Written By Elinor Aspegren
The Student Executive Council (SEC) announced changes to the Homecoming Court on Sept. 24, which include a new nomination process, the abolishment of king and queen and the exclusion of SEC members from nomination.
According to Student Body President senior Isabelle Blanchard, the debate on changing court started with a discus- sion on more inclusion—namely, making court gender-neutral. “We thought that it was really important that everyone feel safe and that they could identify with whoever they wanted to be,” she said.
School Board Representative senior Grace Park added that teachers approached SEC with this in mind. “[Homecoming Court has] created issues in the past because we have people at Gunn who don’t conform to the dichotomy of gender,” she said.
After SEC began discussing the issue of gender neutrality in Homecoming Court, discussions turned into a debate over whether or not to keep homecoming court at all. To settle the debate, SEC sent a survey to each class, asking whether or not to keep homecoming court and what changes should be made. Park said the survey was important because all voices, not just those of SEC, were involved in the Homecoming Court process. “We didn’t trust just SEC to make this decision,” she said. “That’s why we decided to survey the student body about this issue.”
In the end, students and SEC members voted to keep the court because of the tradition and school spirit involved. With this decision, however, came a new wave of reforms.
The first appeared in the nomination process. This year, SEC added several questions to the submission form for nominating a candidate—all designed to reflect the desired candidate mold. “[The form was changed] so that there would be more consideration on how the person best represents Gunn, through leadership and experience, and not so much about who is the most popular,” Student Activities Director Lisa Hall said.
According to Park, Homecoming Court was originally created in the 1950s for the purpose of recognizing seniors who were role models for the school. SEC decided to return to that format in order to recognize other role models—not just more well-known ones—present at Gunn.
Additionally, there will no longer be a homecoming king or queen. Gender and Sexuality Alliance President senior Rachel Gates thinks this is a good idea that advocates for inclusion. “We’re not separating two individuals out of the group that got more votes, because everyone who ends up being on the court deserves it a lot,” she said. “It’s the question of separating: we don’t need to be separating people, and we don’t need a king and queen because we don’t need to gender that.”
Besides being gender neutral, Homecoming Court now also excludes SEC members from candidacy. According to Blanchard, this decision was made mainly to recognize that there were other people in the Gunn community who serve as role models. “By not allowing us to be on court, we allow more of the Gunn student body to be recognized for their achievements,” she said.
Gates, however, thinks that this idea defeats the purpose of the other reforms. “The idea of excluding people while being inclusive is sort of confusing to me,” she said.
Nonetheless, Park is proud of the decisions that SEC made. “Homecoming Court, in previous years, has been something that I personally don’t believe reflects what Gunn is about and exemplifies Gunn’s role models,” she said. “This year SEC did change a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing the effects of these changes.”
Gates believes that these homecoming changes will serve to prove that Gunn is progressive in ideas of gender. “I’m hoping that people will see this as a jumping-off point for discussions about gender, and that hopefully, other schools in the area will follow that lead,” she said.
These changes, Blanchard anticipates, will allow students to truly appreciate court for what it represents, but she also is open to more discussion. “If court ever starts to have a largely negative effect, then I think that this decision is something to reopen and discuss,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something permanent—I think it’s what is best for the community at the time.” Another voting survey will come out next week, where people can vote for their top ten nominees. SEC is still deciding whether winners will be announced at the halftime show or earlier in the week.