UTD comet spirit, like a comet, tends to come close to campus at times, but aside from a few blazing meteorites that break off, never makes an impact.
This academic year marks UTD’s 40th anniversary. The university started with the stroke of the governor’s pen in June 1969.
Until 1990, enrolling freshmen and sophomores at UTD would have been criminal activity. Even after legalization, admission standards had to be higher than the other Tier One universities in the state, UT Austin and Texas A&M.
With only master’s and doctoral programs allowed for the first five years and junior and senior level coursework added later, the university developed a fragmented sense of community reminiscent of an upper level community college — two years, then off to the world.
That community college feel persists today, 19 years after freshman arrived, with the school still largely a commuter campus where you check-in and checkout with a degree.
Committees carefully labored to concoct spirit like a lab assignment. We’ve had trial after trial of “this” mascot, “that” name and new fight songs throughout the years, as if the problem lies in our school’s identification.
My pride in UTD finds little basis in whether the mascot’s name is Temoc or Scorch. Spirit and tradition are organic things that arise out of love for the community and striving for commonality with fellow students.
That spirit is something you find by enjoying your time at the university and in fellowship with other people.
Currently the university is dumping money into spirit and engagement. The Welcome Week budget is higher than ever this year with programming from all the schools.
However, the welcome comes with a logistic hang-up — construction. While the university is investing heavily in the new freshmen and returning classes’ experience, people are trying to find their classes and a way to the events.
“Do not enter” sends a very un-welcoming message. The missive to celebrate this particular year and the greatness of the university is overshadowed by cranes.
Why not celebrate the 41st year when the campus beautification project is finished and there is visible cause to celebrate and room to do so? Hitting the decade mark at 40 is an arbitrary reason.
What I want for UTD is the spirit and vitality I saw at Texas A&M while attending for my freshman year.
Aggies are often subject to jokes about their intelligence, and I’ve heard my share. “How many Aggies does it take to screw in a light bulb?” “Well, it just takes one to screw up.”
Sadly, the running joke burns when turned on UTD. “How many comets does it take to have spirit?”
What made spirit successful at Texas A&M was that most people bought into the traditions and continued them as they were. They stand by their mascot, its name and the fight song. There is a lot of lore perpetuated on campus. Aggies are known for their friendliness and welcome the sense of community.
UTD has the potential for far more spirit than Texas A&M. The university is young and highly responsive to student initiatives as it is growing.
What we need to do is bring alcohol into The Pub to create a gathering place for the over 21 crowd, leave the mascot alone, create places where students want to hang out and break the community college mindset.
UTD would benefit from having more artifacts on campus that held stories and meaning, such as the spirit rocks. Pretty things and buildings make for a nice campus, but spirit comes from those extra touches that are unnecessary in the practical sense.
Building the freshman-only dormitory on campus is a step toward creating that spirit on campus by cultivating the community feel.
Get involved, share your ideas and enjoy making a difference. Spirit is what you make it.