Let’s start the year on a cheery note, shall we? I can’t stand the frenzied pep rally crap all over Concrete Beach. I’m offended by all the forced peppiness, and it boggles my mind that we go through this whole tortured rigmarole multiple times a year.

I can't have been the only one who looked with horror at all the obnoxious clapping and chanting and yelling that went on during O-Week. I remember thinking, "Christ, is this what university is like? Is this what I have to do to have a good time?"

I have a few issues with the rah-rah banner-waving atmosphere that infects this school. For one thing, I just find it utterly stupid. It's the sort of frothing-at-the-mouth loyalty that you only ever find in North America: wartime jingoism in a purple costume.

It's also weirdly conformist. Even the school chant sounds like a cult in opium-addled worship. Western, Western, as thousands sway back and forth with their arms in the air. I've worked in retail, and I've seen zealous converts in full swing: Western's peculiar brand of school spirit falls somewhere between corporate cheerleading and mandatory church camp.

I'm not even sure who we're cheering for. Western University, which operates first as a corporation and then as an educational institution? If the recent OWL fiasco is any indication, administration pays little attention to the voice of students, no matter how loud.

Or perhaps the world-class educational services provided by our professors and staff? Then again, the whole idea of discerning, well-reasoned skepticism seems at odds with all the cultish chanting, rote cheerleading and manufactured rivalries between fairly similar universities.

But plenty of my friends live for "school spirit,"  and they all seem to agree that they're not screaming their heads off for the university itself or the education it offers — they're doing it for the "Western experience."

Which brings me to my main quibble with so-called school spirit: for a movement that’s supposed to be about welcoming newcomers, it can be pretty exclusionary. The "Western experience," which seems to mean cheering and yelling sophs and general rowdiness, leaves little room for students otherwise inclined – those who would prefer, say, a movie night to the usual jumping-jack indoctrination.

During my O-Week, I felt like the odd one out for not engaging in all this fatuous idiocy, especially since fatuous idiocy is a favourite pastime of mine. Why wasn’t I in my element? As it turns out, idiocy is only appealing when it’s spontaneous and heartfelt — acting stupid on the orders of some jumped-up fourth-year dressed in fatigues and a rainbow headband just wasn't the same.

Luckily, it’s not present all the time. School spirit is at its nauseating apex in O-Week, snuffs itself out entirely throughout exams and flares up again here and there like a persistent rash. It’s possible, with a little planning, to avoid it altogether — perhaps by hiding in the Gazette office and writing bitter, self-righteous columns?