The University of Connecticut’s Homecoming parade underwent several changes this year due to a variety of factors, including a different level of participation from the cultural centers and a lack of floats, according to the student leaders in charge of organizing the parade.
Ryan Verano, FASA (Filipino American Student Association) co-president, PAC (Pan Asian Council) co-fundraiser chair and seventh-semester economics major, said no student organizations within AsACC (Asian American Cultural Center) participated in this year’s Homecoming parade, to his knowledge.
Verano said the AsACC student leadership team decided at a meeting in September that the cultural center would not participate in this year’s Homecoming parade because there was less than a month until Homecoming at that time, and they did not have a Homecoming chair or Homecoming committee in place.
“We said, ‘It’s too hectic at this point to try to get something together, gather a team, practice for Lip Sync or even just get bodies for the Homecoming parade,’” Verano said. “So at that time we said, ‘We’re not going to do it, this is the first year we’re not going to do it, because we don’t have the manpower, we’re just simply not ready.’”
Chief Diversity Officer Joelle Murchison’s statements last spring about cultural center participation in Homecoming this year, which suggested that students who take part in cultural centers participate in Homecoming under the banner of student organizations rather than the cultural centers, also influenced the decision to not take part in the Homecoming parade, Verano said.
“(Murchison’s statements were) still in place during that time (the leadership team) met, so that was the second reason,” Verano said. “Since then, the (statements have) been reversed, so that’s that, but we still weren’t going to participate anyway in the parade.”
Murchison released an announcement in the Daily Digest on Sept. 15 informing students that Cultural Centers could participate under their own banners.
“I think none of us participated. I don’t think individual orgs would do it...it’s usually a cultural center team,” Verano said. “If someone from AsACC participated, it was probably with another student organization.”
Ashley Amaro, PRLACC (Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center) Afro-Latinx committee chair and first-semester human development and family studies major, said no student organizations within PRLACC participated in the Homecoming parade this year, to her knowledge.
PRLACC’S main focus at the moment is fundraising to help those impacted by recent natural disasters throughout Latin America, such as Hurricane Maria and the Mexico earthquake in September, Amaro said.
“We haven’t done a lot of our normal PRLACC things, like ‘Spanish Hour’ and ‘Café con leche,’” Amaro said.
Amaro said she believes Lip Sync’s cancellation this year, which happened due to Gampel Pavilion undergoing renovations, played a role in the cultural center not participating in the Homecoming parade.
“I know Lip Sync was a really big part,” Amaro said. “I think the cancellation took a big toll.”
This year’s Homecoming parade also lacked floats. The reason for this decision was due to logistical and cost reasons, according to Julia D’Alessandro, president of SUBOG.
“From what I understand, the teams were unable to present their insurance information on time so there could be no floats this year,” D’Allesandro said. “Floats are also a large expense for the teams, so I think this also factored into their decision for no floats.”
Interfraternity Council President Ryan Cuniff weighed in, stating that the participating Greek organizations wanted to march with the cultural centers instead of building floats.
“There was less participation (than previous years,)” Cuniff said. “There’s a number of reasons here. In the beginning, we were standing in support of the cultural centers. We wanted to do Homecoming with them.”
Cuniff said that the fraternities and sororities wanted to support the cultural centers in wake of Murchison’s original statements.
“We didn’t want to charge full-steam without them,” Cuniff said. “It was better that we could march all together in unity. We were trying to figure out what our participation would look like, then we weren’t sure if… doing floats would support our stance in the matter.”
On Oct. 9, six days before the parade was to take place, the presidents of the Greek organizations participating in Homecoming received an email from the Jamel Catoe, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, which stated that floats were not to be built, though participating organizations could still build “wheeled props” for the parade.
“Leading up to this there were a lot of conversations with fraternities and sororities and SUBOG about (this,)” Catoe said. “At some point there was a decision made for everyone to march.”
Catoe said that the decision had been made by SUBOG, and that he had relayed the information to the Greek organizations.
The decision not to have floats was unanimous among all the teams participating in Homecoming, D’Allesandro said.
“Going forward, if the teams decide they want floats again, then they can decide that together next year.” D’Allesandro said. “My personal opinion, I think that it was great to not only listen but to uphold the student's opinions on having floats. After all, that is what Homecoming is all about, our students.”
Prior to the decision not to build floats, an on-campus location at C-Lot for float building would have been provided for organizations for their use, Catoe said, partly because float-building had been a traditionally off-campus activity, and students gathering off-campus would have been a violation of a recent Mansfield town ordinance.
“This year would’ve been the first year float-building would have happened on-campus,” Catoe said.
Catoe said that the death of Jeffny Pally last year, which occurred after Pally attended an off-campus party to decorate a Homecoming float, was something to “take into consideration.”
Catoe said he expects that Homecoming will continue to be a source of bonding and celebration for students.
“My hope is that Homecoming continues to be a tradition that brings UConn together, that all students participate in Homecoming and it continues to be the spirit and pride of the university,” Catoe said. “Everyone has a place in Homecoming.”
Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.
Alexandra Retter is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.