By Bekah Stranger
In October 2019, under the dimmed lights of East Campus Center, students gathered in tight clusters on quilts and fleece blankets. The light from a vintage-style popcorn machine shone in the back of the room, and a steady line waited patiently to receive their free snacks. Disney’s Aladdin played on the double screens while students watched with varied levels of interest: some watching the movie intently, others enjoying the company of their friends and the community atmosphere more than what was happening on the screen. The next evening, students gathered under the twinkling lights of the decorated tennis courts in large groups or small huddles. Dressed in everything from semi-formal attire to jeans and T-shirts, students took pictures with their friends and danced to all the crowd favorites. Near the end of the night, the DJ asked everyone to gather around the seniors, who stood in a tight circle in the middle of the left court. This Malone tradition—reminiscent of the mosh pit at a concert—is not only something many senior students look forward to, but is a staple of the Homecoming experience.It is precisely this tradition that led the Directors of Malone’s Student Activities Council, junior middle childhood education major Kolby Duke and senior criminal and restorative justice major Rachel Chesnes, to cancel the event. “[The senior moment] is a tradition… and it would be really hard to separate that,” Duke said. Rachel Chesnes agrees with Duke’s assessment, saying that “the closeness of it all” would be practically impossible to regulate or make safe. Although they were sad to cancel the dance, Chesnes and Duke feel that they made the right decision in erring on the side of safety—something that is especially important now that Stark County has moved to the “red,”or “level three” of COVID-19 spread. Despite the cancellation of their annual event, the two SAC directors are optimistic about the future. While some wonder what this part of Student Activity’s Council’s budget will be used for, Chesnes said that “the dance doesn’t really cost much,” adding that previous expenses only added up to “the supplies for the food that we did last year: the popcorn.” Surprisingly, the Homecoming dance is one of the cheapest events the council puts on. Transportation for off campus events makes up most of the money spent each year. “The renting of vans is very expensive,” Duke said. Despite the impossibility of holding the dance, Duke and Chesnes did manage to find a way to hold the annual movie event. Similar to last year’s choice of Aladdin, the Disney live-action remake of Mulan was chosen as the familyfriendly movie for this year. On the evening of October 2, about 35 Malone students gathered in the sanctuary of the Johnson Center to enjoy the socially distant movie experience. Although the atmosphere was quite different from the crowded hustle and bustle of a typical Homecoming movie night, all who came enjoyed the fellowship this event provided.In fact, those who wanted to watch may have found it easier to focus and enjoy the movie this year without the constant distraction that a packed East Campus Center produces. Although a lot was different, there were also quite a few elements that remained the same. The family aspect was not lost as quite a few students scattered throughout the sanctuary had younger siblings sitting with them. Roommates, suitemates, classmates, and coworkers enjoyed a relaxing Friday night together. “It’s nice to be able to see family on campus,” Quintessa Vizzini, a sophomore biology major, said. “Coming together… even doing something as simple as watching a movie with everyone—that was really enjoyable,” Rachel Walker, a junior social work major, said. While Duke and Chesnes were not allowed to provide any food or drink this semester, none of those who came to the event seemed to miss the customary popcorn machine Malone students have come to associate with campus movies Socially distanced in the sanctuary, everyone was simply glad to enjoy a good movie in the company of friends. Even though Homecoming weekend this year was nothing like the Homecoming weekends of years past, Directors Duke and Chesnes still did all they could to make the most of the unprecedented situation of college during COVID-19. Despite the limitations caused by the current pandemic, students who chose to stay on campus this weekend enjoyed a fun and safe Homecoming season.