I approached this article predisposed to believe that our campus was less active during the weekends, even though by the numbers that’s hardly true. Fall semester 2011, All-Campus Events (ACE) sponsored 18 weekend “party” events; this year’s ACE has sponsored 16. Perhaps my perception stems from second-year conceit as I learn more about which parties or are not worth attending, or because I’m not longer over stimulated by the freedom to get drunk and go out without eventually coming home and interacting with my parents; or perhaps it’s because—to be candid—some of this year’s events have felt underwhelming.
As I’ve taken the initiative to learn more about what goes into hosting an event, I’ve learned that the process of trying to host an event with alcohol requires deliberate time commitments. A plurality of factors contribute to this semester’s decrease in exciting weekend activities: ACE has had trouble finding organizers, Student Affairs has not adequately publicized Event Hosting Certification, and not enough students have proactively sought to throw parties. This article explains some of the reasons we’ve experienced seemingly lackluster parties this semester.
Events Hosting Certification
A significant bureaucratic hurdle party-throwers face if they want to serve alcohol is completing Event Hosting Certification. The Alcohol & Illicit Drugs Policy section of the Student Handbook under the subsection “Event Staff Required for Distribution of Alcohol” explains that if alcohol is going to be served at a party, hosts and alcohol servers must get certified.
Event Hosting Certification requirement can become prohibitive when we consider that separate individuals must fulfill the various party-facilitating roles. “Roles of hosts, server, and wristbander must be filled by separate individuals. Additionally one person may not serve in multiple roles on the same day (i.e. A host may not also act as a server at the same event),” the subsection declares. Requiring that party hosts and alcohol servers are 21 years or older makes throwing an event all the more difficult.
It’s important to note that Event Hosting Certification is more than just TIPs training.
Clangrala RLC Becca Don works in Harm Reduction for Student Affairs, so administration of alcohol-related policies fall under her dominion. In addition to sitting on the Harm Reduction Committee and working with Hall Wellness Coordinators, her responsibilities include overseeing Alcohol Agreements and the Event Hosting Certification, among other related duties. She explained to me that the difference between TIPs training and Event Hosting Certification is the difference between standardized and Grinnell-specific programs. Whereas TIPs training a program which, per the TIPs website, “teaches participants to prevent intoxication, drunk driving, and underage drinking among the people to whom they serve alcohol, was foisted upon the College by its insurer, Event Hosting
Certification attempts to “present the content from a more Grinnellian lens,” Ms. Don said.
While Grinnell requires compulsory TIPs training in order to comply with its insurance policy, the practice reveals tensions between the juxtaposition of ‘Harm Reduction’ and ‘Liability Prevention’. If we acknowledge the insurance policy as one of our primary motivations for requiring TIPs training, then we send the statement through Event Hosting Certification that dangerous drinking can be addressed through procedural changes. We remove the nuance from dangerous drinking; we ascribe definitions for when drinking becomes dangerous, and we address the drinking problems themselves instead of their causes. With TIPs training, we’re exploring ways to address how to avoid drinking to a harmful level, instead of addressing why we’re enticed to drink so much in the first place.
Despite their Grinnell-specific approach, Event Hosting policies philosophically indict self-gov because they espouse necessary practices to prevent students from poorly representing the college: requiring that of-age adults only serve alcohol to wristbanded individuals theoretically ensures that the alcohol never reaches minors’ hands, and by determining an objective set of proper protocol for addressing overly intoxicated individuals, we’re able to argue that we took responsible steps to take care of students.
Ms. Don believes that Event Hosting Certification adheres to self-gov specifically because it emphasized collective responsibility. “The takeaway message of the training is how to help your friends, your campus community members and yourself address situations before the situation escalates and negative consequences result. I think that philosophy falls in line very closely with the mission of self-gov. Calling the RLC when your friend is too intoxicated to stand is self-gov, but an even more heaping spoonful of self-gov can occur a few drinks earlier by helping to prevent your friend from drinking to the level that lays them out across the restroom floor in the first place,” Don said.
