Roundup event changed to West Fest to distance from past

Ali Juell, Senior News Reporter

In 1930, the University introduced Roundup, a homecoming event that included decorated floats and a weekend of parties for “each and every visitor to the (UT) Campus,” according to the event’s original flier.

However, following several instances of racist and homophobic acts throughout its history, the University severed its ties to the event, leading the Interfraternity Council to change the weekend to a philanthropy event centered on performances and parties hosted by participating fraternities and overseen solely by the IFC.

This year marks a change as the event’s name is changed to West Fest almost 100 years after its creation and the reintroduction of a partial collaboration between the University and the IFC. The changes are part of an effort to address the event’s history of racism and make the event more inclusive to members, according to an IFC announcement.

In his second year of managing the event, Zachary Siegel, vice president of the IFC’s large programming, said he’s continuing his goals of inclusivity and making more people feel welcome to participate in the weekend.

“For years and years (it’s been) that if you’re not a part of Greek life, it can be a little nerve-wracking to attend,” said Siegel, president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. “We want everybody to feel like they belong at these events.”

Sunny Wang, the University Panhellenic Council’s diversity and inclusion vice president, said the name change is an important part of the IFC’s efforts to condemn the event’s previous history.

“This is a big step for the community, and I hope that it will make people of all (races), genders and sexuality feel more welcomed and safe during the weekend,” said Wang, a radio-television-film senior. “As students, our perception of West Fest is a weekend of parties, but we need to understand that it was not always like this.”

The University and IFC decided this year to collaborate on Forty Acres Fest, a free performance previously hosted on-campus during the Roundup weekend. 

Siegel, a youth and community studies junior, said the event provides students who don’t want to pay for entry to other West Fest events an opportunity to participate. 

Kate Lower, director of substance-use campus initiative SHIFT, said she’s previously worked with the IFC to ensure safety during Roundup and she looks forward to helping students have safe, fun experiences.

“We try to always … (challenge) the assumption that everyone engages in really high risk behavior (during the event),” Lower said. “Forty Acres Fest is really a great opportunity for students to get engaged in something else and also come together.”

Last year, Siegel told the Texan a portion of the profits would be donated to groups fighting racism in Austin. Instead, all profits were divided amongst the University Greek life councils to donate to groups of their choosing. 

Siegel said he’s unsure how the profits will be allocated this year, but he looks forward to once again working with other campus groups to make the event beneficial for people in and outside of the IFC. 

“This is a new year,” Siegel said. “Embrace the change, recognize the past and create the future. We are laying the foundation for what this event is going to look like for years to come.”