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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Administration seeks to create, mobilize school spirit

Published: November 18, 2011
Section: Featured, Front Page

Standing behind the bleachers in Red Auerbach Arena Thursday evening as the Judges racked up a 28-point victory over Emerson College, Andrew Flagel talked about a re-energized athletic pride and a university filled with unique, untraditional school spirit.

Flagel, the university’s senior vice president for students and enrollment and top student life official, previously served at George Mason and University of Michigan, two schools known for their Division I athletic excellence. But at Brandeis, he leads a new administration determined to spread school spirit and vibrant student life on campus.

“Busy night @brandeisu: MLK Cohesion Dinner, #NoamChomsky speech, then Mens basketball destroys #Emerson 78-50 – Go Deis!” Flagel tweeted online after attending the Judges’ second game of the season.

“I think school spirit means different things at different institutions,” he said, with just minutes to go in the second half, pausing to cheer as the Judges grabbed a turnover and sprinted down the floor on a fast break, with a student fan club called the Jury cheering and yelling until the final seconds ticked off the clock.

“Yeah, it’s not a lot of paint-your-face-on-the-weekend and act-as-stupid-as-you-can,” Flagel said, explaining the spirit and energy on campus in comparison to universities that are known as athletic powerhouses.

But he added that small schools such as Brandeis provide an ideal atmosphere for school spirit at games, compared to Division I schools where athletes live an isolated life from the rest of the student body, living in separate dorms, eating in separate dining halls and even finding separate study spaces.

“There’s something phenomenal about cheering for your friend,” Flagel said about the small school atmosphere.

When the Judges captured the ECAC soccer championship with an 8-0 victory over Albertus Magnus College on Sunday, the administration made a noticeable push for school spirit and energy over the weekend.

University officials sent out multiple e-mails about the game and, on Saturday night, President Fred Lawrence sent a message to the Brandeis community, urging them to attend.

“It was wonderful to see school spirit at Gordon Field today. Let’s go for even more tomorrow on what promises to be a perfect day for soccer at Brandeis,” he wrote. “We claimed the ECAC Men’s title in 1994, 2006 and last year. You can help the Judges add another Championship tomorrow. Join me on the sidelines and make some noise.”

For Lawrence, Flagel and the rest of the senior leadership team, connecting with and relating to students has been easier because the timing of their new job comes at an ideal time for incoming first-years—both the officials and the students are beginning on new journeys at Brandeis.

As Brandeis tries to capture its school spirit to spread its influence publicly, Lawrence and his team face a challenge of image, different from the challenge of identity that Reinharz inherited in 1994.

Identity is about name-recognition, whether people know a school when they hear someone mention it. Image is about what people think of a school, what message and mission they associate with it.

Now, with a new leadership team and a strategic plan underway, Brandeis will have to redefine its image, locally, nationally and internationally.

As Flagel explained, both students and alumni need to take more pride in wearing their school letters and logo.

“It’s almost as if we’re a little hesitant to be too braggy. I think it’s okay to get a little braggy, too have a little swagger,” Flagel said.

Swagger may be the desired outcome but it will take careful planning and new communication to get there.

After the buzzer sounded, as players headed to the locker room and students filed out of the bleachers, Flagel walked down to the floor, talking with Director of Athletics Sheryl Sousa ’90.

Later Thursday evening, he posted another tweet.

“Move to Brandeis is wonderful. I miss my Mason team, but the students faculty and leadership here are phenomenal!” Flagel wrote.