Sponsors and event coordinators congregated at Library Mall Monday afternoon to kick off Homecoming week for UW students.
While the event featured many familiar trappings for a UW event coordinated with sponsors (booths with free merchandise, a giant inflatable Bucky Badger and a DJ playing ‘God’s Plan’ and ‘Better Now’) there were indications that this year’s Homecoming might have a unique focus. Allie Palmer, the Business Operations Director for the Wisconsin Homecoming Committee said that this year, the university wants to make this Homecoming an event for everyone.
“One thing we really are always focusing on is being inclusive of everybody on campus, making sure everybody feels like they belong and that this is their home to come back to when they are alum,” Palmer said, raising her voice above the DJ mix of ‘All of the Lights’ playing in the distance.
One such effort Palmer pointed to was the stand for ‘4W, Wellbeing and Woman in Wisconsin and the World,’ an initiative that seeks “to make life better for women and make the world better for all,” according to their website.
4W’s stand featured a wooden cutout with the number ‘150’ written on the front to commemorate the 150th anniversary of women receiving bachelor degrees at UW. The first six women graduated from UW in May of 1869.
Additionally, 4W is also coordinating a donation drive, where donors can give money to a Chancellor’s fund in honor of women in their life. The money will be used at the discretion of the Chancellor to support women and their well being.
Olivia Dahlquist, the assistant director for 4W said that even this accomplishment echoes some of the university’s history of excluding racial and ethnic groups.
“I want to clarify that these were white women,” Dahlquist said. “Through this whole campaign we want to make it known that, despite that, we want to celebrate the achievements of all women: women of color, women with disabilities, [women] from all backgrounds.”
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Annie Staskunas, the president of the Wisconsin Homecoming Committee, said that the attitudes of committee members and the committee’s outreach on social media for this year have driven the message that the committee values inclusion at homecoming.
Staskunas said that many of the events also reflect that trend. The Bucky Bowl flag football event Tuesday night will feature a woman’s division. On Wednesday night, the Homecoming Committee will be partnering with the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement to host a RED Talk, the universities take on TED Talk with Badger alumni.
Additionally, this year’s homecoming parade will feature International Student Services and Wisconsin International Students Association.
While Staskunas said that while the committee has reached out to many diverse groups on campus, they have also tried to be respectful of the unique ways that individual groups want to be included during Homecoming week, especially when groups wish to not participate in certain events
“Some people may not value the same things that we value and I think that respecting that and recognizing that is a big thing,” Staskunas said.
Staskunas, who is graduating this year, said that it’s important to listen and learn how Homecoming can be a more inclusive event. In the future, Staskunas says it is important to ask why some students don’t feel included in order to forge a more inclusive campus.
A list of events to celebrate Homecoming this week can be found here.