OPINION: When homecoming gets in the way of homework, it is hurting students

The K-State Classy Cats participate in the Kansas State University Homecoming Parade in Aggieville on Friday, Oct. 20th, 2017. (File photo by Cooper Kinley | Collegian Media Group)

On Tuesday night, Bramlage Coliseum was filled with dancers, cheering students and thematically appropriate music for Wildcat Request Live.

It’s not the best environment to study in, but between acts, I was reading for class because I wouldn’t have been able to get my homework done that night otherwise. And I wasn’t the only one doing this.

All-University Homecoming at Kansas State is a flawed event that relies too heavily on student labor, and it hasn’t changed to reflect the university’s new student organization policy that puts K-State at a distance from Greek life, student clubs and so on.

Weeks before Homecoming begins, committees are formed, plans are made and work begins. Homecoming is chock full of events, beginning with the 5K race on Sunday and ending with the home football game on Saturday. Each of these events has a committee and they can require hours of work from students.

The way Homecoming works differs slightly between houses, and I can only base my experiences on participating in Homecoming through my scholarship house for four years, but we do participate on the same level that Greek organizations do.

My house requires a certain number of hours to be spent “pomping” the art of stuffing copious amounts of tissue paper through chicken wire to build parade floats. We must attend a certain number of events and serve on a committee. If I failed to do these things, I would face a monetary fine from my house.

This year, Homecoming is occurring during midterm exams, which adds another layer of stress to students that have to participate in Homecoming events. It’s hard to focus on studying when you’re also focusing on fulfilling your obligations to your house.

The K-State Alumni Association sponsors Homecoming, so the event exists separately from K-State because the Alumni Association is a separate entity from the university. This means they don’t necessarily have to acknowledge the changes made by the university last year regarding the student organization policy, where fraternities and sororities are now independent student organizations and not directly affiliated with the university.

However, the Alumni Association should recognize this change in the way they approach Homecoming. For example, organizations participating in Homecoming can’t even use the K-State logo on their t-shirts and floats due to their status as independent student organizations. They’re not officially connected to the university anymore, so using K-State’s copyrighted material is illegal.

While K-State has essentially washed its hands of Greek life in order to avoid taking responsibility for Title IX allegations that stem from crimes and other incidents at Manhattan fraternities, the Alumni Association appears to have no such qualms. Instead, it feels like they’re continuing to take advantage of students to gain free marketing.

Homecoming is a tradition, but I feel like it’s gone beyond its original purpose of welcoming alumni back to their alma mater.

Some aspects of Homecoming are good. For example, the Homecoming football game, the philanthropic 5K and the children’s carnival are good events that either connect to the community or have a dedicated cause.

However, events like Pant the Chant and Wildcat Request Live seem to draw audiences primarily made up of students whose houses participate in Homecoming and may require attendance. Unless I’ve missed something, there’s not a large outside audience for these events, and they are scheduled for the evening, cutting into key homework time.

I have mixed feelings about the parade. It draws a large crowd, and it’s fun to see all the kids along the parade route who are super excited. However, the weeks of work that go into building elaborate parade floats seem excessive, and then they just get demolished at the end of it all. The parade should look toward a more sustainable model that is considerate of the free student labor that helps make it all possible.

When I moved into my scholarship house four years ago, I didn’t know I was going to have to participate in Homecoming, and each year it has become harder and harder to be excited about Homecoming because I know that it’s likely to negatively affect my grades, my other on-campus commitments and my attitude.

Those who participate in Homecoming are only a portion of K-State students, but Homecoming week can be a detriment to students who are involved. Homecoming shouldn’t be done away with entirely, but the Alumni Association should take a conscious look at what they’re really asking for and expecting from students.

Macy Davis is the assistant culture editor for the Collegian and a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

I'm Macy Davis a former Collegian culture editor and a 2019 graduate in English. When I was not reading and writing (both for class and for fun), I was also a member of the nationally ranked K-State speech team.