September 28, 2010

Parading Toward A New Tradition

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For the second straight year, the pre-Homecoming game festivities consisted of not only mid-morning pitchers in Collegetown and raucous tailgating, but also a Homecoming parade of student groups. While the parade is not yet as much of a Homecoming mainstay as drinking outside Schoellkopf or watching Big Red football fight valiantly against some Ivy League foe, it is a welcome addition that should be a part of Homecoming Saturdays for years to come.This year’s parade swelled dramatically in participation, with 40 student groups (several hundred individuals in all) and the Big Red Band marching from Ho Plaza to near Schoellkopf Field. It had a tangible effect on attendance at the football game, as well. About 1,600 first-year students attended Freshmen on the Field, which nearly doubled the previous record. The official attendance at the game itself was 16,026 — the largest total at a Homecoming game since 2000 — and the larger-than-usual crowd was obvious to anyone observing the red-draped Schoellkopf Crescent. Increased attendance and participation at Homecoming — by undergraduates and alumni alike — can only benefit the University. It helps keep undergraduates safe on the “Slope Day Lite” of the fall semester, stirs up alumni involvement (and likely donations) and builds school spirit, not unlike last year’s Sweet 16 run by the men’s basketball team.It is no secret that Cornell’s campus community is often significantly fragmented. Social lines exist between Greeks and non-Greeks, jocks and non-jocks and members of different ethnic groups and national backgrounds. Events like last Saturday’s parade encourage these disparate social groups to come together in the name of school spirit. Even though the parade is a once-a-year occasion, it represents a significant attempt to build a more cohesive campus.The parade exhibited the diversity of Cornell’s student groups, and furthermore, its student body. Last week’s news that black student enrollment for the Class of 2014 fell to 5.3 percent of the total class was disheartening for everyone working to make our campus more diverse. But the fact remains that the University enrolls students of all nationalities, religions, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. The Homecoming parade was an opportunity for students representing each of these groups to come together in a show of mutual support. In addition, the diversity among the different types of student groups was on display — with members of women’s gymnastics, Shimtah (the Korean drumming group) and Black Students United marching together.