UR may be known as a school full of socially awkward students, but that won’t prevent over 1,400 students from getting lei’d this Sunday.  That is, lei’d at “Get Lei’d at Beach Brunch” at Danforth, one of the many events of this year’s Spirit Week.

Spirit Week was founded in 2004 by the 2007 Class Council during their freshman year.  The class wanted to recreate the rapport and community it experienced during orientation.

“The Spirit Week tradition has always been to rally the Yellowjacket spirit, culminating with support and enthusiasm for Rochester’s basketball team,” expressed Class of 2017 Vice President Sam Lawyer.  “Our goal for Spirit Week is just for our Class of 2017 to have every opportunity to have a good time and be close with each other while promoting class spirit and passion for the University of Rochester.”

Spirit Week is the first large event that the freshman class council is responsible for planning, which serves both as practice for programming planning senior year and as a way for the freshman class to show upperclassmen their school pride.

“Spirit Week is planned by the freshmen, who’ve never experienced Spirit Week before.  This allows them to start with a fresh idea of what Spirit Week should be,” said 2016 Class President Grant Dever.

“I think the fact that Spirit Week is programmed by the Freshman Class Council every year is so that each incoming class, the new wave of students that ride in every year, all have the chance to really feel the class spirit by having their peers, who they learn with side by side every day, being the ones to sponsor the events. It promotes a strong feeling of community on campus,” Lawyer explained.

The influx of new ideas leads to new events each year, all of which are aimed at increasing “enthusiasm and passion for University of Rochester along with the creation of a close-knit, comfortable community,” Lawyer added.

There have been many different events over the years, but a few stand out more than others.

According to Laura Ballou, former freshman class council advisor, one of the early traditions was to have an Open Mic night where members of the freshman class could show off their talent. This was one of Ballou’s favorites. “There has often been an element of competition, and there have been 3 on 3 basketball tourneys and even a Rock, Paper, Scissors tourney,” she said.  One such event was Dancing with the UR Stars, which was done by the 2014 Class Council. They had UR staff and faculty dance with UR dance groups she continued.

The fun community building events of Spirit Week all lead up to the weekend’s basketball games.“The first Spirit Week ended with home basketball games and the inclusion of Friday home basketball games in the week has always been included” Ballau explained.Dever elaborated, “Our most popular event [last year] was definitely the basketball game. We absolutely packed the stadium.” This tradition continues as Women’s and Men’s Basketball takes on Washington University on Friday, Jan. 31 with free pizza, foam fingers, face painting, and a student vs. faculty game at halftime.

Planning for this year’s Spirit Week began this past fall at the first meeting of the newly elected freshman class council where they learned what an important tradition Spirit Week is to UR. Class of 2017 Programming Chair Antonio Cardenas said he distinctly remembers being told how “crucial [it was] for us to dedicate a lot of our time and effort into making it an amazing week for our classmates.”  The council had also been meeting weekly to start implementing their ideas, ordering materials, and reaching out to campus organizations and upperclassmen for help.

“This year, the 2017 Council wanted to keep old Spirit Week traditions and introduce a number of new, interesting events,” said 2017 Class Council President Stephen Wegman. “To me, Spirit Week is essential in bringing students to celebrate the greatness, uniqueness and unity of UR.”

“We received great support from Sunday Splash, Cinema Club, Danforth Dining, Blue Crew, and the Office of Alumni Relations. They play a crucial role in the making of spirit week.” Cardenas added.

The council decided on a beach theme for Spirit Week. “In the middle of a bleak winter, a hint of summer make[s] students happy – A little sunshine never hurt anybody!” said Class of 2017 Secretary Palak Patel said.

Elizabeth Beson, Class of 2017 Publicity Chair, offered her thoughts as well. “Since we all have a mutual feeling of ‘Give me sunshine and warmth’ during the winter months here at UR, we decided we might as well give the people what they want in times like this: a chance to forget about the blizzard outside and events that make you feel like you’re closer to a beach than you really are.”

A new tradition of including a dance as part of Spirit Week may be catching on. Last year, the Class of 2016 hosted a Valentine’s Day Sadie Hawkins dance, and this year’s festivities include a Beach Bash, an event Wegman said would be reminiscent of the dance parties during orientation.

“The Beach Bash is probably the event I’m looking forward to the most. We have WRUR DJing the event in the May Room and it should be an absolute blast! There will be music, glow sticks, dancing and overall a ton of fun,” Lawyer said.

Another event which is becoming a staple to spirit week is ‘I Heart Rochester’. Freshman class advisor Alicia Lewis said the “shirts that are given away are becoming a coveted item.”

Although there are larger events, Wegman stressed that “Spirit Week has a number of events that are very conducive to students who wish to stop in quickly in between classes,” including ‘Sunglasses and Piña Coladas’ and ‘I Heart Rochester’.

Now in its 11th year, Spirit Week has established itself as a true university tradition to boost school spirit after exams and a long winter break.

Put plainly by Dever, “In the middle of the winter, it’s nice to have something to get people excited and remind them that they love UR, even though it has been snowy and freezing for the last few months.”

Kath is a member of the class of 2016.

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