Homecoming is upon us! Soon enough, alumni will reunite to enjoy a weekend of fun-filled activities, including the Events Center tailgate and men’s soccer match. Anne McCall, the new dean of Harpur College, will make an introduction and Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger will discuss his bold vision for the future of our university.

Yet, with all the positivity surrounding these next few days, it is hard to forget the many years of lackluster school spirit that brought us here today. Our football team is still undefeated, and ever since the men’s basketball team scandal, it has been a slow, daunting and unrelenting fall from grace.

But even with these setbacks, despite the negative press coverage from hazing allegations and the University’s middling academic rankings, we are stronger than ever. No one, and I mean no one, can take that away from us.

Last February, inspired by Stenger’s Road Map, the Dean of Students Office (DOS) held a month-long event, BING-O, in which students stocked up on Binghamton involvement. From attending the TEDx conference to supporting local businesses to taking advantage of underutilized campus resources, initiatives such as BING-O underscore the commitment of the DOS Office to quality programming and our growing college town.

April Thompson, the dean of students, has continued to make an overwhelming effort to promote the cause. The same administrator who oversees finals week stress relief, who hosts multicultural fairs and Greek life dance marathons, took it upon herself last semester to stand on State Street handing out flip-flops and water bottles to students coming back from the bars. And while that is an astonishing level of cool, do not mistake just how powerful her gesture truly is.

Honestly, what more can we ask for? What will it take to disrupt the apathy that has entrenched our campus culture?

Well, that’s the problem. Instead of asking what, we need to ask ourselves why.

Whether our athletics are successful, whether our programming is enticing or even if our turnout is convincing in a milestone moment, none of it matters unless we choose to care over the long term. Without a firm understanding of why we do what we do, we will continue to lose in the fight against our own perceptions of what this school has to offer, and moreover, what we are capable of offering this school.

Many alumni and University staff recall a rich history of student-led spirit dating back to the 1970s. In 2009, fans were considered the “ultimate home court advantage” at the Men’s Basketball America East Championship and subsequent bid in the NCAA tournament. With lines out the door and sellout crowds, basketball games were the rule, not the exception.

But as the memories fade, so too will our ability to gain them back. And this is unacceptable, because spirit done right is an absolute triumph, an indescribable feeling that cannot be measured, yet is so clearly present in our lives.

Spirit motivates each of us to reach further and sets the tone for our collective impact. It keeps our alumni connected to campus and makes us better alumni for generations to come. But most of all, if only for this weekend, it reinforces the common bond between us all.

You may remember some of your classes and some of your parties, but the memories that will sustain, the memories that will continue to build momentum on this campus, are the ones made amid the shared experience of camaraderie. This is precisely why we need the BU Zoo.

It was the Zoo that stood at the forefront of those extraordinary cheering sections not so long ago. And now, the charismatic and energetic Mr. Baxter himself is positioned to draw thousands of fans and build pride once again. With the driven support of both the Office of Student Affairs and the athletics department, the movement is ready to begin.

The Zoo reminds us that we are the reputation, the excitement and the memories future students will have to thank. As we watch our alumni expand at notable rates, especially over the past 10 years, it is not enough to merely live through our renaissance. We need to compel our alumni to give back in donations, time and goodwill. This is how we set the virtuous circle in motion.

So keep the memories alive. Wear green on Fridays, and drag everyone you know to a game. Don’t forget to meet some new people along the way. Because if I hear my own voice, you’re doing it all wrong.

Why do we do what we do? Because you better believe we love our school.

How do we make them fear the Bearcat? By coming together as one.

When will it be our time? My friends, tradition starts now.