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This past week, members of the class of 2018, following in the footsteps of thousands before them, walked through the Van Wickle Gates carrying with them the long-standing history and traditions of the University. They come with a profound sense of pride in their admission to Brown and, despite their diverse backgrounds, share a common tie to the institution where most of them will spend four years. But Brown students, touted for their individualism, lack a definitive sense of school spirit. We urge the University — both the administration and the student body — to sustain and foster this unifying bond through these students’ four years and beyond.

While undergraduates do indeed display a distinct sense of academic passion and vigor, pride in our shared culture of curiosity and creativity — particularly surrounding athletics — visibly fails to match our enthusiasm for the classroom. Though Brown has the third-highest number of varsity teams in the NCAA, student attendance at sporting events, which we see to be the purest form of school pride, warrants a pause for concern, from both an institutional and financial perspective.

Alum donations are an often-used metric for comparing attachment to an alma mater. By this measure, Brown fails. According to U.S. News and World Report, just 35 percent of alums donated between 2008 and 2010. This compares with 61 percent at Princeton and 49 percent at Dartmouth. It should alarm all community members that the energy of Fall Convocation does not endure through Commencement.

As the University develops plans to spend the large sums raised through its 250th anniversary events, it should direct funds toward the reorganization of the campus in a way that cultivates a tighter and more integrated student body. President Ruth Simmons’ negotiations with the city for the property rights to many of the streets on College Hill present the opportunity to create a more centralized and cohesive campus which we see as crucial to the sense of community developed by many of our peers, including Princeton and Dartmouth.

We also propose increasing the number and scale of University-wide events. For many, Campus Dance represents the pinnacle of Brown’s deep-rooted history, as both undergrads and those celebrating their 70th reunions come together under the elms. It is the moment when many individuals realize the scope of the shared Brunonian experience. Unfortunately, at other events, the University does not sufficiently capture the significance of institutional identity — a shortcoming that impacts both the mindset and awareness of the student body.

The celebration of Brown’s 250th anniversary has exposed many students to the University’s impressive history. While the undergrad experience accounts for only a short four-year segment, we must find a way to remind students that this institution lives long after our narrow and somewhat ephemeral window closes. We hope that key reforms can reinvigorate a discernable sense of school spirit characterized by firm connections to peers, the institution and its storied past. The University, along with students, must work to actively cultivate and maintain this ever-important relationship.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board, led by Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to


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