By Breeda Bennett-Jones
Homecoming Spirit Week kicked off across campus, preceding the Homecoming tailgate and athletic events on Saturday, Oct. 21.
The joint effort to encourage school spirit was organized by Student Government, the Office of Student Involvement and the Department of Recreation and Wellness.
Despite the tight timeline, few meetings and recent controversy about possible changes, Spirit Week unfolded as planned.
There were 13 registered teams and 10 participating teams, according to Dave Conner, the College’s director of Student Involvement. With the exception of United Colors and SASCO, a combined team consisting of College Ambassadors, Student Government, College Union Board, Student Finance Board, the Leadership Development Program and Synergy Dance Company, all of the teams were Greek organizations.
“These organizations have gotten really good at the events,” Conner said. “It’s created some high barriers of entry.”
The lack of team diversity was part of the reason why the Office of Student Involvement made some minor changes this year to their approach to Homecoming Spirit Week.
An experimental attempt to prevent the alienation of non-Greek organizations during Spirit Week by structuring teams based on grade level was voted down nearly a month ago by SG.
“Outside of the participants, we didn’t have a lot of students there to watch or cheer on their friends,” Conner said. “Ultimately, the goal of Spirit Week is to build spirit and to provide fun activities throughout the week leading up to Homecoming.”
The Spirit Week planning committee was open to all students regardless of club affiliation, according to Conner.
This year, team captains were required to serve on the planning committee.
“Students have always been the driving force behind the programs that were chosen,” Conner said. “But we truly don’t see students who come out who want to become part of planning.”
Spirit Week kicked off on Oct. 16 at Traditions, where teams tried to outsmart each other in trivia. Activities on Oct. 17, which were open to the entire student body, included pumpkin carving and a tie-dying activity sponsored by RECreate Your Night.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Student Government dished out grey long-sleeve Homecoming T-shirts in exchange for old high school shirts or shirts from other colleges during the annual T-shirt swap.
“(Student Government) believes the T-shirt swap provides school spirit by promoting TCNJ,” said Chris Blakeley, a junior civil engineering major and executive president of SG.
While some activities have stayed the same throughout Spirit Week’s 29-year history, the committee tried to depart from the standard events this year in an effort to encourage more student participation.
In the Field Games event on Wednesday, Oct. 18, Spikeball was introduced to the competition.
“I think Field Games definitely encourages school spirit,” said Rachel Ottman, a sophomore psychology major and member of team Sigma Sigma Sigma. “It brings a lot of people together. It seems like it will be a very positive experience for the groups involved.”
On Thursday, Oct. 19, team banners hung from the second floor balcony of the Brower Student Center. That night, teams competed in Canoe Battleship, sponsored by RECreate Your Night, at the pool in Packer Hall, where teams attempted to sink their opponents’s canoes by splashing water into them.
On Friday, Oct. 20, the last day of Spirit Week, students prepared for Homecoming across campus. In Eickhoff Hall, students snacked on blue and gold cupcakes while surrounded by similarly colored balloons, flags hanging from the ceiling and posters from the College’s sports teams.
Spirit Week culminated with the Lip Sync & Dance Competition. Hundreds of people gathered in the Recreation Center to watch 10 teams dance to choreographed routines. The TCNJ Dance Team kicked off the event before multicolored LED flashing lights illuminated the venue as teams performed self-made mashups with themes like SASCO’s “Day in the Life of Roscoe” or United Colors’ performance of step dance, rap and groove. Well-executed dance moves and perfectly placed sound bites drew loud cheers from the audience.
“(Lip Sync & Dance) has always been a part of the program,” Conner said. “It truly draws the largest crowd.”
Team Delta Phi Epsilon and Delta Tau Delta emerged victorious after Spirit Week concluded.
Though Spirit Week may need to become more inclusive in the future, Conner maintains that “it’s one of the things that students look forward to every year … and one that continues to grow and change to meet the different needs of our students.”