Opinion | Homecoming elections need a remodel

Alex Jobin, Staff Columnist

Friday night, McLean Moore was crowned homecoming queen. From campaign finance mishandlings to racially insensitive PR moves, this year’s homecoming queen competition was a debacle. 

With Moore already elected, some may think that it’s irrelevant to examine this year’s campaigns, but we must reflect on this flawed election cycle so that we may form solutions to improve our homecoming traditions.

Moore’s campaign was lambasted for employing “tokenism” and using “a minority as a political prop.” Moore’s logo “features a color-block graphic” where a crowned depiction of Moore has her hand on the shoulder of a shrunken version of her “little sister,” Kenyetta, from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Kenyetta is a younger Black girl.

As sophomore Brooklyn Coleman pointed out, the logo — intentionally or not — connotes a “white savior mentality.”

Moore’s campaign was presumably backed by the Machine, the “secret” society that controls campus elections, including the election of homecoming queen. 

By Oct. 16, multiple candidates were in violation of rules outlined in the Election Manual. Some of the weekly financial disclosure forms required of all candidates were missing — because of the candidate’s failure to file or the Elections Boards failure to report, it’s unclear. 

Savanah Lemon initially reported a $400 contribution from her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which exceeded the outlined limit of $350. The form was deleted and resubmitted with the amount changed to $350 with no explanation from the Elections Board. 

Needless to say, the financial practices of these campaigns were questionable at best. The faults of a homecoming election benefit no one; they dishonor the candidates and reflect poorly on the University.

When taking all of these faux pas into consideration, we must ask ourselves: What value do mismanaged and tone-deaf campaigns really contribute to our homecoming festivities and to the University’s culture as a whole? 

This year’s homecoming election has exposed the dark side of the tradition, which can be pointless and ethically questionable. When competition is based on wealth and popularity rather than scholarship and service, what do we gain by hosting an election at all?

It is important to note that there are redeeming aspects of the homecoming queen tradition: Each of the candidates’ campaigns is tied to a philanthropic organization. For instance, Moore’s campaign raised $1,600 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama, according to her Instagram account. 

Despite the competition’s aforementioned shortfalls, the charitable fundraising that it generates is an undeniable boon. 

Instead of emphasizing wealth and popularity, the homecoming queen competition should focus more on its philanthropic efforts. Bestowing the crown upon the candidate who raises the most funds for their associated charity would likely attract even more attention to these nonprofits and capitalize on the most redeeming quality of the tradition. It would ensure that the homecoming queen always embodies a commitment to the community.

Such a change would also decrease the necessity for messy PR maneuvers and the influence of corrupt organizations like the Machine in the competition. At the very least, these unsavory elements would contribute to the improvement of our community as they work to increase each candidate’s charitable fundraising. 

Right now, the homecoming queen competition doesn’t actually say much about the University or influence its values in a meaningful way. If some of the supposed “leaders” of our student body cannot run for homecoming queen without being racially insensitive or ignoring basic rules, then what does that say about the rest of us? What does that say about the values here on campus?

We should not allow this year’s missteps to become the norm — and if that means giving the homecoming queen competition a serious makeover, then we must examine how we can make that happen. It would be better for the candidates, for campus, and for our community. 

If we critically analyze this year’s shortcomings and those of years past, we may begin to form a homecoming election that more accurately reflects the values of the University. We can embrace the traditions of the past while also forming solutions that bring The University of Alabama into the future. 

Questions? Email the Opinions desk at letters@cw.ua.edu.