With temperatures predicted to drop this weekend and pumpkin spice finding its way back onto supermarket shelves and restaurant menus, it’s finally starting to feel like fall.
Students at the University of Toledo welcome this change in anticipation of an annual fall event: the homecoming football game, which this year pits the Rockets against Bowling Green State University on Oct. 6.
UT’s homecoming follows several traditions, including the pep rally on the steps of the Student Union, the parade down Bancroft and through the Old Orchard neighborhood and the crowning of a new homecoming king and queen.
Generally, college students have already experienced homecoming festivities in high school.
However, for students at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Michigan (about an hour north of UT), a homecoming queen will no longer be crowned.
CHS splits the awarding of queen and king titles between homecoming and an annual winter festival and crowns both a king and queen at prom. A decision has not been made regarding traditions outside of homecoming, according to Michigan Radio.
Instead of voting on a homecoming queen, students at CHS will now cast ballots to determine recipients of the “Chelsea Excellence Award,” a concept developed by the school’s student council in an effort to eliminate opportunities for bullying.
The award is not gendered and will be presented during halftime at the homecoming game to one student from each grade level who best embodies certain characteristics.
“We’re saying as a high school that we value kids with character and kindness and school spirit above [looks and popularity], and we allow kids to be who they want to be without being judged or without feeling like they have to fit into certain categories here at CHS,” said Drew Vanderspool, CHS student council president, in an interview with Michigan Radio.
Should UT follow suit?
The university attempts to promote diversity in candidates by allowing up to one female and one male nominee per organization from a number of different campus groups.
Still, this practice does prove slightly divisive; instead of just choosing the most exemplary students on campus, regardless of organizational affiliation, certain criteria have to be fulfilled to garner a nomination.
While college is certainly a different animal than high school, that doesn’t mean that we can’t adhere to similar principles as the students at Chelsea.
What, truly, is the value in crowning a homecoming king and queen?
Though some students may take care in selecting candidates who embody scholarship, character, leadership, etc., most probably make decisions based on whoever has the most influence on campus.
That’s not necessarily a criticism; that person may well be the best candidate. But, it doesn’t do much to prove that homecoming isn’t a popularity contest.
Furthermore, “king” and “queen” exist purely as titles in this context. There’s no substance behind them.
This is not to disparage any former honorees but to recognize that we can be more precise in our process for electing representatives for the university.
It can be difficult to break from tradition, but resistance to change usually comes from uncertainty or out of an unwillingness to consider that change may be for the best.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll see any progress on this front in 2018 with homecoming less than three weeks away, that’s OK.
Progress is progress, no matter how slowly it develops.
There’s always next fall.