An item on the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska’s spring ballot aims to collect data on students’ opinions regarding the balloon release tradition at home football games.
Husker fans have released balloons after the first touchdown of every home football game since the 1960s. The tradition is no stranger to controversy, but this ballot marks the first time students’ opinions have been formally collected.
The ballot results are non-binding and are only meant to gauge students’ opinions on the matter for the future, Lauren Taylor, the ASUN Environmental Sustainability Committee chair, said.
Outreach from the community with concerns about the tradition’s environmental impact led to this question being added to the ballot, the senior political science and global studies double major said.
“I’ve had multiple students reach out to me and my other co-chair and they’ve also, I believe, reached out to the Chancellor’s office, the Athletic Department and the Office of Sustainability, so it’s kind of been coming at us from all sides,” Taylor said.
She said she met with the director in UNL’s Office of Sustainability, and the two decided it would be best to get students’ opinion on the matter.
Since finding out about its addition to the ASUN ballot, Sustain UNL has been focused on convincing students to vote in favor of ending the tradition, Sustain UNL president and sophomore fisheries and wildlife major Brittni McGuire said.
“We strongly believe this is an outdated tradition, and we’re ready to get rid of it,” she said.
As part of their efforts, Sustain UNL has set up a table in the Nebraska Union twice a week leading up to the vote. McGuire said she believes the tabling has been a success.
“There have been people who at first are like, ‘Why would we get rid of balloons?’ but after we talk for a little bit about why the tradition is irresponsible and bad for the environment, they change their minds and say they’re going to vote yes,” she said.
Senior political science major Michael Decker has also played a part in Sustain UNL’s efforts to end this tradition. As a former Husker football player, Decker said he felt this election was his chance to have his opinion on the matter be heard.
Decker saw the balloon release tradition as just one part of the university’s football celebrations during his time as a Husker.
“The traditions we have here at Nebraska are strong enough that the balloons are just one reflection of it, and we can certainly show it more sustainably,” he said.
McGuire agreed with Decker and said she believes Husker football will remain the same without the balloons.
“The tradition is in our grit and our glory, not in releasing thousands of balloons. If we take away the balloons, Husker football does not change,” she said. “Taking away the balloons changes nothing about the game, but it does take away a big threat to the environment.”
The ballot’s results will be sent to the Office of the Chancellor, Nebraska Athletics and the Office of Sustainability irrespective of the outcome, ASUN President Hunter Traynor said over the phone.