By Sophie Foster
Washington College’s Department of Student Affairs shared in an email on Sept. 18 that the College would be holding a “homecoming weekend” this year — and the response thus far is not especially enthusiastic.
Homecoming weekend, according to the College’s website, is intended to blend three different popular on-campus occasions: Fall Family Weekend, Alumni Weekend, and the fall formal, formerly referred to as Shoremal, but now renamed simply to the Homecoming Dance.
The weekend, which will begin its festivities on Friday, Oct. 6 and conclude on Sunday, Oct. 8, is supposed to be packed with “a line-up of diverse offerings,” according to the Student Affairs email. These offerings include many returning favorites of past campus events from these once-separate weekends, including academic symposiums, athletic games, tours, walks, boat rides, the Phi Delta Theta fraternity’s crab feast, and, of course, the formal on Saturday night.
According to Director of Students Engagement Antoine Jordan ’12, the shift was introduced in an attempt “to create a robust weekend full of activities for students, their parents, and alumni to enjoy, and to revive an old tradition at the College to build school spirit. A dance seemed to be a natural addition to Homecoming Weekend and since there was already a Fall Formal dance on the calendar, it made sense to shift that to become the Homecoming Dance.”
It is important to note, as well, that this decision was made as a cross-College effort, not singularly by the Student Events Board or any one organization, according to Jordan.
The weekend is certainly going to be full — and that is not necessarily a good thing. Previously, Fall Family Weekend, Alumni Weekend, and Shoremal weekend were all-consuming events independently. How, then, can they be successfully blended into one occasion without disrupting enjoyment or inundating attendees with expectations and activities?
The short answer is that they cannot. At minimum, this blending now forces students whose families are coming to visit to choose between spending an evening reconnecting with loved ones they have been away from and enjoying their night out at the only school-sponsored formal of the semester with their friends.
Additionally, the change distances the weekend from individuality.
“Shoremal is a name that resonates with the WC community, whereas homecoming is monotonous…Shoremal is distinct,” junior Andre Perez said.
Even parents, distanced at home from the goings-on of the campus, are expressing discontent at this decision.
According to comments made on the “Washington College Parents” Facebook page, “[p]arents of current students are heading to the campus with the intention of spending time with their kids. Now, that time will be limited because the kids will want to be with their friends at one of the biggest annual events” and “this plus the terrible timing with fall break blows a special weekend with [their] kids out of the water.”
There was even talk from some parents of boycotting the weekend entirely, citing the reason that “young adults should have freedom and independence.”
This in particular is a well-researched, essentially objective truth about college students as a collective. According to social researcher Takeshi Higuchi, the working world “strongly demands that students acquire independence as their most indispensable quality and ability.”
Higuchi argues that there is an increased need to nurture the ability of young adults to set their own agendas voluntarily, source answers amid unpredictability on their own, and, ultimately, acquire full independence. Inviting parents and alumni to infiltrate an event that once promoted this independence is unhelpful and counterintuitive, indicating a deeper interest in financial interests than quality campus engagement.
According to Higuchi’s work, as of the 2010s, students’ “tendency to be dependent on parents and teachers is growing…[and] parents and colleges also tend to be over-protective in an attempt to prompt students to lead a stable and decent life.”
According to Jordan, the feedback shared by students will be taken into account, including both name changes and date frustrations.
“Student input and feedback in these events are incredibly important, and I’d like to make sure that those comments are heeded as the College moves past this year’s events and begins to plan next year’s activities,” Jordan said. “As with any new event or change, there are always bumps to be expected in the process, but I appreciate everyone’s flexibility as we try something new this year.”
Jordan encourages students with strong perspectives on this and other similar issues to consider joining the SEB, on which they can collaborate on planning processes for future events.
“I fully sympathize with those students who are having to potentially make tough scheduling choices between spending time with family and enjoying the dance with friends, or those who can’t attend at all because of athletic obligations,” Jordan said. “Know that the feedback we receive will be taken incredibly seriously as we think about planning next year’s events.”
All of that being said: diminishing students’ access to adult events designed for the purpose of celebrating that adulthood and enjoying their time in a community of their peers is not a choice that will benefit students, nor will it benefit parents or alumni. If the College cares about its wallet more than its student life, it should just say so and spare us the falsified enthusiasm.
Elm Archive Photo
Photo Caption: Shoremal is a long-standing tradition that brings the College’s students together, separate from parents and guardians.