The Office of Alumni Engagement and Tufts University Advancement decided not to hold Homecoming events on campus in fall 2021 due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19. This marks the second fall that Tufts has decided against holding an in-person Homecoming, another Tufts tradition upended by the pandemic.
Dr. Michael Jordan, university infection control health director, explained the threats of holding an in-person Homecoming celebration in an email to the Daily.
“We are committed to minimizing the number of COVID cases in the Tufts community and among the broader community and to protecting community members’ health and safety,” Jordan wrote. “Our decision to hold the event virtually is based on data and our concern about potential community spread, particularly of the highly contagious Delta variant.”
While acknowledging the health risks that come with hosting large numbers of people on campus, Jordan emphasized the potential impact that such a decision has on the Tufts community.
“We realize that the decision to hold homecoming virtually is a disappointment, and it is a decision we did not make lightly,” Jordan said.
In an effort to maintain alumni connections to the Tufts community in the absence of in-person gatherings, the Office of Alumni Engagement has provided alumni with virtual engagement opportunities since the pandemic started, William Gehling, executive director of alumni relations, said.
“Many [virtual events]—such as faculty and alumni webinars, and virtual networking events—have been quite successful,” Gehling wrote in an email to the Daily.
Though the current state of the pandemic restricted the Office of Alumni Engagement from organizing any on-campus gatherings for Tufts alumni, Gehling noted that some of the university’s regional alumni chapters have resumed activities off-campus this fall.
While the move to virtual connection has posed great challenges to alumni engagement, it also offers exciting opportunities for alumni, according to Gehling.
“While virtual engagement events will never replace in-person events, they do provide alumni with the opportunity to connect without having to incur the commitment of time and money to travel to Tufts,” Gehling said.
Gehling added that the virtual programming lowered the barrier to participating in alumni events.
“Many alumni who have not traveled back to Tufts in the past for Homecoming or Reunions have attended some of our virtual events,” Gehling said.
One such event is Tufts’ inaugural virtual alumni volunteer summit, All Together Tufts, which took place Oct. 22–24.
“All alumni who would like to get involved with the broader university community are encouraged to attend,” Gehling said of the event.
Moving forward, the Office of Alumni Engagement plans to reintroduce in-person gatherings while still providing events that are accessible for all alumni. Among these plans are hopes for in-person reunions in the spring.
“As we move forward, we plan to provide a combination of in person and virtual events to provide ALL of our alumni the opportunity to engage,” Gehling said.
Even with virtual alternatives to Homecoming, some members of the Tufts community expressed their disappointment with Tufts’ decision to cancel an in-person gathering. Dakota Adamec (LA‘19) said that since graduating, Homecoming has always been an event she looked forward to.
“As a young alum, I was really looking forward to having some kind of Homecoming this year … especially, as a former athlete, I really look forward to seeing my former teammates on campus,” Adamec said. “I’ve always enjoyed Homecoming — we’ve always joked that it’s always been like a Christmas.”
In addition to being an event where she could reconnect with former teammates and friends, Homecoming represented a chance to network for Adamec. Moving forward, she hopes that Tufts can organize events tailored to the younger alumni who missed out on recent years of Homecoming so that they have a chance to connect with those pursuing similar careers.
“Our connections are so important,” Adamec said. “Jumbos love helping out Jumbos.”