Penn State Homecoming announced that they will no longer reward two individuals as Homecoming King and Queen, but instead with the “Guide State Forward Award.” While this change is very progressive and a monumental milestone in homecoming history, many alumni have been outwardly expressing discontent over it. At Penn State, we value tradition while also valuing change when it means progress.
While we cannot please everyone, times are changing and the Penn State community needs to keep up and be more accepting. The biggest loss here is “tradition,” but this is the opportunity to pause and reflect on how Penn State and society as a whole have changed. This an opportunity to bring in elements of our society that have been underrepresented for decades. Diversity and inclusion are being interwoven into all fabrics of society and by bringing it to this campus and giving us all an opportunity to be a part of the change is something to get excited about.
By removing these titles, Penn State is showing that, as a community, we embrace sexuality and gender diversity and equality. In order to qualify for the Guide State Forward Award, applicants will be selected based on themselves as a whole and how they strive to live out the Penn State core values. The Homecoming committee will still pick candidates in the same process as before, through nominations made by students, who will then interview in front of a faculty and staff panel. The panel, made up of various Penn State faculty and staff members, will then deliberate and select the final 10 individuals who will become members of the 2018 Homecoming Student Court.
“Homecoming, as an organization, supports and strives to embody the aspirations of the ‘all-in’ initiative. To us, it’s less about what a student looks like on paper and more about embracing the whole person and the unique experiences and backgrounds of each Penn Stater,” says Ally Berdan, executive director for Homecoming 2018.
Though Homecoming King and Queen titles are rooted in tradition, perhaps it is time to embrace a new tradition … a tradition that promotes inclusion. As time changes, Penn State can take small, incremental steps towards a more positive and including campus atmosphere.