UWO students skeptical over Homecoming title changes

Haley Walters

UW Oshkosh is forgoing traditional titles of king and queen for the two top-voted Homecoming court members in favor of the title “Homecoming Royalty.” Members of the Homecoming Committee voted unanimously to eliminate the gender-specific terms in order to encourage inclusiveness and equality amongst court hopefuls. “Homecoming king and Homecoming queen imply a gender binary, so you’re either a man or you’re a woman, and don’t allow for anything else other than that,” Assistant Director for Student Involvement Missy Burgess said. “We know there are students who identify not on the gender binary as either a man or woman.” Another factor in the decision was the ongoing problem of a disproportionately high amount of queen candidates to king candidates. In the past, this meant the committee had to eliminate several queen candidates to balance out the court. “By expanding it and saying the top ten are the Homecoming court and the top two are Homecoming royalty, then it doesn’t matter how you identify,” Burgess said. UWO junior Alyssa Scott is a member of the Homecoming court. She said she was “shocked” that there would no longer be any king or queen crowns awarded. “I was a little frustrated because as far as our Homecoming court goes this year, none of us identify ourselves as anything but male and female,” Scott said. “I could understand if someone who didn’t identify as male or female wanted to run, then UW Oshkosh would make the shift. It is good they are doing this now, though, because hopefully this will give courage to those who did not want to run for ‘king’ or ‘queen’ and apply next year.” Courage to run for a well-known position, such as Homecoming Royalty, is a struggle many LGBTQ students face, according to LGBTQ program assistant Matthew Reindhardt. “I don’t know if individuals who identify within the LGBTQ community would want to put themselves out there,” Reinhardt said. “It takes a certain level of confidence to do that, and I applaud those individuals who can do it.” UWO student Emma Corwin said in order for inclusiveness to be achieved, students have to re-evaluate their perceptions of what a Homecoming court should look like before voting. “It depends on how people go about [voting],” Corwin said. “If they go into thinking, ‘Oh, we have to pick a boy and a girl, or somebody, who identifies as a boy or a girl, all they’ve done is change the name. If they say, ‘The two best candidates that we have for this this year is two boys or two girls; let’s pick them both, go for it. That would be awesome.” Reinhardt said this name change is a step in the right direction, and he hopes it will encourage students to further accept different types of individuals into activities such as Homecoming. “I think this change is a positive thing, but I’m also hoping they’re addressing other aspects,” Reinhardt said. “Is it just straight white people, or are there other people who are not only running but feel that they can be welcomed into the fold of the royalty by the type of language that they’re using?” Scott said she is concerned about students’ reactions if two court members of the same gender were elected. She said she would prefer if court members were given a choice in their title. “It is traditional to have a ‘King and Queen,’” Scott said. “I feel that if I were to win, I would want to choose to be called ‘King’, ‘Queen’ or ‘Royalty.’” Burgess said the committee has talked about possible negative reactions but decided to move forward with the change regardless. “I think there could be [negative reactions] but the committee felt really strongly that this is the right thing to do,” Burgess said. “I suspect that it could be a shock this first year, but once it becomes the norm for our campus, I think it will just be what we do.” UWO is joining the handful of schools throughout the state who are opting to drop their gender-specific Homecoming titles to encourage participation, something Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Petra Roter said she is proud of. “This is another way we are working towards gender equality and inclusion here at UWO,” Roter said.