Thousands of SRU students, alum and community members filled Mihalik-Thompson Stadium Saturday afternoon, and it was not just to witness SRU take on archrival IUP, but to be a part of homecoming history at The Rock.
This year, Ignacio Cisneros, Jr., a senior integrated marketing communications major, and Kemoni Farmer, a senior psychology major, were named homecoming royalty and made history as the first two men to be named royalty in a given year.
However, within three days of the university communication and public affairs office posting Farmer and Cisneros’ picture on Facebook, nearly 200 people commented, with many of those comments criticizing the selection of two men for homecoming royalty.
Last year, SRU’s homecoming committee made SRU history by changing the traditional homecoming king and queen titles to homecoming royalty, a move to become more gender inclusive in homecoming festivities. This change was largely unnoticed online last fall, as the two royalty winners happened to be a male and female.
The staff of The Rocket believes that some of this negative reaction is due to a lack of understanding around the circumstances of the voting process. All SRU students had four days to vote for two students out of 15 candidates that they felt best represented Slippery Rock University. These 15 candidates were eventually narrowed down to eight students for the homecoming court at the pep rally and the final royalty winners were announced at halftime during the football game on Saturday.
From the 15 original candidates, students voted from a diverse pool of students. Not only did these students represent a variety of organizations on campus, but the candidates included students who preferred she/her, he/his or they/them pronouns as well as people of color and varying sexual orientations.
This being said, the thought that women were excluded from homecoming royalty is completely false, as there were multiple female candidates who ultimately were voted into the court.
At the end of the day, 15 candidates who met the eligibility standards (a full-time undergraduate or graduate student with a 3.0 GPA and either a nomination from a student organization or residence hall or a completed petition) represent some of SRU’s most involved students. These candidates were voted upon by the students who could vote for any two students regardless of gender.
Thankfully, the large majority of these negative comments aren’t from students. SRU students recognize the need to reward the best of their peers regardless of their gender expression, and we commend the homecoming committee for making this change last year.
Another point of contention with some Facebook comments is that one of the royalty winners received a crown that may appear traditionally more feminine. However, this headpiece was advertised in a homecoming magazine as a traditional masculine crown, according to Lauren Moran, director of the office for student engagement and leadership.
There were at least three different headpiece options presented to the royalty winners at the moment they were announced as winners (while many onlookers said there were only three options, Moran said there were four choices of headpieces). Both winners wanted the crown that modeled a traditionally masculine crown; however, since there was only one of each headpiece option, one winner chose a different crown in the intensity of the moment.
Moran said that the second winner requested a different crown shortly after the crowning ceremony, which the homecoming committee has since ordered.
In an emailed statement to The Rocket, Moran said:
“The student Homecoming Committee had a very intentional conversation about how to approach the Royalty head-ware this year. Removing head pieces all together was discussed, but the committee felt that students really enjoyed the ‘crowning’ tradition and wanted to keep it. So as an alternative, four different head pieces were purchased, with the idea that a student could pick which one they wanted, no matter their gender identity. Two were crowns and two were tiaras, neither being identified as male or female items. The committee also added scepters to the items the Royalty received, along with flowers.”
In the future, The Rocket staff believes this issue can be resolved with another question on the homecoming royalty application with the option of what type of crown the student would prefer if they won homecoming royalty. This option will eliminate problems of receiving a crown that a student feels leans too masculine or feminine for their personal expression.
Other solutions may include having two of each type of headpiece or eliminating the crowning part of the ceremony altogether, but having the option to select a specific headpiece may eliminate a mix-up during the highly anticipated and emotional crowning ceremony.
The SRU student body holds the responsibility to nominate and ultimately select the students who best represent SRU pride every homecoming season. The fact that students are no longer limited to voting for one male and one female student and can vote for two students regardless of gender is the first step in breaking the gender binary. Now, with the historic crowning of two men as royalty, it’s time to think about those adjustments for next year.