Homecoming is a time when former students and alumni are welcomed back to a place they may have once called home. It is a way to keep the sense of community that is built around a school and keep that connection strong long after graduation. Homecoming at Elizabethtown College is a great way to show this community what relationships this school has founded and allows students, parents and alumni to understand just how important they are to the College.
However, while Etown does a good job at welcoming alumni and family members back onto campus, it does so in a rather segregated manner.
The annual Alumni Oktoberfest Party and Class Reunions Extravaganza is a much anticipated to event for graduates of the College. It is a time where alumni of all years are able to come back to Etown and meet with classmates and former students as they enjoy good food and drinks paid for by the College.
While alumni look forward to this event, current students are indifferent as it is not something they are allowed to attend.
For Oktoberfest, a large tent is erected on Brinser Field and cut off from the rest of the campus by its enclosed walls and guarded entrance. I will say that this seclusion makes sense since a large part of the event is the ability for alumni to enjoy alcoholic beverages, ranging from the College’s own to outside companies like the Lancaster Brewing Co., who made an appearance at this year’s festivities.
So what else is there for alumni to do after this grand event? Honestly, not much.
Of course, there is always the Homecoming parade, showcasing student-made floats through clubs on campus, and the Homecoming Fair, a small event that takes place in the Academic Quad. But neither of these events can really compare to the alumni-only Oktoberfest.
Both the parade and fair cater to the ambitions and goals of clubs on campus, which usually consist of getting alumni and family members to donate to their causes. In part, the two events seem almost commercial in their approach and lack the sense of community that is associated with Homecoming.
“Other than the Homecoming parade there is no established event to bring [alumni, students and family] together. The only event that could possibly do that is Oktoberfest, but you have to be an alum to get in,” senior Abbie Erickson said.
In fact, there is surprisingly very little interaction between students and alumni unless either party goes out of their way to meet up on their own time. Sure, there are alumni games for sport teams, and each department has their own meet up sometime on Saturday afternoon around campus (after Oktoberfest, mind you, as most alumni leave after the event due to its later ending time of three or four), but rarely do either draw big enough crowds to really bridge that gap.
One of the only other events that really gets students, alumni and families together is the a capella show which brings together the College’s three a capella groups for a performance that may feature returning alumi. However, some students feel it is still rather exclusive.
“I think the a capella show can be okay to integrate students, family and alumni together, but it’s mainly focused on those who are currently and have been associated with the a capella groups. But I think it is cool that friends and family are allowed to be a part of that,” junior Christian Villarosa said.
So where is the part in which the College community actually comes together?
Etown is unique in that it combines alumni and family weekend together with Homecoming, which seems like a good way to bring members of the Etown community together. This inclusion of alumni weekend was done only two years ago in order to facilitate the growing space needed for the annual Alumni Oktoberfest, as it was feeling rather cramped in the backyard of the Alumni House.
I believe, at the time, this was definitely a step in the right direction and helped to get that alumni involvement back onto campus. Having the Oktoberfest be alumni-only makes sense once you realize its origins, but it makes me wonder if it truly has its place at Homecoming since it requires little interaction among the College community as a whole. Current students who are of age are blatantly disregarded.
As a senior, a large draw for me to come back once I graduate is to be able to participate in the Oktoberfest festivities. Without it, would I come back during Homecoming? Most likely not. Yes, I may be able to see professors, fellow graduates and current students again if I do, but what is stopping me from just dropping by on any other weekend? I will basically be able to do the same things regardless of when I arrive. Also, for those who have long since graduated, there may be no students or staff on campus that they recognize any longer and, without Oktoberfest, I can’t imagine what would draw them back other than a fleeting sense of nostalgia.
It seems to me that without Oktoberfest the College may not be able to draw in the alumni crowds it needs in order to have a proper Homecoming. In that regard, I suppose it is drawing a purpose, but it is a very small and limited one. I sincerely wish the College would do something to encourage alumni to interact with current students, perhaps in a different kind of Oktoberfest or college picnic for all, not just alumni.
At the heart of any Homecoming is the feeling of stepping back into a world you once called home. I am afraid Etown may be skimming over that with little to no regard to the feelings of the current students.