A sporting chance

Saturday’s Homecoming Block Party is an opportunity to foster stronger school spirit—but it’s just the start.

By Maroon Editorial Board

This Saturday, the University will host the first annual UChicago Homecoming Block Party. Part of the Family Weekend festivities, the block party will include inter-house tug-of-war, live music, a barbecue, a beer garden, and children’s events, leading up to the football game against Case Western Reserve University. The University usually holds a Homecoming celebration, but this year’s will be the largest yet. This is a step in the right direction toward promoting school spirit and a culture that appreciates campus athletics, but it’s only one of many approaches the University should take.

It’s laudable that the University has chosen to address the lack of school spirit and attendance at sporting events among students. Though our sports teams are Division III, many of them perform extremely well at the regional and national level and often rank as some of the best Division III teams in the country. For example, last year’s women’s tennis team won the UAA championship and reached the finals of the NCAA D-III national tournament (only the second time a Maroon team has competed in a NCAA D-III final), while the women’s basketball team started last season an unbelievable 25–0, ascending the rankings all the way to second in the country in D-III. The University has good reason to be proud of its sports teams. The first step in creating a supportive culture for these sports teams is to create events, like a large Homecoming party, that celebrate and promote these teams while attracting students.

On the other hand, it seems like the concurrence with Family Weekend played a large role in the University’s decision to host a bigger and more engaging Homecoming celebration this year. While the combination of events is understandable as a matter of convenience, the University should not organize such sport-centered festivities only when they’re advantageous in the larger context of an established tradition like Family Weekend.

Additionally, a single large event isn’t the catch-all answer to low school spirit. The University should instead work to make celebrations like these more frequent and more ingrained in campus culture. There are other ways in which the Homecoming funds could have been better allocated to provide for future sporting event celebrations. Sports like women’s volleyball, basketball, and soccer have all experienced great success, and they shouldn’t have to be overlooked in order to fund a massive Homecoming block party. The University clearly has the resources to promote sports events effectively, so they should do so more strategically, with an emphasis on spreading awareness of teams’ schedules, player successes, and important games.

The block party is free for all students, faculty, and staff with a UCID, and alumni, family, and community members can enter for $10, so the event is likely to be a fairly large net loss. Additionally, the Annual Banner Homecoming Competition was held yesterday among campus groups—including RSOs, houses, and Greek organizations—with a $1,000 award for first place and $500 for second place for the best banners. Pricey, one-time initiatives such as these may guarantee attendance and interest in the short term, but they don’t necessarily work toward encouraging a sports culture on campus, which should be the ultimate goal. These amounts of money would be better spent in smaller increments and on a more regular basis to ensure that our stands are packed not just once a year, but every week.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.