As a sophomore, coming back to campus this fall after one semester of on–campus lockdown introduced me to a Penn I had never seen before. As I walked down Locust and saw fliers for comedy show performances, debates, and recitals, it felt like I was experiencing college for the first time. 

What I was really looking forward to came at the end of September—the start of football season. Coming from a small high school with no football program, I was excited to finally be able to experience the buzz under the Saturday night lights. I'd never really felt like my high school had a real sense of community, so I couldn't wait come to Penn and support my own school’s football team alongside my peers. But after I attended my first college football game, one thing became obvious: Penn has a serious lack of school spirit.

Walking into Franklin Field for the first time, I was greeted by rows and rows of barren bleachers. After finding my place in the stands, I was surprised to see that all the students there were sitting. The spectator stands could be best described as unenthused—a huge contrast to the bustling, lively atmosphere I had hoped for. Most people didn’t even know when to throw the toast during the school song. Although I knew that Penn’s football culture was no rival to that of Penn State’s, I was still struck by the severe lack of community at the game. 

I returned to the field to celebrate Sophomore Day, hoping that the white–out theme would bolster game day spirit. It couldn’t have been worse than last week, right? I was wrong. Looking around the stands (which were even emptier than last time), I barely saw anyone following the theme. Some students even came to the game just to grab their free merch and leave.

A lack of school spirit could be expected after a year and a half of virtual learning; it's also understandably hard for some students to feel passionate about Penn after the mishandling of the pandemic last year. For me, last semester was a time of stress and isolation with no help from Penn; now, I find it difficult to celebrate a school that has caused me so much distress. Still, Penn doesn’t seem to be doing anything to reignite enthusiasm. While many students find community through social clubs such as consulting clubs, cultural organizations, and Greek life, there is very little that unites us all beyond attending the same school. 

When I walk into Franklin Field, I’m still searching for that sense of belonging that I missed out on during my time in high school. Establishing a real football culture at Penn could be the opportunity students are looking for to come together as a community. In my experience, schools that have the most school spirit are typically the ones with the biggest football culture. Having something like that for Penn’s students and faculty to unite behind could serve as a surefire way to bolster camaraderie. Although we are a long way away from any sort of cultural shift in regard to football, a good step in the right direction would be to throw our toast as “a toast to dear old Penn.”