A third-generation Aggie is shaking things up Texas A&M’s campus with her bid to become the school’s first female yell leader. “There will probably be a female yell leader one day, why not me?” Samantha Ketcham told the Bryan-College Station Eagle‘s Matthew Watkins.
Texas A&M, which began as a male military college, officially admitted its first woman in 1963. The yell leader tradition dates to 1907, and Watkins points out that though a woman first ran for a yell leader slot in the 1980s, none have ever been elected. Yell leaders lead Midnight Yell Practice before Texas A&M football games, thus occupying one of the most prominent roles on campus.
Ketcham’s devotion to school spirit is unwavering, even in times of illness: Watkins reports that she has even attended football games while battling pneumonia. On her campaign website, Ketcham pitches her candidacy this way:
Right now, about half of A&M’s student body is female. We haven’t been an all-male school for nearly half a century, yet in all that time not a single woman has been elected as a Yell Leader. Our women are represented in all other areas of the university, … [s]o why can’t an enthusiastic and spirited lady Ag stand on the sidelines and support her Fightin’ Aggie Team as a Yell Leader? I’m not asking for anyone to vote for me on the basis of my gender, but rather to not discriminate against me for being a female. If you don’t think I’d make a good Yell Leader, that’s perfectly fine. But please give me a chance to prove myself, and you might find that I’m the loudest, proudest, and most enthusiastic potential Yell Leader you’ve ever seen.
However, Ketcham’s enthusiasm has not been enough to convince everyone: Ketcham told Watkins that some current yell leaders have been unsupportive of her bid and commenters on the Eagle‘s story point out that previous female candidates have had trouble gaining support.
The editorial board of the University of Houston’s Daily Cougar penned an editorial in support of Ketcham’s bid, while also using the opportunity to needle A&M for not being a very “accepting place.” “The election of Ketcham would be a step in the right direction for her university, but A&M still has a long way to go,” the board wrote. But from her Facebook campaign page, Ketcham took issue with the Daily Cougar‘s characterization of both her school and her bid to become yell leader: “I’m not trying to change tradition, I’m trying to be a part of it. I’m proud of A&M and all of its wonderful traditions!”
Ketcham’s Yell Leader candidacy comes at the same time the Texas A&M Dance Team is pushing to perform on Kyle Field during football games. (A woman’s dance team or squad has never danced at the stadium.) In response to questions about that potential change, Jason Cook, A&M’s vice president for marketing and communications, told the San Antonio Express-News that “[a]ny time we look at an issue of this nature, our response is always going to be how does it affect the game-day atmosphere at Kyle Field, and would it infringe upon our traditions or our uniqueness. We take decisions of this nature very seriously and very deliberately.”