Homecoming 2013 is officially here.
While some of us are focused on the football game against the Auburn Tigers this Saturday, others will not even think about football rivalries. The other half of students are more interested in the ensuing tailgates and homecoming bashes.
What you may or may not have noticed is the divide between a great deal of students. In case you didn't already know, there are two different homecomings this weekend: parties full of white students and parties attended primarily by African-Americans and other minority students.
First, let me admit to my own ignorance to some major homecoming events outside of my own circle. I regularly attend the Black Cultural Programming Committee's Stomp Show and Comedy Show; this will be my third year in attendance. Imagine my immense surprise to find that other students have never even heard of these events and haven't had the opportunity to enjoy them.
The same is true for minority students who have no clue what the larger part of campus holds to celebrate our UT homecoming. One student honestly had no idea about the majority black events happening this weekend.
Now, there are exceptions for those who participate in a variety of diverse events on campus. But by and large, most students don't have a clue what the other half of campus is doing to celebrate.
Interacting with students of all backgrounds is utterly crucial to the college experience. Of course we all have our inclinations toward different groups; we love spending time with our friends. They are the ones who understand us. But exclusively maintaining friendships with people who share all of our personal qualities and even racial identity can hinder our education.
Once we enter the real world, it won't be just us and our friends. Our future will instead be filled with co-workers of many backgrounds, and the company parties will probably not reflect our currently divided college experience.
A larger collaboration on campus that makes sure all events are known to everyone should become available. We ought to have knowledge of other homecoming events around campus.
On this 560-acre campus, the temptation to carve out a niche and stick with what's familiar is strong. But if homecoming is an event intended to bring us all together, what better way to welcome home alumni than show them a cohesive and integrated student body? At the very least, we should know of each others' celebrations.
I challenge anyone reading this to enjoy homecoming collectively with the rest of the student body, even those you never talk to. Stop by a party or event you don't normally attend – you may just find a pleasant surprise in the people you meet. Whether at a tailgate, step show or comedy show, everyone should release their habits of conformity and enjoy simply being a Vol.
With a more diverse homecoming we can be a more collectively well-rounded body of students. I know I'll be at a variety of events this year, attending a few more than my usual routine.
If you take this challenge with me, share with someone your experience and see what happens. You'll have a memorable week and a more comfortable home to come back to in the future. Instead of a "black" homecoming and a "white" homecoming, we could collaborate somewhere in the "smokey" gray middle.
Rebecca Butcher is a junior in journalism & electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.