After a seven-year hiatus, homecoming is back at St. John’s.
The weeklong event, which spans from Oct. 15 to Oct. 22, marks the return of a once annual event that centered around the University’s football team. In 2002, the University folded the program and the idea of a homecoming at St. John’s died with it.
“We [the University] wanted to bring back things and start new things, whatever it took to get students and alumni, staff, everybody to get excited about St. John’s,” said Damien Duchamp, Director of Campus Activities. “A natural response to that is having a homecoming.”
The decision to reinstate homecoming, an event often synonymous with football programs, was rooted in an apparent need to build a greater sense of tradition and school spirit at St. John’s, Duchamp explained.
“A football program would be nice to have because of the aspects like tradition that go along with it, but unless you’re one of the very best, you’re probably not making money. We have a history with our basketball program. It makes more sense to put more money into the sports we already have,” Duchamp said.
Thus far, homecoming has included a Breast Cancer Walk (see pg. 4), a Homecoming Mass, and a women’s soccer game vs. Rutgers University (see pg. 30). The remainder of the week will also include inter-organizational competitions and will close with a Women’s Soccer game vs. Marquette University on Oct. 22.
The University’s newly reinstated homecoming is a long way from where it needs to be, according to Duchamp.
“It’s going to be a work in progress over the next five years,” Duchamp said. “We need to do some benchmarking and visit some schools during homecoming to see what it feels like. We need to see what exists at other schools and see what can be replicated or changed and put on this campus.
“There are a few things that we knew needed to be done during homecoming, like a major concert, but we just weren’t ready to really pull it off and do it the way it needs to be done. I think those things will come over the next couple of years. It’s a learning process.”
The planning for this year’s events started about a year ago, shortly after Duchamp and several new staff members were hired by the University.
Duchamp insists that as far as tradition is concerned, St. John’s still has a long way to go.
“I don’t think that we’re a school steeped in tradition. I think that everybody has an expectation, everybody assumes that we have tradition but we don’t have a bunch of chants, we don’t have a bunch of cheers,” Duchamp said. “A year and a half ago when [I] first came on campus, you saw more shirts for other schools than you saw for St. John’s. That’s not a campus that’s steeped in tradition,” he added.
In addition to a week of social and athletic events that should draw students, faculty, and staff together, this year’s homecoming is the first step in the University’s campaign to instill a sense of tradition at a school in need of a unifying identity, according to Duchamp.
“I mean, we don’t have a mascot,” Duchamp said. “If you listen to the cheers and chants, they’re only now starting to gain momentum because frankly they didn’t exist last year. I mean ‘We are St. John’s’ you can only say so many times.”