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.