Homecoming needs facelift

josh.perttunen and josh.perttunen

NMU’s 2007 Homecoming theme is “Dynamic Duos.”

The student body’s most dynamic duo, apathy and couldn’t-care-less, will be making an appearance all next week. But rather than writing another column lambasting the students for their apathy regarding campus affairs, I’m going to take their side on this one.

Homecoming’s exclusion of a large part of the campus community and the outdated values that go along with the event are part of the reason many students forego this experience entirely. If students aren’t football fans or part of organizations that require them to make a mandatory appearance at the game, wave an obligatory “Yo” towel to prove they’re a super-fan and then go home, why should they care?

Defenders of homecoming say it is a time-honored tradition that promotes both diversity and school spirit. I say homecoming needs to be updated to reflect our current times.

NMU may have traditions, but few are unique. The Dead River Games are the only unique event that annually appears on the homecoming docket. Jack Hanna’s visit to our campus is listed as a homecoming event, but what the animal expert has to do with homecoming is beyond me. The school also offers a dance, a parade, a king and queen competition and a tailgating party, but what school doesn’t?

Even the signature Dead River Games haven’t become synonymous with NMU. Junior psychology major Ryan Jarvi couldn’t think of a homecoming event that was unique to NMU.

“I don’t feel like homecoming is a big deal. It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of hype at all,” Jarvi said. “If they wanted people to show more support, they should get people more involved.”

The fact that homecoming centers on a male-dominated sport with roots steeped in the handsome jock as king and the gorgeous cheerleader as queen should set off alarm bells in this environment where cerebral achievements are expected to reign supreme.

Events such as the king and queen competition are archaic and perpetuate gender roles that the rest of academia strives to distance itself from. The winners of these figurehead positions can only get their title one of two ways. It can come as a result of winning a popularity contest or waging a clever campaign. It never hurts to be good-looking, either.

This competition certainly doesn’t promote diversity. People that look like they’ve been hit in the face with a shovel have no chance of winning.

School spirit shouldn’t be tied to the support of an athletic team or to a specific day on the calendar. This overly-exuberant method of trying to make students take pride in their institution feels just as contrived as it did when we were first exposed to it- at the traditional high school pep rally.

Students can’t be expected to simply manufacture school spirit. This spirit must be inspired by something. One thing that’d naturally inspire this feeling would be to have acknowledgements of academic achievements at halftime or sometime earlier in the week. Showing that the academic pursuits of NMU students are on equal footing with the athletic pursuits of their football team would boost morale since most of the student body falls into the former category, rather than the latter. This way, even if the football team loses (which is a very likely possibility), students still have reason to be proud of their university.

If students must bestow regal-sounding titles upon their peers, I would want the school’s royalty to be chosen on the merits of leadership or academic prowess, not on their high cheekbones, dreamy eyes or cleverly-designed Facebook page.

“I don’t think it’s good that it’s just based on looks or stage presence,” senior health education major Katie Berger said.

Homecoming is an outdated and disregarded affair here on our campus, and with the symbolism that goes along with it, this is rightfully so.