Whatever happened to St. John’s school spirit?
This is a question I ask myself countless times each semester. After all, many of my family members and friends who went to St. John’s back in the 80’s and early 90’s speak fondly of their alma mater and frequently remind me of the overwhelming amount of pride they felt for the University. Looking around campus each day makes me wonder: what happened to that pride?
Sports have always been a source for school spirit, but even that has been struggling. Attending an SJU basketball game at Madison Square Garden is entirely different than it was decades ago. Lately, attendance has been so low that the Johnnies practically feel like the away team.
Still, I had no idea how big a problem school spirit was for St. John’s until this past Friday, when I attended the opening-night performance of “Bat Boy” – the Chappel Players’ Fall musical.
Although the show was thoroughly entertaining, with solid acting and great choreography, it drew a crowd of only 50 people – not enough to fill an already tiny Little Theatre.
The small turnout didn’t surprise me one bit – St. John’s is not a theater school, and never was. But what I did find shocking was that not one University administrator, or even faculty member, attended the performance.
After the show, I spoke with quite a few members of the Chappel Players, who all informed me that St. John’s higher-ups practically never attend shows at the Little Theatre.
Without a doubt, school spirit has to start at the top. What type of example do administrators set when even they won’t come out to support one of their student organizations?
Last year, the University spent money on renovating the Little Theatre, equipping it with a new sound system capable of handling a large-scale musical like “Bat Boy.”
In order to raise school spirit overall and increase the attendance of shows like “Bat Boy,” administrators need to take more of an interest in the University’s organizations, regardless of their size.
The higher ups of St. John’s cannot simply throw money at organizations and expect them to excel; their active support and interest in the group is also important. St. John’s has made some missteps with larger organizations, too — most notably, the Muslim Students Asssociation.
MSA, a group that is one of St. John’s most highly-funded organizations, hosted a series of dinners to break their religious fast during the month of Ramadan. The daily event, known as an iftar, took place on the lawn outside of the University Center.
However, the sprinklers on the lawn went off during one of these gatherings, ruining MSA’s highly religious event.
I watched from the Torch office as this debacle happened and couldn’t help but wonder how odd it was that even one of the University’s “Big 10” organizations could fall victim to such a grievous mistake.
Granted, accidents happen, and nothing on this campus can be perfect. But still, St. John’s forgetfulness and inadvertent ruining of many Muslim students’ iftar should serve as a reminder that the University must strive to meet the needs of all its organizations, both big and small, and make them feel fully supported.
Still, I remain hopeful. For example, I was pleasantly surprised to see that “Bat Boy” was included on the Homecoming calendar of events for next weekend. This time around, I hope as many administrators and faculty members as possible come out and see the musical, not only to enjoy a well-performed show, but to support one of St. John’s smaller, yet dedicated, organizations.
Administrators of St. John’s should not exhibit the same type of apathy that students have; rather, they need to lead by example, since if they don’t show school spirit, who will?
It’s hard to nail down exactly what made St. John’s school spirit disappear. But one thing is certain: it’s up to University administrators to go out there and find it.