For more than a century, colleges and universities around the country have been celebrating homecomings. The tradition is said to have originated 90 miles south of Kirksville at the University of Missouri, when Mizzou’s football coach encouraged alumni to come home and attend a game against the University of Kansas. Since then, the tradition has been adopted by almost every college and high school, with the majority of the celebrations centering around football.
Of course, in the time since that first homecoming in Columbia, the concept has transformed from a day to a week and from a football game to a schedule packed with events. This seems more festive, but, there’s one change I’d like to focus on. Homecoming has morphed from a celebration of alumni to a party for students.
If you go to Truman State University’s Homecoming website, you’ll find an itinerary capable of making your head spin. It’s filled with charity events, a scavenger hunt and — of course — the notable lip sync competition. But it’s easy to realize something strange about this schedule. The Homecoming kick-off was scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 8, and events continued throughout the week. It’s obvious alumni weren’t around for the entire week, and many of the events — like fundraisers and lip sync — have close ties to Greek Life, even further limiting the scope of the activities.
Scrolling down to the very bottom of the Homecoming website reveals a link to the other Homecoming website — the one for alumni. The alumni schedule begins Friday, Oct. 13 — a full five days after the student schedule begins. A significant number of the events include sporting events, previously-scheduled campus events and campus tours — all of which can be enjoyed most weekends at Truman. There are a number of special alumni-geared events like the leaders conference and a banquet, but the number of activities specifically geared toward alumni is slim. The student schedule and the alumni schedule don’t share any common events until Saturday. The alumni celebration seems to be more of an afterthought, and we as students continue to justify our fun-filled week as something special for those people who have been here before us.
Should we do away with Homecoming? Maybe, but that’s not likely to happen. Instead, we could do one of two things — or both. First, we rebrand the student Homecoming activities. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, enjoying time with your friends and raising money for various philanthropies in the process. We do the same thing and call it Greek Week in the spring semester. It’s not exactly the same, but the point is there are other names for our fun-filled week without relying on alumni to justify it. Second, bring back the real Homecoming. Put thought and care into planning events for alumni. Make this truly their weekend. Integrate the student and alumni activities more. It’ll be good for all of us, because we would all be able to gain different perspectives about Truman throughout the years.
Homecoming is a grand tradition with a great history. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s no reason it has to end. Homecoming celebrates how Truman has changed throughout the years, so why not change Homecoming a little bit too? The moniker doesn’t really fit anymore, but let’s still enjoy this wonderful school we go to and all its students — past and present.