One of the greatest things about this university is how much pride we have.
A simple example is that our colors are orange and white; ask anyone who knows about fashion, and you'll hear about how incredibly difficult orange is to wear. And yet, girls that wear it here are the envy of their peers across the country.
This past Friday, however, I passed this goon wearing a Florida T-shirt on my way home from class.
I may or may not have announced loudly to my accompanying friends that people who wear Florida shirts to class are morons; hopefully, he heard me.
I do not care if your mommy went to school in Gainesville. You do not go to school in Gainesville, so embrace your university and let go of your silly devotion to some other college.
You live in Knoxville, and on Saturdays in the fall, you know how we do. Not just students: everyone in this pollen-riddled hollow, from little old ladies to cute little kids, represent the orange and white on game day.
I love that about this place. In fact, it was a contributing factor to my decision to attend Tennessee over Kentucky, Ohio State and North Carolina. I loved UT's dedication to its traditions so much that I didn't even bother touring Maryland, Kansas and South Carolina like I had originally planned on doing.
On Fridays this fall, we as a student body are encouraged to extend that tradition and wear orange a day early.
Rock that T-shirt or pull on those overalls, because it's football time in Tennessee.
I'm all about this initiative, because it makes the University look even better. It showcases our pride, and walking around on Friday with all the orange gets me fired up for Saturday.
When a kid comes to take a tour of campus – an occurrence which happens most often on Fridays, conveniently enough – I want him to apply here. He might be deciding between us and other Tennessee state schools, or he might be deciding between us and other SEC schools. He might be picking colleges out of a hat and touring them.
I do not care.
I want his application to come through our undergraduate admissions office. If it turns out he's a champ and will contribute to this university, we get one more stud floating around. If he is someone who won't make the cut of one of the best universities in the country, then we turn up our exclusivity rating by just a little more.
In either case, we want the kid to apply, and the student body can play a huge role in encouraging his application. Simple things like not wearing a Florida shirt to class can set UT apart. Wear that orange and smile when you walk past touring students.
If you feel particularly full of that "Volunteer Spirit" we are always talking about, help take their visit to the next level and wave at them and their tour guides.
I sometimes even chat up their parents and tell them about how they have to come to a football game.
If you are a student here, you want this university to be as good as it can possibly be. UT had mediocre academics some years ago, but right now, the graduates from those years hold a degree from a Top 50 university.
Quite literally, a degree from the University of Tennessee is like gold. Graduates grow more valuable without doing anything; the degree appreciates.
All this construction you're complaining about will soon be world-class residence halls and education facilities, which means better rankings, better students and – pigskin gods willing – a better football team. All those improvements will sum to a more valuable degree.
Turn up people, we attend an elite university. It's time for us to start acting like it.
Then, maybe everyone else will believe it.
Step one: trash that Florida shirt.
Nate Talbot is a senior in mechanical engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.