Homecoming pride is more than sports pomp


HANNAH CARR-MURPHY, Opinion Columnist

Once upon a time, there was a critical gap in the education system of Iowa and two men who saw an opportunity where others only saw an absence. In the mid-to-late 19th century, Iowa was lacking a public institution to train teachers, putting it sorely behind even other midwestern states. Senator Edward G. Miller and Representative H. C. Hemenway, Black Hawk County legislators, proposed to the Iowa General Assembly that the upcoming vacancy of the orphanage in Cedar Falls presented an opportunity to establish a public normal school for the development of teachers.

Through tireless advocacy and Iowan grit, they prevailed, and the Iowa Normal School under President James Cleland Gilchrist came into being in 1876. Since that time it has changed names, overcome obstacles and grown into the University of Northern Iowa we love today.

There is a simple reason for this history lesson: we have a lot to be proud of as students of this institution. Even more importantly, being proud of UNI is not only for homecoming week. When our school has such a long and rich history, it’s an act of disservice to only celebrate our heritage for one week in the fall. The UNI traditions that truly matter are not ones that involve parades or kissing at the Campanile. Our standards of excellence in education and commitment to furthering education everywhere are the truly substantive traditions at the heart of UNI and its heritage.

I’m going to be honest, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised: I’ve never taken much notice of homecoming week or its activities. This isn’t due to distaste for homecoming activities, but more a result of needing to stay focused on schoolwork, regardless of any outside influences. I am, however, incredibly proud to be a UNI panther. This institution is part of my family. It’s where my grandmother and mother went to school, and where my older brother is a current graduate student. I love UNI, and I love the way it has fostered me as I searched for a path to my best self.

I know there are so many people on campus who feel the same way I do, and the fact that they express it through putting on their Panther gear and screaming in the UNI-dome or the McLeod Center is completely fine. I am glad they are expressing a pride in our university. But that type of expression doesn’t suit all of us, and it can be surprisingly transient and short-lived. Every week at UNI offers tons of opportunities to take part in campus activities, learn from guest speakers and panels, and support your fellow Panthers in their pursuits. It’s scarcely believable that people graduate from UNI without attending any concerts, recitals, theatrical productions or gallery showcases, especially because they happen so frequently!

Please don’t misunderstand the sentiment behind this column. I don’t intend to disparage the athletic programs here whatsoever, because our student athletes work so hard and achieve so much, and they are an integral part of UNI pride. What I’m advocating for is a different way of thinking about school spirit, a school spirit that is expressed every week, not just Homecoming week. You don’t need a sporting event, a parade or any special event to express how proud you are to be Panther. You can do it simply by being your best in academics, in volunteerism, or in whatever pursuits you feel called to. We all have a responsibility to the history and heritage of UNI, and I hope we can learn to value the many forms of UNI pride that take place outside of homecoming week and the pomp of collegiate athletics.