School spirit at McGill is an elusive concept. McGill students lack the hallmarks of typical university pride, like packed varsity games and roaring homecoming events. Attendance at McGill varsity games is notoriously low, and our homecoming is a far cry from the raucousness at other universities. That isn’t to say that McGill pride doesn’t exist–it just manifests itself differently. It doesn’t stem from a star quarterback, or a rowdy tailgate party. Instead, it comes from the shared day-to-day experiences of McGill students , and the diversity of smaller communities that they build during their time here.
It’s natural to want to attach a sense of pride to the post-secondary experience. For better or worse, university catches people at their most vulnerable–on the cusp of adulthood and often living alone for the first time, armed only with a student card and a couple of course packs. It’s a phase of life in which students’ identities are still solidifying. Their university experience inevitably colours that process.
For some students, McGill isn’t a distinctive aspect of their identity. It’s simply the campus that they walk through to go to class, get their degree, and then move on through life.
For others, their time at McGill is distinctive for negative reasons. It’s no secret that McGill puts its students through the ringer. Whether by maneuvering the infinite regress of Service Point, or just trying to get up McTavish in one piece, many McGill students seem to emerge from graduation more like scarred veterans than anything else. For those still fighting the good fight, it can feel like the institution isn’t here to help students, but to simply churn out exceptional individuals–the next generation of remarkable doctors and engineers and entrepreneurs. For those that aren’t already remarkable, it’s easy to get left behind. McGill expects everything of its students, yet seems to offer little to help them succeed.
The McGill degree is an uphill battle; however, it’s also a shared battle. There is a sense of camaraderie on campus drawn not just from the struggle of six-hour cram sessions or navigating Minerva, but from the common values that daily hurdles foster. McGill constantly challenges its students, and literally invented pain.
Suffice to say, McGill students are accustomed to fighting to survive, and this scrappiness extends beyond the classroom–McGill students are conditioned to be critical of the world around them. There is a culture of activism on campus, and of actively, constantly seeking positive change. When McGill students are confronted with injustice or incompetence, whether at the level of student government or the administration, they identify it as such–and, often, push to make it better in constructive ways. This productive criticism is integral to our brand of school spirit.
Moreover, while McGill itself may not offer adequate care or support, much less a sense of pride, students find these things in the people they encounter, and in the communities they join. At other universities, school spirit often revolves around a common, unifying experience, like a winning football team. McGill doesn’t have a single focal point like that. Rather, it offers a range of smaller clubs, teams, and organizations. Between hacking competitions and frat houses, tightly-knit faculty and departmental associations and cultural societies, there’s a seemingly unlimited variety of niche groups at McGill. It’s through these smaller groups that students find the sense of belonging and connectedness that McGill, as a larger, more distant entity, lacks. It’s through these groups that students build their own McGill experience–and their own version of McGill pride stems from that experience, rather than from the institution as a whole.
McGill school spirit may be difficult to pin down, but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. It exists in the passion and dedication that McGill students exude, whether applied to their studies or to a worthy cause, and in the sheer diversity of communities that make up “McGill students.” It’s hard to find a single definition of McGill pride because there isn’t just one–McGill school spirit is a sum of experiences as diverse as the students that go here. And that’s something to be proud of.