American universities and (especially) their fundraising networks are the envy of the world. The past few years have seen a number of universities attempt to mimic the American fundraising spirit. For some pointers, perhaps they should look to Penn State, where students’ school passion has led to a riot. The New York Times reports:
After top Penn State officials announced that they had fired Joe Paterno on Wednesday night, thousands of students stormed the downtown area to display their anger and frustration, chanting the former coach’s name, tearing down light poles and overturning a television news van parked along College Avenue. […]“Of course we’re going to riot,” he said. “What do they expect when they tell us at 10 o’clock that they fired our football coach?”Other students expressed sadness instead of anger. Kathryn Simpson walked crying arm-in-arm with a friend.“I’m here because I just need to be with the rest of my school right now,” she said. “This is devastating for us.”
While riots may not be what these schools have in mind, there’s an important lesson for university administrators around the world: America’s fervent school spirit begins with college sports. While Via Meadia supports the decision that led to this outburst and disapproves of riots, I note with approval the student’s passion for an issue that touches what they have come to feel as “their” school. This sense of ownership extends even to the freshman class, many of whom have been there for a mere three months. Later in life, these kids will give.Even super prestigious and super rich schools like Harvard, Princeton and Yale use athletics and the school spirit that builds on rivalries for fundraising. Somewhere in the stately Mead manor I still have the souvenir the dean of Yale College mailed all living alumni a few years ago: a miniature replica of a football goalpost made from the goalposts that the students tore down after a memorable Yale win against the Evil Empire on the banks of the Charles.America’s great citadels of learning owe much of their wealth and prestige to the rituals of (mostly male) competition and sport that many of their professors despise. That’s just the way things work in this wacky world of ours, and foreign universities that want to be great and rich need to start organizing pep rallies and encouraging undergrads to paint themselves in the school colors for the Big Game.