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First In-Person Homecoming In Two Years, Safety Still Top Priority 

The Showtime marching band drum major leads his team on the field.  Photo Courtesy of Howard University. 

After a completely virtual 2020 homecoming and a hybrid 2021 homecoming with restrictions on alumni attendance, Howard University is returning to a completely in-person homecoming format amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; meanwhile, data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is showing monkeypox cases topped 25,000 in the United States and 500 in Washington, D.C. with growing public safety concerns on campus. 

The university plans to host a safe and fun week of events for students, faculty and alumni through the Meccaverse-themed Homecoming. They encourage N95 or KN95 masks, but mask-wearing, all-in-all, is optional. 

The University plans to monitor COVID-19 regularly and will change events depending on any public health concerns. According to Jarrett Carter Sr., the director of operations, strategy and communications at Howard University, public safety is a collaboration among community members and recommends students move with maturity and awareness. 

“I’m grateful that our students and alumni will have the opportunity to gather safely this year after several seasons of stricter policies on in-person events. Bison Homecoming means a lot to our campus culture, the City of Washington D.C., its tourism outlook and to the HBCU sector as a standard celebration. With all of this in mind, our Department of Public Safety takes very seriously how these realities can shape the logistics and the energy of the event after years of not having it at full capacity,” Carter said.  “[Students] require a level of maturity and awareness to make sure that the realities of a metropolitan environment do not negatively impact them,” he continued.

Administrators previously hosted safety meetings for students as the annual celebration comes after some students were robbed in the Howard Plaza Towers East dorm and the University received two bomb threats only days apart. Some students, like sophomore biology major Vanessa Lewis, are excited about the fully in-person homecoming and are planning accordingly. 

“I’m excited to see what a true Howard homecoming looks like. I’ve heard that homecoming week is unforgettable and [one] of Howard’s best experiences. To stay safe, I plan on staying close to my friends and having my location shared. I don’t plan on staying out too late at night and have self-defense protection on me,” Lewis said. “Always stay with a group of friends, especially at night when it is more dangerous. Also, make sure your phone is fully charged before going out,” Lewis recommended. 

Other students, like sophomore international relations major Melanie Thomas, are excited to move past the COVID-19 restrictions. 

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“I didn’t get to experience last year’s homecoming. However, I do think it’s important that the school moves forward from COVID and have the event in person while still taking any necessary precautions,” Thomas said.  

Although there are no specific guidelines the University has put forth for monkeypox, the CDC provides several resources and healthcare locations students can go to for testing and vaccines

“Our job is to make sure community members have tools, information and guidance on how to reduce or eliminate opportunities for potential harm,” Carter explained. 

Carter provided the following safety tips for those engaging in Homecoming festivities:

  1. Have a plan. Designated drivers, locations and activities should all be planned before leaving your house or residence hall.
  2. Stick together. Do not go out without your friends, especially at night. Take care of the people in your group and aim to return with the people with whom you leave.
  3. Be aware of stranger danger. Meeting new people is nice, but some do not have good intentions. A conscious person makes for a safe person.
  4. Protect the things you value. Lock your car and room, watch your valuables, and be aware of what’s going on around you. Protect your belongings and pay close attention to your surroundings.
  5. Be careful with alcohol consumption. If you are legally authorized to drink, avoid binge drinking and stay sober.
  6. Remember to be Bison Safe. Maintain a safe distance from others. Wash your hands frequently. Remember: Bison Safe is the official safety app for Howard University; you can report incidents to keep the campus and yourself safe.

To stay updated about homecoming public safety-related information, visit https://homecoming.howard.edu/

Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett

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