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Stu­dents cel­e­brate the 50th anniversary of home­coming in 1966.
Winona Yearbook | Courtesy

Hillsdale College has post­poned next week’s home­coming cel­e­bra­tions due to health con­cerns about COVID-19. The college hopes to hold an alumni reunion event in the spring semester, according to Exec­utive Director of Alumni Rela­tions Colleen McGinness.

“Home­coming was par­tic­u­larly early this year,” she said. “We felt that with the require­ments the stu­dents are having to undergo with all the tem­per­ature checks and masks, we’re focusing on keeping the com­munity safe right now.”

In part­nership with the alumni office, college senior staff decided Aug. 24 to postpone home­coming events until the spring semester, when it hopes to hold a more typical cel­e­bration.

“Home­coming is a cel­e­bration of the lifelong con­nection that alumni have with the college,” McGinness said. 

It’s an important event for the Hillsdale com­munity, she added, but the timing didn’t offer a safe way to welcome back gen­er­a­tions of alumni, many of whom had already con­tacted the college to say they wouldn’t be attending home­coming this year due to the pan­demic. 

McGinness said sched­uling home­coming became dif­ficult because of Michigan’s lockdown restric­tions and the college’s health mea­sures.

The college had planned events around a Sept. 12 football game. Alumni events tra­di­tionally have revolved around the football tailgate.

The football team is ten­ta­tively planning for a short spring season, but McGinness said she’s con­sid­ering other pos­si­bil­ities for home­coming cel­e­bra­tions. 

Since the college con­tacted alumni to inform them of homecoming’s can­cel­lation, their response has largely been sup­portive, she said.

“I probably got 50 emails from alumni who have said this is the right call and we want to protect the student’s oppor­tunity to go to school and have in-class training and edu­cation,” she said.

Right now, the alumni office is sur­veying alumni to learn what they prefer for a post­poned cel­e­bration. McGinness said classes with 10-year anniver­saries often draw the most alumni. 

“We have alumni who really get excited to come back on their 10-year anniver­saries. So 10 years out, 20 years out, 30, 40: that’s a lot of alumni,” she said. “When it’s their 30th and 40th reunions, they’re really dis­ap­pointed not to be able to come back, so we want to make sure that we rec­ognize and honor those people if we can.”

The college also typ­i­cally hosts 50 and 60-year reunions that take place during con­vo­cation in April each year. The three-day reunion event was can­celled this past April due to COVID-19, however, so the college will host last year’s classes as well as this year’s this spring. These reunions may merge with the home­coming cel­e­bration. 

While the alumni office deals with the activ­ities con­cerning alumni during home­coming an event McGinness empha­sized is first and foremost for those who have grad­uated from the college the Student Activ­ities Board leads the week’s fes­tiv­ities that pertain to current stu­dents.

Student events such as Mock Rock, the wing-eating contest, and other inter-campus com­pe­ti­tions will also be post­poned until the spring, Director of Student Activ­ities Alexandra Whitford said in an email. The change in semesters will provide the best oppor­tunity for stu­dents to expe­rience the events as normal as pos­sible. 

“An event like Mock Rock would need to be altered sig­nif­i­cantly in order to be hosted in the current climate just one reason why we’re hopeful that a spring Home­coming week will allow for more,” Whitford said. 

This change is reflected in the SAB schedule posted in the Grewcock Student Union and on the event magnets dis­tributed throughout the student body. SAB will make more deci­sions as the college and state alter their guide­lines. 

Barrett Moore, senior and head resident’s assistant in Simpson Res­i­dence, said home­coming has always been a special event for stu­dents, specif­i­cally in his dor­mitory. 

“It intro­duces them to the Hillsdale com­munity and what it means to be a Hillsdale student,” Moore said. “We’re serious about our studies, but we’re also serious about our friends and our fun. And home­coming is an oppor­tunity, at least for the guys in the dorms, to build a com­munity and come together as brothers and friends.”

With home­coming post­poned until next semester, Moore said he intends to encourage fel­lowship among stu­dents in other forms, such as potential intra­mural com­pe­tition among dor­mi­tories. Moore’s RA team came into the school year knowing there was a chance home­coming would be can­celled, so they have been encour­aging his res­i­dents to attend SAB events as a way to build friend­ships and unwind. 

“We just want to make sure the guys are engaged and involved in the imme­diate Simpson com­munity and the wider campus com­munity, and they can form the same friend­ships and have the same expe­ri­ences and love Hillsdale the way we do.”

An earlier version of this article incor­rectly stated that the alumni board can­celed home­coming, rather than the alumni office in con­junction with senior college staff. The Col­legian regrets this error.