AUSTIN—For the students and alumni of the University of Texas, one week of the year is going to look very different next fall. An official Homecoming week of festivities for the university is being created for 2014, complete with events for alumni and current students alike.
Caroline Carter, a junior at the University of Texas and a University Wide Student Government representative, along with her co-chair Melysa Barth and a group of students committed to promoting school spirit, have been working on this initiative for months to make the event a reality.
“Part of my platform was that I wanted to increase school spirit,” said Carter. “I realized that we as a school really needed a homecoming.”
Carter said the idea occurred to her when she ran across a student run Facebook group encouraging people to get to the game early and support the football team. From there, Carter worked to get a resolution passed in Student Government supporting the creation of a week dedicated to Texas traditions for students and alumni alike.
“Alumni come back to the school all the time. That is not an issue, but they don’t come back all at the same time,” said Carter. “We can take advantage of this time and have students meet them. This would help bridge the gap between students and alumni, which is important to the success of students right now.”
According to the mission statement outlined in A.R. 18 “In Support of an Official UT Homecoming”, the resolution passed by Student Government last fall, this week “will allow Longhorns to celebrate the diversity we bring to the university, the unity we find at the university, and the legacy we leave for the university.”
The week would begin with a “color run” and feature a wide range of events including a university wide tailgate and time for alumni and students to come together with their organizations and councils to reunite. Decorating projects and campus events will be provided and encouraged throughout the week to increase spirit.”
“We want to encourage people to decorate banners and their different spaces, whether that’s in a part of west campus they want to represent or if that’s a house or some place on campus,” Carter said.
Other plans include a parade and nominations to a Homecoming Court, larger events that will take more approval from the University before being made official.
“This will be huge for the community, not just for the school. It would be great for alumni to come back and enjoy something like that,” said Carter of these potential plans. “Obviously the organizations would have to put a lot of work into it.”
The Texas Exes currently endorses the slogan “Every Game is a Homecoming Game” but now supports the 60-person homecoming committee.
“When we approached them about having an Homecoming week, conceptually they immediately loved the idea,” said Carter. “They just wanted to know more about the details, the logistics and the timeline.”
Carter explained that most of the only opposition they have faced has stemmed from questions about the cost and feasibility of such a feat at this large institution.
“It’s going be hard to do a ‘one size fits’ all at a campus as diverse as UT,” said Bridget Green, 2011 University of Texas graduate. “If there would be an opportunity to have a variety of events, maybe not all of them would appeal to you, but at least one would appeal to everyone.”
While Green resides in the Austin area and commented that she would be able to attend alumni events because of her location, she expressed concerns about the cost for those graduates who have moved away.
“It’s funny how soon after you graduate you begin to lose touch with the people you were so close to even just a few months ago. It’s just so hard once you start getting a job and people are moving out of Austin,” Green said.
Carter said that the committee understood that travel costs and hotel reservations would be “the main cost” but that the events themselves would be fairly affordable, if not free. The hope would be to receive revenue through donations rather than a necessary cost.
“This way people can tangibly see where they are giving back,” Carter said. “For instance, if alumni were to give to the tailgate, they would be able to see everyone out there having a good time.”
Green agreed that she would feel much more involved and inclined to attend if it was a donation-based weekend.
“I definitely think it would be hard for recent grads. I mean, its no secret that times are tough out there. I think it depends on if the event itself was worth the cost,” said Green.
Green also expressed optimism, though, that a week that would “bring everyone back together, almost like a high school reunion” would be a wonderful edition to the existing university pride and spirit.
Carter expressed the importance of an event like this to encourage the legacy and tradition of life at UT, especially mentioning what a great time Homecoming would be for alumni to bond with their children over the traditions of the Forty Acres.
Scott Dennis, a 1981 University of Texas graduate and parent of a current UT freshman, expressed optimism about the effects this event would have on the school.
“If a formal homecoming was established, the various colleges, clubs, organizations, etc. could organize reunion events,” said Dennis, who would have the opportunity to attend events along with his daughter. “I would participate.”
Dennis also expressed concern about the size of the school though and consequently the feasibility of the project.
When asked about the timeline of this project and how she expects to approach such a large task, Carter responded that has been a long process and will continue to be a lot of work, but their goals remain in tact.
“All the questions will hopefully be answered by spring break,” said Carter. “After that it will be a lot of reaching out.”
Student Body President Horacio Villarreal agreed with Carter’s detailed and careful approach to the project.
“The idea of a university-wide homecoming is no easy task,” said Villarreal. If students continue to push forward with the idea, we must ensure that it moves in a methodical manner to assure that the event is the best that it can be.”
Many have questioned why the University is just now seeing a push for the creation of this event. Homecoming at UT has a history behind it, however, and it is less than positive.
“In the past, an event called Round Up was the official homecoming for the school,” said Carter. “We were ‘rounding up’ the alumni. It was a huge event.”
Carter explained that due to an incident with racial insults appearing on a smashed up car used in the Round Up Parade in 1990, the funding was pulled and the University no longer officially sponsored the event. Round Up remains a large event in the West Campus area.
“We think the school is ready for it again, and I think we really need to bring that school spirit back,” said Carter. “It’s a really good time from a peer perspective.”
With the arrival of a new head football coach and movement to revamp the Longhorn spirit and pride in the legacy, the time could not be better, many claim.
Carter added that her main goal was that students, alumni and faculty could enjoy a week celebrating their school.
“UT is so good about having students get involved, do research, and take this and that program,” said Carter. “But on a lighter note, we just want people to have fun.”