UI students question parent-specific weekends

By Megan Krok, Staff Writer

Many colleges have designated parent and family weekends that invite families to join their students on campus and participate in an array of activities. However, the University of Illinois is one of the few schools that chooses to have a separate Moms Weekend and Dads Weekend. As the modern family structure continues to evolve, why does Illinois keep these distinctive labels?

Nearby schools, including Eastern Illinois University, Loyola University and Illinois State University, all have a Family Weekend. Others, like the University of Michigan and Washington University in St. Louis, have a Parent and Family Weekend.

While Moms Weekend or Dads Weekend at Illinois involve similar meanings and activities as ISU’s Family Weekend does, the distinction between the two weekends at Illinois is seen as exclusionary by some Illinois students.

Freshman Sydney Robison-Girard said that she finds the separate Moms and Dads Weekends to be an “extremely odd way” for the University to label these weekends. Robison-Girard’s father died when she was a junior in high school. 

“I think that these weekends are exclusionary,” Robison-Girard said. “I felt it firsthand. I think that the title of these weekends is what makes students feel excluded.”

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“Personally, looking back on my first Dads Weekend without my dad here on campus, it was a difficult time,” she added. “I feel it could’ve been avoided with a Family Weekend.”

Xeniya Green, junior in LAS, has separated parents and said that she has “mixed feelings” about the two weekends as well. 

“I think (the separate weekend) is very beneficial for students who have parents that wouldn’t necessarily enjoy being together on the same weekend,” Green said. 

However, Green also said that she would prefer a family weekend because she has a large, close family, so the separate weekends are not ideal.

“Aside from those who may only have a mom or only have a dad, there are also family situations where students may not have either and giving out these titles could have a negative impact,” Green said.

Moms Weekend and Dads Weekend at Illinois bring different activities for families as well. For example, Dads Weekend is during football season and Moms Weekend is during baseball and softball season. Green said that her family enjoys football and basketball, but can only enjoy these activities during Dads Weekend in the fall.

While students have mixed opinions on the separate weekends, these weekends are rooted in tradition.

According to the Parent and Family Programs Office, the Moms and Dads Associations at Illinois have been a part of the University for a hundred years. Moms Weekend and Dads Weekend have been at “the core of the Associations’ service to students and families.”

“Moms and Dads Weekends are offered separately to celebrate the different roles of fathers, mothers or other significant adult figures in students’ lives,” PFPO said. “The common goal of all these events is to bring together families and help them stay connected with their student.” 

The Dads Association at Illinois is the oldest collegiate parent organization in the country, so these weekends are important to the group.

“While many colleges have decided to offer a combined weekend, the pride and tradition of both organizations being rooted with so much history and tradition makes it unique,” said a representative for the Dads Association.

And although these weekends may seem exclusionary, the Moms Association said they plan a variety of activities that can be enjoyed by all ages and family members.

“By offering two distinct weekends, we can engage many more families than if only one weekend was offered,” said Kristen Miller, president of the Moms Association.

As the family unit continues to change or is impacted by uncontrollable circumstances, the Dads Association said they are moving towards a marketing approach where everyone is invited to Dads Weekend.

“We are proud to celebrate dads every year, however, we communicate and encourage an overall message of inclusiveness of both the fatherly figure and the inclusion of all family members to participate,” the Dads Association said. 

Despite the move towards more inclusive marketing, students still think that the University should consider more family-centered titles for these weekends.

“I would like to see more changes made towards this weekend that gears towards inclusivity,” Green said. “This could be in the form of a name change, more events, more affordable activities and better accommodations that support all the different families that the University has.”