Blue-Out: school spirit and mechanics of tradition

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Louis Hannegan
Commentary Editor

“What’s wrong with a little school spirit?  We talk about how much we love our school so now let’s show it … choose to wear blue and participate in Blue-OUT Friday!”

Familiar lines, if you read the “Announcement_Undergrad” emails you receive.  But also lines that give pause to many students.  Something seems amiss.  “Is this the way to begin a tradition?” they ask.  “Is this how University of Dallas students show their ‘UD Pride’?”

Both are tough questions, and both depend on one’s view of highly debatable concepts: the mechanics of tradition in the first, the source of school spirit and unity in the second.

Tradition is a funny thing.  Someone has to plant it – to begin it.  But after that, the planter has to let go.  He can certainly water the seed and ensure proper sunlight – but that’s it.  If it grows, great; if not, too bad.  It’s like any living thing.  It has to take root – something that depends on that particular plot of soil, not the planter, after his initial job is done.  Combine the wrong plant with the wrong soil, and you won’t produce anything lasting, if anything at all.

We students are like that soil. Many traditions have and continue to grow amongst us.  Madonna Mondays, Tie Tuesdays, Waffle Wednesdays, Huevos Jueves, Flannel Fridays, just to name a few.

Their growth seems natural, effortless – and it was and is.  They take root and last because we want them, because we thought they fit.  But someone planted them.  Spontaneous generation doesn’t exist.  Each of these movements had a founder.

Take Groundhog for example.  Timeless as it may seem, this tradition too had a beginning.  Someone – and actually not a student – started it.

Blue-Out is no different. Someone has attempted to start it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it’s necessary.  True, the aspiring founders are Admissions Staff and not regular students, but what is the difference?  If the seed is good, why does it matter who planted it?  Tradition is primarily about the relationship between the soil and seed – not the planter.  After all, do all good things have to be our own idea?

Others object to the Admissions Staff’s method of planting and watering – email.  Again, what difference?  The method of sowing is not important; only the seed and soil are.  If the seed and soil fit together, why complain about how the seed was planted or watered?

That, however, is where Blue-Out falls short.  The seed and soil do not fit together.

Though a “Sea of Blue” does show visible unity and “school spirit,” that unity and spirit do not have much content.  Blue is our school color – but that’s it.  The only thing peculiar to UD about blue is that we, like dozens of other schools, claim it as our color.  Our unity and school spirit, however, are based on much more than a particular color.  They’re based on our common education through the Core.  They’re based on our belief in the value of the Western Tradition, the Christian Tradition.  They’re based on our love of a rocking party – and a good book; of a cappuccino – and a Shiner or three.

With this deep, broad basis of unity and school spirit, color-coordinating becomes superfluous and silly.  That spirit and unity that Admissions seeks to promote resides in something much deeper – and more meaningful – than a blue T-shirt or pair of blue jeans.  So it’s no wonder Blue-Out hasn’t caught on: Wearing blue clothes just doesn’t have much to do with the source of UD’s unity and spirit as many, if not most of us understand it.  Blue-Out is just not the proper seed for this particular patch of soil.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m going to have to disagree with Mr. Hannegan here. Manufacturing a controversy over a “Blue-Out” is the last thing UD needs. Many, many universities practice seemingly simple methods of displaying school pride. There is so much that UD ought NOT to imitate from other universities, but displaying school pride via blue clothing is not one of them. Why create additional divisions? Why relegate UD further from the mainstream with complaints about wearing blue clothing as if its somehow an assault upon our institutional character?

    Save your rhetorical energy and intellectual weapons for real controversies: like keeping the Core intact and ousting heretical faculty. But the knee-jerk reaction of being repelled by anything that “smells” of mainstream academia; that is an attitude that renders the whole UD educational enterprise useless. Since the liberal arts are supposed to prepare students to be the MOST useful citizens, it would be helpful if they can relate in some way to their peers. Not that showing school pride via a Blue Out is the only thing we can have in common with a school like Virginia Tech or Notre Dame, but I would venture to say that students of those universities would find this article very, very odd. (e.g Catholics at Notre Dame protest free contraception, Catholics at Virginia Tech protest gay marriage, and Catholics at UD protest wearing blue? That is odd indeed.)

