Gender inclusion part of new homecoming tradition at Augustana University

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Augustana University is starting a new homecoming tradition during Viking Days with a goal of being more welcoming to all students. This year, the school did away with the traditional coronation of a king and queen, in favor of more gender-inclusive royalty.

Viking Days organizers say they wanted to make a priority of gender inclusion during homecoming week activities. And the newly-elected members of the Augustana homecoming royalty say they feel honored to be part of a historic coronation.

Augustana University students says they’re building upon a school spirit that embraces people of all gender identities.

“We’re doing a lot of reconstruction on campus and in a lot of ways we have to do that by how we think about what we’re doing on campus too, and I think a lot of that is like looking at what we’re making gendered, and re-evaluating how that should be,” Augustana homecoming court member John Walker said.

Part of that re-evaluation includes changes to the homecoming court. The traditional homecoming king and queen are now called royals or nobles, instead.

“Because king and queen also reinforces the idea of heteronormativity and that you need a woman and a man in a partnership together. So we decided to completely take out the gender from the naming of the royals,” Viking Days Co-Chair Camryn Simmons said.

Picking the homecoming royalty was also a lot different. Instead of voting for the usual five men and five women, the student body would vote for any student, regardless of their sex, as long as they were eligible juniors and seniors.

“It does not matter their gender identity, they just chose ten individuals that they feel embody the values of Augustana University,” Simmons said.

Augustana students say this new approach to homecoming is not about political correctness. Rather, they see this push toward gender equality in choosing royalty as a crowning achievement.

“This is just kind of the first step in considering every person of every gender and what they identify as and I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Walker said.

The coronation also included a change to the musical portion of the ceremony. Students sang “Hail to the Royals,” instead of Hail to the King and the Queen.

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