Ben Goldberger headshot

Homecoming is a wonderful time of the year where alumni come back to the university and partake in the long-standing traditions with the current students as one collective community. It’s a time for all Volunteers to feel connected with their school through games and events throughout the Homecoming week. Most of the events, though, revolve around the Greek organizations on campus with the only eligible participants being the fraternities and sororities. This leaves out a large portion of the student body, creating a separation in what is otherwise a unifying time.

According to the university’s Greek life website, 5,325 students are members of one of 46 fraternities or sororities on campus, making up 24% of the student body. Despite this small portion of the students, a majority of the large events that happen for Homecoming only allow participation from these organizations. Events like the banner drop, the kickball tournament and most events hosted by All Campus Events (ACE) are heavily populated by Greek organizations. So much so, that a fraternity and sorority have won each overall Homecoming award since 1969 (gogreek.utk.edu).

I understand that these traditions were mostly practiced by the Greek organizations in the past, but it feels wrong to me that this time of the year, which is supposed to be for all Volunteers, really only revolves around 24% of them.

In the past, the university created a Housing Homecoming award to increase participation in the events, awarding a residence hall that had the most participation in Homecoming festivities. This was a great idea by the university, but they unfortunately stopped it after 2016 and reverted back to one winner — a pair of one fraternity and one sorority.

As a student who is not involved with any Greek organizations, I feel betrayed by my university when I see that I am not represented in many of the traditions that Vols hold dear to their hearts. Homecoming should be a time for all Volunteers, past and present, to join together and celebrate the wonderful college that is the University of Tennessee. Yet, it is instead a time for 76% of the population to sit back and watch the 24% have all the fun.

UT should do everything in their power to include more students in the Homecoming festivities. An easy way to do this is by simply encouraging other student organizations to join the ACE games that are held all week. Whether by increasing awareness of how to sign up, or by allowing students to create groups specifically for these games, the university should take some action to make participating in these traditions more accessible to all students, not just those in fraternities and sororities.

Another way that the school can do this without angering those in Greek life who feel it is tradition to have these organizations be the winners, is to create a different division for other student organizations to participate in so there are multiple winners. This is a good way to satisfy both groups on campus, as it does not take away from the Greek organizations while also creating a space devoted to non-Greek organizations to increase participation.

I am proud to be a Volunteer, and I cannot wait to see what Homecoming week is like in a pseudo-normal year, but there needs to be more accessible participation for students not involved in Greek life on campus in order for the Homecoming experience to be truly welcoming and unifying.

Ben Goldberger is a junior at UT this year studying anthropology and political science. He can be reached at bgoldbe3@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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