Letter from the Editor Opinion

Letter from the Editor: What it means to be a Cougar

While you probably will never see me wearing red, I assure you my blood runs scarlet. | Anh Le/The Cougar

The spring semester is once again upon us, Cougars. Time to pull ourselves from the stupor of winter break and savor the last few weeks of pleasant weather before the city reverts to its usual oppressive climate. 

Temperatures aside, with a new year and new semester also comes an opportunity to reflect. A chance to think about who we are, where we’re going and a host of other anxiety-inducing topics usually only confronted on those sleepless nights spent staring at the ceiling fan. 

One topic I find myself returning to on such nights is the nature of our school and the people that comprise our community. At a university the size of a small city it seems almost unrealistic to think that there’s a culture that we all share in common. 

And yet, as I enter my final semester here, I can’t help but feel that there is something at our core that unites us. Something that makes us Cougars — aside from attending UH, of course.

In her State of the University address, President Renu Khator pulled a quote from legendary UH football coach Bill Yeoman that I think epitomized the common bond we all share.

“It’s not easy being a Cougar; but it is worth it … today and every day.”

This rings true even outside of our less-than-stellar performance on the football field this year. Navigating a sea of people scattered across a sprawling campus that now includes a colony in far-flung Sugar Land is not something I think anyone would describe as easy.

I’ll be the first to admit this University has issues. Those who’ve met me know I’m not one to shy from criticizing our alma mater. But for all my pessimism, I can’t help but get defensive when some Aggie or Longhorn deridingly refers to us as “just a commuter school.”

Yes, we may not have the helicopter-advising found at private schools, nor the traditional college environments of UT or A&M. But what we do have is the blunt honesty of an apathetic bunch of college students that just can’t be bothered with the performative activism in orange nor the military roleplay in maroon. 

And that honesty is, I believe, worth it. 

You don’t come to UH if you’re in the habit of having things handed to you. Including myself, I have encountered enough  “non-traditional” students to the point where I’m starting to believe the only true tradition at UH is being non-traditional. 

First-generation students, older students, students from marginalized communities, international students, veterans — this campus houses a million different flavors of students who took the back route to get here. 

Ultimately, that is what I believe is at the core of being a Cougar. Not being a commuter, not wearing red on fridays, but living honestly through adversity. Easy is going to a college where your friend group, social life and support network are handed to you at orientation. UH is having to put yourself out there, it’s talking to people in your classes, it’s going to the Den after a rough day. 

There’s an undeniable human component to this university that mirrors the city around it. Like Houston, we’re diverse yet hardly aware of it; resilient while somehow still uncertain; proud of who we are without knowing who we really are — a confusing mess of passions and desires that are the hallmark of a student body that defines our school’s culture and not the other way around.  

Other universities require students inherit a portion of an already-established culture. They ask that you make room in your personality for an ill-defined, centuries-old legacy that often revolves around nothing more than “yay football.” UH, for better or worse, makes no such request. 

Instead, at UH you are asked what you have to offer the campus. You are asked to take a portion of yourself and add it to the greater Cougar mosaic. In our apathy flourishes true, unapologetic individualism that forms the foundation of a campus culture more authentic than any other in Texas. 

So as you’re gearing up to kick off this semester, think about what it really means to be a Cougar. Think about what it is you can offer the UH community. Think about the impact you can have on our campus. 

Chances are, it’s bigger than you think.

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