Spirit has always been one of Dartmouth’s most fundamental strengths. Besides the College’s excellent reputation for academics and athletics, the sense of school spirit among its students sets it apart from all other colleges.
Most students and alumni say they feel Dartmouth has strong school spirit, but not necessarily when it comes to what may be happening on the field of Alumni Stadium.
Sports and Spirit
Many people, especially upperclassmen, believe school spirit for sports is waning.
“There’s a decline in school spirit,” said Elizabeth Fuller ’97, captain of the cheerleading club. She said fewer students go to football games than when she was a freshmen.
Pete Oberle ’96, co-captain and a tailback for the Big Green football team, said he would like more students to come out to the games.
“The spirit is pretty good,” Oberle said. “Sometimes I look into the stands and see a fair amount of students, but not as many as I’d like to see.”
“I don’t see as many [undergraduate] seats taken as there used to be,” Lawrence Scammon Jr. ’56 said. He said he remembers the stands being filled with spectators when he was a student.
Dartmouth began participating in collegiate football in 1881, and it is difficult to believe the College lacked school spirit for the 112 years before the sport’s advent here.
“School spirit manifests itself in all sorts of ways,” History Professor Jere Daniell ’55 said. “Athletics is just one way.”
Many students, especially the College’s youngest, said Dartmouth has fantastic school spirit overshadowing what enthusiasm exists at other institutions, although not always in Alumni Stadium.
Anthony Accurso ’99 said Dartmouth’s school spirit is “like no other.”
“It starts the second we get to Moosilauke Lodge and it never lets down,” he said. “I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like it here.”
“I think Dartmouth has a lot of school spirit,” Kathleen de Guzman ’99 said. “That’s a main reason I chose to come to Dartmouth.”
De Guzman said when she was accepted this summer to various colleges, she called students from each to gain a feel for student happiness.
Undergraduates at other institutions gave de Guzman disinterested opinions of their schools. “When I called people at Dartmouth they all said they loved it,” she said.
“Compared to Smith [College] it’s great,” said Lea DeFrancisci ’98, a transfer student from Smith. “A reason I didn’t like it was because there was no school spirit. Here is great.”
Oberle was able to offer some insight because he is also a transfer student. He went to Colorado State University, where he also played football. He said Colorado had a really strong football department and students were really excited about the athletics there, but Dartmouth has more “all-around,” general school spirit.
“Dartmouth’s school spirit is stronger and has a greater sense of tradition,” Oberle said. He said Dartmouth’s rich history and customs has helped foster today’s ample morale.
The Good Old Days
Several alumni offered interesting perceptions that could squelch pessimists’ feelings about declining school spirit.
Dudley Weider ’60 said he saw a football game this year and “it seemed to me to be reasonably well-attended.”
He acknowledged a higher proportion of students watched the games when he was an undergraduate, “but for one thing, there were no girls there. There was nothing else to do but go to football games.”
Weider said he found today’s football games nearly identical to those he saw when he was an undergraduate. The insults tossed around by the band and its other antics, crowd participation and the game played on the field all seemed the same.
“If you took a movie [of a Dartmouth football game] of today and 35 years ago, it would look the same,” Weider said. “Except the cheerleaders dressed up like Indians.”
Both Scammon and Weider said “Men of Dartmouth,” “Dartmouth’s in Town Again” and the touchdown song were the most widely heard songs then and now.
Despite grumblings from members of the campus’ far-right, school spirit and how College students express it really has not changed much in recent years.
Some periods in Dartmouth’s history suffered considerably in regards to school pride. Irving Brown III ’70 said during the Vietnam War “there were no games at all.”
Brown said a period of disruption erupted during the Spring term of 1970, around the time of the Kent State incident. Several students staged a sit-in in Parkhurst Hall and tried to shut down the College. It was a period of strife that generated a lot of animosity among students and which was certainly detrimental to any hints of enthusiasm about Dartmouth.
Expressions of Spirit
The ways in which Dartmouth students manifest their school spirit has changed significantly through the years, according to Daniell.
Daniell said he was glad to see the disappearance of the gauntlet, an outlawed form of hazing where upperclassmen lined up and whipped freshmen with belts.
Daniell said new forms of initiation, like freshmen trips, have emeged to replace the gauntlet and other hazing practices. He said the freshmen camping trips run by the Dartmouth Outing Club have become “the single most important tradition of community-forming that exists now.”
Daniell pointed to orientation, convocation and other ceremonies the College supports as nourishing a great sense of tradition that in turn keeps school spirit high.
Students’ enthusiasm and love for the school, which often manifests itself on Alumni Field, has endured up to now. And considering the school spirit evidenced by the Class of 1999, it will not falter for at least another four years.