Hillsdale’s 102nd Homecoming wrapped up five days ago, but tension from the week’s competition still lingers.
Events ranged from a banner contest, to trivia, to Mock Rock, and many teams dove into the fray and gave it their all. While friendships were forged and camaraderie was strengthened, not every student had a positive experience. One particular group was vilified and criticized: the Student Activities Board.
When competition became heated and students disagreed with contest results, many took to social media throughout the week to vent their frustrations.
“Did you hire blind judges?” one student commented on an SAB Instagram post.
“It scares me that the judges don’t know what the words ‘theme, creativity, and quality’ mean. Prepared to be disappointed at Mock Rock, everybody,” another said.
While it’s tempting to jump to conclusions and assign blame when competitive tensions are high, we have to breathe, take a step back, and look at the situation with fresh eyes. Yes, your banner, video, and Mock Rock dance are your babies (and worthy efforts, I might add), but investing more than 20 hours into each does not entitle your team to 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. While the artistic abilities showcased this year were exceptional, some banners and videos aligned with the theme more obviously than others. If we can gather anything from the judges’ choices this year, subtlety is not the key to winning.
Several students took to social media to complain a particular team had been “robbed.” Others argued judge bias was at play. As frustrations flared, students shifted the blame to SAB, who had selected the judges.
Asking questions would have revealed there was more to the story. Securing judges for each event was difficult due to busy schedules and the number of judges required. “We emailed at least 12 people before we filled the three Mock Rock judging spots,” an SAB student employee explained.
Assuming the judges, comprised of faculty and staff, harbor bias is absurd and ill-founded.
SAB works hard to select their judges with care, but with 18 competing teams in the mix, not everyone is going to be happy. If we’re sore losers, we steal the fun out of Homecoming, and friendly competition devolves into discouraging chaos.
If students believe there’s a problem that must be addressed, however, the most constructive and effective approach is to directly engage with SAB to voice questions or concerns. Using social media as an outlet to express discontent about Homecoming results is unproductive and disrespectful.
Hillsdale teaches us to value and participate in thoughtful discourse. Instead, we’ve fallen into the trap of hiding behind phones and computer screens like the rest of our generation, venting our frustrations in the form of Tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram comments. What does this achieve? SAB genuinely desires communication with Hillsdale’s students. After all, their stated mission is to “serve as a voice to the student community of Hillsdale College.” But SAB cannot fulfill their mission if we don’t do our part and communicate ourselves. Doing so will create a better experience for everyone.
Last year, SAB hosted 28 Fall events and 20 in the Spring. With each occasion, SAB spent countless hours brainstorming, planning, setting up, and hosting. We can’t forget they are students just like us, with exams, papers, and extracurriculars to juggle. In addition, all eyes are on them as they organize campus-wide events. These SAB employees and student workers are our friends and our peers. They have shown themselves to be servant-hearted and more than deserve our respect and gratitude. If you see a SAB member around campus, I’d encourage you to thank them. They’ll feel encouraged, and so will you.
Regardless of whether we see #9peat next year, let’s not repeat negative attitudes toward judges and SAB. If we focus on the purpose of it all — to enjoy old friendships and forge new ones — Homecoming 2019 will bring out the best of campus.
Ryan Kelly Murphy is a George Washington Fellow and a senior studying politics.