Eastern responds to homecoming controversy

Corryn Brock, News Editor

Eastern administrators responded to controversy over the 2020 Homecoming theme, “Party Like It’s 1895,” after some students and alumni shared that they felt the theme was inappropriate.

The most common theme of those who disagreed with the theme said the theme was insensitive and felt the time period reflected a negative part of history that severely oppressed minorities.

The year mentioned, 1895, was meant to celebrate the year of Eastern’s founding that occurred 125 years ago.

The decision was made prior to the pandemic, according to Josh Reinhart, Eastern’s public information coordinator, and was not meant to imply any breaking of federal, state and local guidelines based on risks posed by the pandemic.

In a statement made on Sept. 24, Reinhart said:

“EIU’s 1895 Homecoming theme is a reference to the year in which EIU was founded. Its use in EIU’s Homecoming week events is intended to commemorate that historical occasion. The theme was selected for use last spring following a period of public input and a variety of EIU stakeholder contributions, including those from a diversified student steering committee.”

Vice President of Student Affairs Anne Flaherty gave more context in a later statement and offered information regarding the university’s hopes and plans for the future moving on from the controversy surrounding the theme.

“Hopefully, the University statement issued [Thursday] helps provide some clarity on the conception and intent of the theme. EIU’s Homecoming Committee, alongside several diverse student advisory committees, develops EIU’s annual Homecoming theme and corresponding events. Despite the diversity of the individuals and groups involved, the theme can be an insensitive reminder of historical inequality that persists today. I’ve discussed this with the President, and we agree that this circumstance presents a learning moment for the entire University, including our students and alumni. In the spirit of awareness and inclusivity, we intend to further broaden opportunities for student and community involvement moving forward and invite enhanced participation from all members of our diverse EIU Family.”

“As a University community, and as individuals, it can be difficult to acknowledge where our blind spots might exist, but we are grateful our students and alumni feel empowered to engage with us when they see them.”

Editor’s Note: Ceci Brinker, Director of Student Life was given an opportunity to respond in an interview or statement on behalf of the Student Life Office but asked to supply a Guest Column in place of those items that would need to be reviewed before publication. The Daily Eastern News did not receive that column by the time of deadline but will publish the column from Brinker as a Letter to the Editor once received.

 

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]