Roll Call! Diversity, Inclusion, and School Spirit: What Does it Mean to be a Westridgette?


Westridge Instagram

Westridgettes, Natalie S. ’23 and Briar B. ’23, carrying the Tiger mascot Westridgette, Grace N. ’23.

Students and faculty crowd around Herrick Quad, murmuring amongst each other, anticipating what is to come. Suddenly a group of seniors in decorated shirts come flying out, and in an instant, the audience’s whispers turn into roars.

The Westridgettes have promoted school spirit while performing choreographed dances during school-wide assemblies since the 1970s, when they were originally called the “Tigettes.” They start their performances with a loud “Roll call!” followed by each of the 12 Westridgette seniors introducing themselves. Each Westridgette has a different skirt that represents a different aspect of Westridge life, including the Tiger mascot, Captain, Music, Drama, Spirit, Athletics, Dance, and Preppy skirts. There are also the student affinity skirts: Black, Latinx, Asian, and Multicultural. The skirts are passed down each year during the annual Senior Wills ceremony when Westridgette seniors select juniors to take on their roles. 

Soleil Y. ’23, current owner of the Latinx skirt, explained that the junior chosen “represents the [Westridgette] category the most and has a lot of school spirit—someone who is very enthusiastic.”

While school spirit is a large factor in deciding which juniors receive skirts, the selection process for the Westridgettes has never been formalized and lacks transparency. “The faculty have brought it up to me over the years and have said, ‘Hey, you know, this doesn’t feel right, the way this gets done,’” said Gary Baldwin, Director of Upper School. 

The Westridge administration, which funds the Westridgettes, has wanted to make the selection process more transparent for years, even since before the pandemic. As of this school year, the process will change. Moving forward, each Westridgette will create a list of the attributes that their skirt embodies, and the next round of Westridgettes will be chosen based on those characteristics. For example, the Athletics skirt may now require participation in Westridge athletics or strong involvement in the athletic community. Once each current Westridgette selects a potential replacement from the junior class, they will share their decision-making with the Upper School administration.

Brittany Coker, Dean of Upper School Student Activities, explained, “It’s still completely student run and picked and selected because we wanted to maintain that, but there’s a little bit more transparency.”

“Having this system is showing that it’s not random. There’s a reason that everyone’s chosen,” said Sunday L. ’23, Captain of the Westridgettes.

Sunday later explained that the Westridgettes opted out of an application process this year because “having someone have to apply for it and show us some sort of skill or just say that they’re interested, it weeds out a lot of people who would really benefit [from] and enjoy the process—it doesn’t make sense. So we wanted to keep it open like that.”

Grace N. ’23 wearing the Tiger mascot suit at a Westridge assembly. (Westridge Instagram)

The Westridgettes also had conversations with Director of Equity Ian Tatum after hearing concerns regarding the four student affinity skirts. Nitya C. ’23 said, “I started to hear about some of the names [of the skirts], and it just made me feel really uncomfortable because a lot of them were just associated with affinity, which I guess is fine if you’re trying to promote diversity, but I don’t think that’s the goal of the Westridgettes. And it just didn’t sit right with me that people were chosen based on these different categories.”

“Let’s represent people fairly and equitably rather than just to do a thing for the sake of diversity,” she later added.

However, in conversations with Mr. Tatum, Sunday explained, “The general consensus is that actually having these skirts really promotes diversity. And it creates a space where we have a very, very diverse group. It’s one of the most diverse groups on campus because of those skirts.”

Mr. Tatum declined a request to interview at this time.

Along with their other new changes, the Westridgettes will now each decorate a pair of shorts, so each new wave of Westridgettes will have the option of wearing a skirt or shorts. 

“It’s whatever you feel comfortable with,” said Sunday. 

Even with the new changes, the heart of the Westridgette’s mission has held strong: to spread school spirit. Mr. Baldwin said, “They’re not professional dancers, right. They are kids who love their school and love coming and showing and generating enthusiasm among the students, and I think that that’s a really wonderful thing,”. 

Westridgettes dancing together at an all school assembly. (Westridge Instagram)