The shocked faces of my parents, the excitement in my voice, the approval from my friends: “That’s awesome,” they would say.
All of these were reactions when I got into Lehigh. I was very unsure if I would get in, so when the day came, it felt amazing. I was so happy to have the chance to go to a school with fantastic academics, excellent social opportunities and, with my interest in sports journalism, division 1 sports.
I came to school the next day flaunting a Lehigh shirt. I was so proud of my accomplishment.
Today, it can be easy to forget the reason why I, and others, came to this amazing school. Caught up in our work, we too often forget the pride that we once felt to go here. Collectively, there is very little school spirit at Lehigh.
It seems easier to be prideful of this school before and after graduation. Shouldn’t our time spent here be where we feel it most? Too often, it isn’t.
Late last month, Lehigh basketball legend C.J. McCollum had his jersey retired during a thriller of a game against Holy Cross that was decided by only two points.
The 2,804 people in attendance marked the most highly attended home game since Lehigh lost to Holy Cross in the Patriot League Championship three years ago in March of 2016.
The stadium was just 50 percent full.
A Lehigh team that generally has a realistic shot of making the NCAA tournament every year hasn’t exceeded 50 percent attendance in three years.
On March 7, Lehigh defeated Army in the Patriot League quarterfinals in a game that only had 1,546 fans in attendance, roughly 28 percent. This game was on the Thursday before spring break, so students were still around to go to the game.
It is hard to imagine that at 7 p.m. on a Thursday that students would be overly consumed by other activities. The reality is not that Lehigh students are too busy with other extracurricular activities to cheer on a Lehigh sports team that had a chance to make the NCAA tournament.
However, the reality is that most people don’t care. School spirit at Lehigh is a joke.
Even football, which would conceivably captivate more of an audience, suffered this past year with the best attendance sitting at around 41 percent of the 16 thousand individual capacity.
While sports are an easy way to detect apathy at Lehigh, that is not to say apathy isn’t present in other parts of our school’s culture.
In my time at the school, I have heard multiple people say that the only things to do at Lehigh are to “work and drink.” While these statements may have been declared jokingly or in gest, it is undeniable that some see their Lehigh experience as this basic.
Like most universities, Lehigh has an abundance of clubs to get involved in and an also boasts plenty of networking opportunities. But, the ability for students to get involved does not always transcend past this.
We understand that Lehigh students chose to go to school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, not, say, New York City. Opportunities for extracurriculars and social life in Bethlehem are inherently going to be more limited than they would be in a major city. However, Lehigh’s problems with apathy go beyond that.
Amid the issues surrounding the administration’s clear frustration with Greek life, it is necessary to take a step back and assess why Greek life became such a staple and tradition at Lehigh.
Greek life emerged as a way for students to unite in when there was a greater need for activities that fostered student involvement.
While there is undoubtedly a plethora of more ways to get involved at Lehigh and give back to the community than there were when Greek life was first present at Lehigh in 1872, the culture of the school has remained much the same.
It is obvious that the administration is at a crossroads with where the school is at now and where they want it be. Lehigh is a top notch academic school and there are continuous initiatives to take Lehigh to new heights, potentially even establishing it as a school that could be in the conversation as an equivalent to some Ivy League schools.
With that being said, we need to also facilitate more ways to get involved on campus both on social and extracurricular levels. Lehigh students as whole have failed to get involved much beyond their friend groups. Of course, there are some individuals who have found ways to be involved in several initiatives on campus, but most struggle to do so.
In a time in which Lehigh wants to change the reputation of the school, there needs to also be a change in culture. We should not forego our traditions, but rather enhance them and create an environment in which apathy isn’t something that defines us.
Why hyper focus on growing the school physically before we eliminate the apathy that hinders us emotionally?
Eli Fraerman, ’21, is an assistant sports editor for the Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected]