Homecoming is a tradition like no other no matter where you are, but Slippery Rock University is the place to call home this year. The celebration has undergone a number of changes all centered around inclusivity, including a number of activities on campus and around the community as well as the Homecoming Court.
Assistant homecoming chair and senior public relations major Katie Whitling said that, while the official theme is “No Place Like Homecoming,” the underlying concept of this year’s HoCo bash is inclusivity, and the biggest and most visible changes involve the Homecoming Court.
The gendered titles of Homecoming King and Queen were terminated after a student expressed concern about which title to run for. This year, two students will be crowned Rock Royalty at Saturday’s football game, with no requirement for a male King and a female Queen.
“We wanted to make it so that all students felt included and no one felt as though they couldn’t run,” Whitling said.
Campaigning also changed, and to give everyone an equal opportunity, each candidate was given a limit of $50 to spend and the Student Government Association will provide cars for candidates to ride in Saturday’s parade. Candidates also no longer have to run in pairs; students can run on their own or with a partner of their choice, regardless of gender.
“We also added QPA requirements and essay questions,” Whitling said. “It’ll be, like, SRU’s top students and well-rounded individuals that represent the university.”
One group that chose a nontraditional pair to represent them was the Green and White Society, a girl-dominant organization. Seniors Tori Kolarik, a public health major, and Mackenzie Kirk, a finance major, have been friends for a year, and they were excited to get the chance to run and campaign together.
“We were fortunate enough to represent Green and White Society, and this whole candidacy has been so much fun, I didn’t think of it as weird or anything like that, I just thought we were fortunate enough to do it and we get to do it together,” Kirk said.
Kolarik said she was looking forward to running because she had friends on the ballot last year, and she enjoyed watching them have fun campaigning, interacting with the SRU community and proudly representing their organizations. She’s been part of Green and White Society since her freshman year, and she wanted to be the face of the organization for this celebration.
“I’m really looking forward to how they will announce Rock Royalty because that’s obviously going to have to be different than how they did it in the past,” Kolarik said. “I think it’ll be a really big year.”
“It’s cool to be part of the first group doing it this way,” Kirk added.
Paint the Town also experienced some changes, pushing toward more inclusivity on campus. Before this year, Sorority and Fraternity Life organizations were the only groups taking over Main Street with fun, themed paintings on the windows of McDonald’s, Ginger Hill Tavern and Slippery Rock Sportswear. This past Tuesday, however, all student organizations were invited to color the campus and community; the Marching Pride illustrated their upcoming trip to Ireland and the Green and White Society displayed their love and dedication to tradition on Boozel Dining Hall’s windows.
“We’re trying to include all student organizations, whether it’s the University Program Board, which half of SRU is part of, or an organization that’s brand new and has five members,” Whitling said. “We really want to have as many students as possible involved this year.”
The week’s festivities have also been expanded, making this year’s HoCo “bigger and better,” according to Katie Whitling. The glow party, which featured mini golf and glow sticks, transformed into a full glow run with a concert at Mihaulk-Thompson Stadium to complete the event. Additionally, a “Singing Bee” akin to CMT’s karaoke-style reality television show was held Wednesday night in the Smith Student Center ballroom. Saturday morning’s parade will also be expanded upon, with a few surprises for the Slippery Rock community.
“I think that’s what ‘home’ should mean,” Tori Kolarik said. “Slippery Rock University, to us, is a community full of traditions and everybody should feel like they belong here and feel like they’re at home.”