    We are a Catholic, orthodox, liberal arts school. That already makes us an oddity. No need to increase our oddness with unnecessary rantings about a “Blue-Out.” Where can avoid being odd, strange, or unnatural (as in this case), I think we have a duty to do so.

    Just wear your blue. Go UD!

  2. Achilles, thank you for your comment.
    First, I have no problem with wearing blue or other people wearing blue, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with UD school spirit and pride. That’s all. UD students aren’t allergic to the practices maintstream schools employ to show school spirit; our school spirit and unity just have a deeper and broader foundation than color-coordination.
    Second, why is thinking that a Blue-Out has little to do with our school spirit and unity “odd, strange, [and] unnatural”? It seems indicative of a healthy understanding of UD as, yes, “a Catholic, orthodox, liberal art school.”
    Third, the presence of a more serious cause does not eliminate the need to discuss other, less important issues. Sure, the integrity of the UD Core and the orthodoxy of our faculty (neither of which do I question) are more important than Blue-Out but that doesn’t make them the only issues.
    Fourth, regarding our “oddity”, I stand with Lincoln. If our positions are well-reasoned and students from Notre Dame or Virginia Tech find them odd, well, whose problem is that?

  3. I highly doubt that the Admissions Office is promoting a “Blue-Out” as some comprehensive way of displaying the totality of our school’s character. Of course, wearing blue is superficial. Of course, our school’s character cannot be explained by a color of the rainbow. I was hoping to avoid stating obvious points like that. But the fact is that showing school spirit via superficial means such as wearing blue in no way desecrates our uniting belief in the value of the Western Tradition. That is a patently unreasonable position. Just like a Notre Dame student would argue that being a Domer is more than wearing Blue and Gold, or being a Hokie is more than wearing maroon and orange. This is just a silly conversation to have. Think of the Admissions department trying to make the UD education a grape-flavored vitamin for society. If we appear too strange or out-of-touch, there is very little change that we will be able to effect in the world.

    Also, I wonder if its not with some arrogance that UD students refuse to partake in University intiatives such as a Blue-Out. Again, the presumption is that UD is qualitatively different from other schools, a city on a hill, and cannot, therefore, allow itself to be marketed like those lesser, mainstream institutions. I think some humility is in order here. We certainly are a better school than most, but the point is to promote our school and change the culture, by meeting people where they are at.

    I close with a mock dialogue that should explain my point better:

    VA Tech Student: “Hey dudes, I can’t wait for the NFL draft party next weekend. I’m going to wear my Tech shirt. I love wearing those colors. Tech was the best.”

    Notre Dame Student: “Dude you should have gone to Notre Dame. Nothing beats the blue and gold. Achilleus, you going to wear your UD colors next weekend?”

    Achilleus: “No, my school has a deep, broad basis for our unity in the Western Tradition and our Core Curriculum. That unity cannot be encapsulated by a simple color. Therefore I shall wear a reasonably priced polo shirt and some slacks. If you want to understand what UD’s school spirit it, I have some books I can recommend.”

    VA Tech Student: “No man, it’s ok. So like you didn’t have a school color or anything?”

    Achilleus: “Well yes, but the one time the Admission’s Office tried to encourage us to show school pride by wearing blue, our school color, students resisted and protested such a superfluous and silly idea. Isn’t that great?”

    Notre Dame Student: “Umm, yeah, that’s awesome. Well I got go.”

    VA Tech Student: “Yeah, me too. See you later.”

  4. Achilleus, thank you again for your insightful comments.
    I encourage you to submit a letter to the editor expressing your views on this topic.

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