First male homecoming queen elected by Morris student body

Maggie Hessel-Mial

The nominations are in. The votes have been tabulated, and the University’s Morris campus students have tossed tradition out the window, albeit amid some controversy.

For the first time in the history of the school, the homecoming queen is not a female.

Patrick Woods, a second-year theater and studio art major, was elected queen in late September by popular vote on campus. Ryan Brux won the competition for king, Ashley Laliberte won as princess and Donnay Green won as prince.

“I did it because it was fun,” Woods said. “I wanted a tiara.”

Publicity for the event has been somewhat overwhelming, Woods said. Reaction on campus – as with most controversial issues – has been mixed.

“Some people thought it shouldn’t have happened; some were angry,” he said. “But a large population of the student body has been supportive. Everyone that I’ve talked to has been positive.”

In what seemed like an unusual occurrence, the king and queen were not on the football field at halftime as they had in previous years, said UMM student Dave Fairbanks.

The UMM men’s wrestling team boycotted the annual pepfest and coronation activities.

Response from UMM alumni has also been varied, said Vivian Heltemes, director of alumni relations.

“Most understand that we’re a liberal arts institution that is open to all types of diversity,” Heltemes said. “Some think it’s fine and some don’t. I think the alumni reaction reflects the world.”

In the weeks following his coronation, Woods received more negative comments and has since disconnected his phone number.

On the Twin Cities campus, students have expressed both concern and support of UMM’s royalty.

Chris Flynn, a Carlson School of Management junior, said if the students voted a male as homecoming queen it must be what the students wanted. Flynn said he would never want to run for queen himself, though.

“It might send the impression that I’m gay – not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. “It just wouldn’t do much for my dating life.”

“It takes a special person to run for queen,” Flynn said.

Other students who said they have not been involved in Homecoming in the past said a male crowned as queen might encourage them to be more involved in the festivities.

“I wouldn’t mind a male Homecoming queen at all, I think it would be cool,” said Jennifer Tautgus, a junior in CLA. “I think it would make Homecoming less pretentious and more laid back.”

Woods, who is gay, was nominated by three student groups: E-Quality – the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization – the Women’s Resource Center and the rock climbing club, all groups in which he is involved.

In previous years, the homecoming court was elected through nominations taken from the student body. The four nominated with the most votes for each category – king, queen, prince and princess – would be “on court,” and the winners for each would be chosen at random.

This year, however, student groups nominated 15 candidates and the entire student body voted to determine the winners.

“I was nominated just like everyone else,” Woods said. “It showed an overwhelming support of people who uphold diversity and who don’t care about tradition.”

Brux, a junior and co-chairman of E-Quality, said he thinks Woods’ election says a lot about UMM and its commitment to diversity.

“This is challenging gender roles,” Brux said. “This is challenging people’s perception of sexuality.”

Woods said he also thinks his reign’s publicity has taken the spotlight away from the other people on court.

“There haven’t been a lot of people asking for reactions of the others on court,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, this is not that big of a deal. There are greater things to be worried about than this.”

The king and queen’s royal obligations included a parade through town and an appearance at the football game. The only other duties they have are to crown the new king and queen next year.

Along with the crown, Woods was also given a pin with “Queen ’01” on it.

“I didn’t do this to make any kind of political statement,” he said. “I just did it because it was fun.”

 

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]