Steering Committee aims to include more orgs in Homecoming

Greek chapters still make up 45 percent of participating organizations in Homecoming activities.

For those who have not spent the past month pomping, practicing skits, organizing the annual blood drive or volunteering with their Greek chapter, opportunities to get involved in Homecoming may seem limited — even nonexistent. This year’s Homecoming Steering Committee is hoping to change that.

The Steering Committee directors have introduced a new, stratified structure for Homecoming involvement that focuses less on group affiliations and more on each group’s ability to participate. The new structure, which they refer to as “levels of involvement,” aims to allow groups with fewer students and fewer resources to take part in Homecoming activities.

Katelyn Entzeroth is one of the three directors and said the system used in previous years only allowed students to get involved in Homecoming through Greek organizations, residence halls and student organizations, which led to an unfair advantage for groups with more people and more resources to commit to Homecoming activities.

“We knew we wanted to try to make homecoming more inclusive this year in terms of having more opportunities for organizations of different sizes,” she said.

The four-tiered system will be replacing a long-standing structure that has characterized student involvement in events for several years. Steering Committee adviser Aly Friend came to MU in 2007 as a student. She said that participation has been divided by Greek life, residence halls and student organization membership since she has been on campus.

“For as long as I have been here … It’s been a little bit siloed, in that Greeks competed against Greeks, res halls competed against res halls, student orgs competed against student organizations,” she said. “It just got a little bit uneven in that some student orgs have more resources than others — more money, more people, more time — some res halls have students that are really excited to participate and come have a little bit lower numbers for participation. So we kind of scrapped the three groups and came up with the levels of involvement.”

Now, there are four levels that groups can affiliate themselves with, each entailing varying amounts of time, monetary and manpower commitment: Black and Gold, Columns, Truman, and Traditions. Black and Gold is the least involved, and Traditions is the most involved.

Groups who affiliate with the Black and Gold tier participate by putting up decorations, doing community service, signing people up for the blood drive and nominating at least one of their members for the Homecoming Court. As the levels of participation increase, groups have additional responsibilities, including decorating a float for the parade and creating skits for the talent show.

Though more organizations are participating in Homecoming festivities this year, Greek chapters are still the most heavily involved by a significant margin.

An infographic made by the Alumni Association, which oversees the Steering Committee, lists each organization participating in Homecoming and which tier the organization is affiliated with. The Traditions tier — the most involved group and the only one able to decorate campus — is entirely composed of Greek organizations.

Greek chapters and groupings make up about 45 percent of all organizations that are participating overall.

“It is typically pretty Greek-heavy because our Greek organizations have more members and are able to afford things like campus decorations,” Entzeroth said. “But that is why we have the levels of involvement this year, so that organizations that don’t have many members or just as much money … can still feel like they are just as much a part of it.”

Diversifying the ways students get involved with Homecoming has been a primary initiative of the directors, who have been working since they were appointed last November.

The three directors — Entzeroth, Ryan Eisenbath and Elle Miller — were all selected by Friend and the 2015 directors from a pool of nine applicants soon after last fall’s festivities ended. Friend said that directors are required to have been prior members of the committee and are selected based on campus involvement, performance during their time on the committee and ideas for improving the next year’s Homecoming celebration.

Once the directors are selected, the three students work to recruit between 30 and 35 student volunteers to be Steering Committee members. Interested students apply at the end of fall semester by submitting an application and are narrowed out by two rounds of interviews conducted by the directors and Friend. Steering Committee members are notified in early March and are promptly assigned to committees. They begin work on fall activities soon after.

The Steering Committee has 10 committees, each devoted to a different event or initiative related to Homecoming. Each student volunteer is assigned to a committee and works primarily on one project.

Entzeroth estimated that about two-thirds of the students on the Steering Committee are involved in Greek life, but hopes that expanding opportunities for participation in Homecoming will eventually lead to a more diverse committee as well.

“Over time, hopefully if we could get more students on our campus involved [with Homecoming], students will also learn about the opportunity to be on HoCo Steering Committee,” she said. “We can get more students from different colleges and different background with a whole new perspective that they can bring and hopefully help us make it something that more people can enjoy.”

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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