Homecoming Week has been celebrated by American colleges since its start in 1911.
On Aug. 17, the Ball State University Alumni Association officially postponed Homecoming and the week of celebrations that come with it. This year would have been Ball State’s 94th annual Homecoming celebration.
“Our Homecoming celebration is for students, community, alumni, faculty, staff — many different audiences. So, it’s always taken place around football season,” said Michelle Johnson, director of alumni engagement. “We decided as an organization to also wait.”
Johnson said AirJam, the bed races and many other traditional activities are canceled until they can be held in a socially-distanced manner. However, the loss of Homecoming does not necessarily mean a loss of revenue for Ball State. Each Homecoming Week is funded by the amount made from the previous year’s Homecoming Week.
“If we have to go all virtual, we would save money,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to provide many of the traditional events that we have put on in the past and continue that this year, taking into account all safety protocols and precautions that we have to take into consideration with COVID.”
While the Homecoming Steering Committee is still hoping to hold events in person, it is also preparing for virtual events. The Homecoming Steering Committee consists of 11 students who elect new members each year. An email is sent out to all Ball State students early in the second semester, and anyone who is interested is encouraged to apply.
Kelly Asiala, senior advertising major, is this year’s general chair of the committee. The general chair oversees all aspects of Homecoming, including AirJam, the parade and the royalty. Of all the Homecoming events, Asiala said, she would miss the parade the most.
“It’s a very rewarding moment. It’s very fun,” she said. “It involves alumni, current students and the Muncie community, so it’s a very inclusive event, and it’s kind of like the culmination of Homecoming Week.”
The postponement is also affecting other student organizations on campus, like Greek Life. Mia Marrero, an executive board member and vice president of intellectual development for Ball State’s Alpha Chi Omega chapter, described Homecoming as an important week for Greek Life to connect with students and staff on campus.
“We bond a lot over Homecoming, especially because we just recruited new members,” Marrero said. “All of the socials we usually have, as well as pairing with the fraternities … We won’t have that [this year].”
Greek Life members aren’t the only students disappointed. Ball State’s seniors are also missing out on their last Homecoming. Sierra Reichelderfer, senior life sciences education major, was always in class during previous bed races, and she was hoping to watch them this year. She said the experience will not be the same if Homecoming is celebrated in the spring.
“That’s not Homecoming. That’s ‘homeleaving,’” Reichelderfer said. “Just make next fall the best ever … so you have a better experience.”
Freshmen are missing out on more than Homecoming Week celebrations this year. Many freshmen are upset with how the school year is going and feel that many events could still be held safely.
“Honestly, I’m quite relieved from a COVID-19 standpoint, but as a freshman this year, it’s all just a big letdown,” freshman secondary English education major Baylee Myers said. “We go away to school to go to football games, meet new people and just be young adults, and it feels as if it’s all taken away. Like I said, since we are in a worldwide pandemic, I definitely respect the decisions of Ball State, but it’s all just a big bummer.”
Even though there is a change in tradition, Marrero is trying to look on the bright side.
“I am definitely grateful for the time I had participating in Homecoming events,” Marrero said. “I understand the guidelines, and I would rather people stay safe.”
Johnson sees the situation as an opportunity rather than a setback.
“It’s been a very nerve-wracking year, but we’re excited to potentially put on the first ever spring Homecoming,” Johnson said. “It’ll be a good learning experience for myself, our staff and the Homecoming Steering Committee students.”
Although the Mid-American Conference announced Sept. 25 that the football season would begin Oct. 4, it is still unknown if an in-person Homecoming will take place.
All Homecoming-related information and updates can be found at @bsuhomecoming on Instagram and Twitter.
Contact Grace Bentkowski with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gbentkowski. Contact Mackenzie Rupp with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @kenzieer18.