gonna keep coming [to games], I’m gonna be here my first, second, third, fourth year. Every year”
Peyton, was attending her first game. She decided to walk into the DAC because “there are a lot of signs and I haven’t been to one yet…It seemed fun.” While she thought she would be back for more games in the future, she did admit that she didn’t have as much school spirit as she would like.
While Peyton was working on increasing her school spirit, another student, Will, was confident in his school spirit level and is hoping that other students will hop on the bandwagon and support the Dragons.
“It’s nice to be at a school that has a big arena, lots of stuff going on, cheerleaders, announcers, and the team is good this year so it’s fun to watch.” On his school spirit, he added, “I do have school spirit. I wish that a lot more people did, and I wish that a lot more kids at this school would show up to games like this.”
However, Will could not put his finger on a certain initiative that the University would be able to put in place to get the full support from all corners of the student body. “I don’t know what it’s gonna take, but I really do wish that more people would come out, stand up and cheer for our team.”
As a packed student section watched the Dragons snatch a thrilling comeback victory from Monmouth, the fans were loud, proud, and on their feet as they celebrated the continuation of Drexel Men’s Basketball’s historic 6-0 record in CAA play.
Greg Cusick, Senior Associate Athletics Director, is encouraged by the direction Men’s Basketball is headed.
“Homecoming last year was one of the stronger crowds that most of the current student body has ever experienced, so that was really positive feedback to hear. Couple that with a sellout versus Temple, a sellout for the Homecoming game on Jan. 20th against Delaware, that speaks to positive momentum and growth which is exciting,” said Cusick.
While, admittedly, sports are not the only avenue through which students can display their spirit, it is one of the easiest and most tangible ways. This is something Cusick emphasized. “Coming out to an athletic event, in essence, is showing your spirit. You are supporting fellow students, wearing Drexel gear, showing Drexel pride, and cheering for your university.”
On the surface, one might be confronted with an outward-facing, apathetic culture at Drexel. However, if you look closer and step into the world of Drexel sports, there is a strong sense of community and school spirit. While the freezing pedestrians on Lancaster Walk may not overwhelm you with their school pride, inside the walls of the DAC, you can find a few hundred students coming together to form a community that celebrates their shared school spirit.
In reality, Drexel’s school spirit is not dictated by any one group. The spirit of the University comes from a wide array of sources. Students, alumni and neighbors all come together and show their Drexel pride, creating a community in the stands as student-athletes compete between the lines.