Homecoming Away from Home

Did you know that McGill University was the host of the first organized indoor hockey game? Did you know that a McGill alumni invented basketball? Did you know that the first “modern” football game was between Harvard’s Crimson and the McGill Redmen? I bet the majority of you went 0 for 3 with these questions, but you know who didn’t go 0-3? McGill’s women’s basketball team and the Redmen baseball team, as they both won the national championship last season.

Every year around this time, my social media is flooded with pictures of Queen’s infamous purple jackets, videos of their “jacket slams”, pictures captioned “#LocoForHoco” from Western, and other examples of remarkable school spirit. While I love being a McGillian and am honoured to have the opportunity to study at such an illustrious institution, I can’t help but feel my student experience is incomplete.

As October 14 approaches, I bet there are more McGill students with tickets to go to Kingston for Queens’ homecoming than there are those who know about homecoming weekend. But why should they? McGill’s lackluster athletic culture and school spirit allows for this to happen year after year. I believe this disadvantages the McGill student body and community at large—and not just because they are missing out on “dope street parties and keg stands”.

Imagine all twenty-five thousand seats at Percival Molson Stadium filled with red and white coloured fans while the drums of the McGill Fight Band (yes, we have one) roars.

In a time where political and social divisions have made their way onto campuses, there are limited options to restore the type of camaraderie that was seen when our parents went to school. However, I believe that a strong school spirit can do just that, especially at a school as culturally and intellectually diverse as McGill.

Imagine all twenty-five thousand seats at Percival Molson Stadium filled with red and white coloured fans while the drums of the McGill Fight Band (yes, we have one) roars. For at least a moment, all divisions would be forgotten, and everyone would simply be a proud McGill student. With a campus that is thoroughly integrated into the city of Montreal, it is almost impossible to have the typical college-town­ experience of Kingston or Ann-Arbor. But we can try.

By informing and promoting important rivalry games to the McGill student body, I guarantee the teams would see an increase in attendance. As an avid sports fan, I would rather go to a Bishop’s vs. McGill lacrosse game on any given Saturday than watch NCAA college football through a laggy online stream. But if I, the avid sports fan, doesn’t even know when the lacrosse team plays, how can you expect the average student to?

A stronger sense of school spirit would help unite the campus around a common experience and reignite the flame of camaraderie that has been absent from the McGill campus for some time now. School spirit is not only beneficial for the current student body; it can be used as a tool to recruit prospective students and re-engage alumni who have lost touch with the university that nurtured them.

When I was touring universities my senior year of high school, every school had a selling point about their student life. Queens has their castle and tri-color apparel, Western has a city-like campus, not to mention the “craziest homecoming in the country”, and McGill had the best professors and academic reputation in the nation. Certainly an appealing thing to offer, but what about McGill’s school spirit?

Creating a more vibrant school spirit is an investment, both socially and financially.

On my tour of McGill the guide did not mention anything about McGill’s traditions, sports or other forms of school spirit. I presume that many prospective students (especially Americans) are disappointed by the possibility of not experiencing the epic tailgates, parades and rallies that their high school friends would be experiencing at big State schools. With a certain someone in the oval office and an increase in tuition rates in both public and private post-secondary institutions, it is no surprise that there has been an increase in American applicants for the class of 2021.

Creating a more vibrant school spirit is an investment, both socially and financially. It is no surprise that McGill has an extensive network of successful alumni across every industry sector. It is also not surprising that networking is an essential part of a student’s career, but what if networking events weren’t so formal and intimidating? What if, rather than suits and cocktails, alumni could connect with students at a tailgate in the parking lot of Percival Molson Stadium, or lower field, in a McGill Casual dress code? I’m not a networking expert, but believe me; value-added relationships would be established and traditions would be passed, ultimately resulting in a stronger McGill community. And who knows, maybe a strengthened sense of community would inspire even greater generosity from our alumni donors.

I know it is difficult to compare a town like College Park, Maryland to a city like Montreal, or the decade long traditions of the big State schools to McGill’s inexistent traditions. But one can’t help but wish that there were more school spirit at McGill.

So, will you be the start of a new wave of spirit at McGill on October 14th, or will you be in Kingston trying to avoid the awkward question of, “do you even go here bro”?

1 Comment

  • Anonymous says:

    As the author has pointed out, McGill does not partake in traditional “college” traditions such as tailgates, letterman jackets, dying people purple, fraternity culture etc… This very fact is what makes McGill an amazing university. The students can enjoy going to university in the center of downtown Montreal – arguably North America’s cultural capital – and take in all of the offerings of this world class city. They aren’t constrained to typical university life. I think it’s appalling when I hear people say they (or others) show up to classes in their pyjamas or sweatpants – at McGill it’s unheard of. No one in their right mind would walk around looking like a slob – and I’m thankful for that. McGill holds its students to a higher standard. When McGill students want to have fun, they don’t go to a kegger, they go to a predrink and then go out to a bar or club. When I was looking at universities this is what attracted me to McGill (along with it’s superior academic offering), and I think this is what attracts most of the students. If you want a traditional college experience, don’t got to McGill. It’s that simple. With the campus being right downtown you should know way in advance that your not getting the same experience as some university in a small, boring city like Kingston or London. Furthermore, being an alumnus, I can say that McGill does in fact have a very strong culture and brand. When you meet other McGillians you instantly know that you experienced something special, something completely different from other universities. It’s implicitly known that it was a superior experience. I also find the author’s assertion that McGill needs school spirit to attract more applicants or students ridiculous – McGill has no issue with that (as evidenced by their ever increasing academic requirements). Boo hoo for the poor Americans who won’t be having tailgates and keggers. If he’s feeling his college experience is lacking, he should transfer to Queens or Western (though no self-respecting McGillian would ever consider such a ridiculous idea), or better yet: go to the United States.

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