Saraiva: Challenging the elitism behind our Gameday spirit

    The following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

    The Wildcats’ victory over Iowa in overtime on Saturday had everything it needed to be a prime moment of the football season, but it was overshadowed by something that happened on the bleachers. A group of Northwestern students had signs that diminished the University of Iowa and made fun of its acceptance rate, which led to a debate on campus.

    The most problematic part of this situation is that it is a recurring behavior at Northwestern sports matches. Similar signs were spotted all over Ryan Field in the game against Penn State. These signs only show that bragging about our “academic excellence” has become a school tradition – an outrageous one that demeans our adversaries to feel better instead of celebrating our qualities.

    These are not the first students to make signs like this and will probably not be the last. Using them as scapegoats is not the answer; we need to accept the fact that Northwestern is an elitist school that immerses its freshmen in workshops about diversity and tolerance while exulting acceptance rates that decrease each year. We are part of a community that expects us to embrace differences but still encourages us to look down at others when it is convenient.

    Don't get me wrong: many of us applied here seeking world-class education – and we found it. With amazing facilities, Nobel Laureate professors and being one of the best universities in the country, we cannot deny Northwestern is an elite institution. However, as President Schapiro remembered during convocation last September, “elite doesn’t mean elitist.”

    Academically speaking, Northwestern is a great university, and when it comes to comparing it to other Big Ten members, there is no competition: it is the only private school in the conference and by far the most expensive one. Its community, full of valedictorians with perfect ACT scores, contrasts to other Big Ten schools that have over 70 percent acceptance rates.

    However, by bragging purely about statistical data, we forget that the true meaning of education goes beyond college rankings. What are the advantages of attending a school that has an one-digit acceptance rate if you forget about values like respect while here? When it comes to real life, those values are way more important than your GPA or who your Alma Mater is.

    Also, it is unfair to assume what other school’s profiles are based on our elitist prejudice. What if students decided to attend the University of Iowa over Northwestern? Maybe it was their dream school or maybe it offered a better scholarship. We do not know what happens in their lives and we do not have the right to guess. We cannot assume the only reason people go to lower ranking universities is because they could not get into Northwestern. The world does not revolve around us.

    Northwestern is not the only school feeding the snobbish culture of degrading its adversaries. As a student pointed out on Facebook, trash talk is definitely part of the sports tradition. “It’s football. It’s trash talk. Happens every Saturday, everywhere,” he said. However, we need to understand that regardless of whether everyone else is doing it, that does not give us the right to do the same.

    Don't get me wrong, I love sports and I will watch anything from soccer to fistball if you invite me. Actually, it is because I love them so much that I believe sports games should be moments of celebration, friendship bonding or even protest. They should never, however, encourage prejudice and elitism.


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