Event Hosting Certification’s philosophical underpinnings may ascribe to self-governance, but insufficiently advertising training session times does not. While Ms. Don sent out one all-campus email at the beginning of the semester, neither she nor Chloe Griffen ’14, All-Campus Events Coordinator, have publicized certification training dates, times, or locations since.
On Grinnell Student Affairs’ website, under the subsection “Self-governance,” two policies directly pertaining to our communal and institutional obligations suggest that the poor promotion of Event Hosting Certification is a failure of self-gov. Self-Gov calls for “an administrative structure intentionally designed to challenge and support students to govern themselves,” and “a campus community committed to social consciousness and community involvement,” according to the site. When students are not inspired by administrators and empowered by their peers to take initiative, self-gov fails.
By failing to further promote Event Hosting Certification, our administrators are not proactively challenging us to take more responsibility, and our student representatives are not fostering a strong sense of communal involvement; the end result is a weaker sense of campus community.
At Joint Board on Wednesday, November 14 Ms. Griffen triumphantly declared during her cabinet report that “the drama about not having enough events or event hosts is over.”
Ms. Griffen was referring to ACE’s troubles this year with finding students-at-large to host traditional parties Friday and Saturday nights. During the Fall 2011 semester, our student government or auxiliary actors hosted one event –SGA Harris. This year however, Ms. Griffen, Adam Johnston ‘14, or Sam Offenberg ’14 hosted nearly half of the on-campus weekend parties.
Besides Events Hosting Certification, students have felt discouraged from hosting parties because they perceive an overwhelming time commitment; but Ms. Griffen discussed with me the step-by-step process and attempted to show that hosting a party can be easy.
“Literally all you have to do is book the space, if you want to book Harris I’ll book it for you, if you want to book a lounge just email your RLC like you’re booking a lounge for a study break. And then, if you want food or decorations literally all you have to do is fill out one of the budget request forms and write out: Food, $50, Decorations, $50. Email KDIC and let them know that you want a DJ. If you don’t want to serve alcohol it’s that simple,” she said.
Hosting an event with alcohol served is only slightly more difficult.
“You have get the alcohol contract from Becca Don upstairs, It’s due literally the Wednesday before the event, so you don’t have to do it weeks and weeks in advance … have one TIPs trained person, this person has to be over 21 and go through the Event Hosting Certification training … after you’ve done your alcohol contract you have to collect. SGA does not fund any type of alcohol; obviously, so you just walk around campus and collect literally for your party, then you go buy your keg, and obviously the TIPs trained 21 year old should probably buy your keg. And then yeah that’s pretty much it. And you go through the same process as if it were not alcoholic; you email KDIC and the RLC, and yeah that’s pretty much it it’s not hard of a process at all,” Ms. Griffen said.
While there’s a simple protocol to follow for hosting events, we certainly haven’t experienced a bevy of parties this semester. Ms. Griffen believes that engendered ignorance contributes to why more students don’t volunteer to throw parties.
“Last year it was kind of done for them, I don’t know if that quite makes sense, but I feel like when people don’t know that they have the power to do something they just kind of sit back and are like, ‘Oh it’s going to happen anyways,’” she said.
I was surprised that last year’s ACE might have contributed to the decrease in parties this year, so I talked to Austin Frerick ’12, last year’s ACE Coordinator about how he ran his committee. While he effectively embraces Chloe’s criticism that he addressed many event-hosting logistics without assigning the responsibilities to students at-large, he also believed that this facilitation resulted in more on-campus events.
“I tried to set my schedule before the semester started. I tried to accomplish this goal for several reasons. First, it allowed me to coordinate with Pooj (Concerts) to minimize event overlaps…by planning early, you can give organizers more time to prepare and it makes everything easier (i.e. Ace Security knows it schedule ahead of time, etc). I believe I had the fall schedule set before the school year started and the spring schedule set before fall finals started,” he said. Mr. Frerick makes a fair point; last fall far fewer events were postponed, cancelled, or ACE hosted (Writer’s note, I postponed an event I was going to host until next semester myself).
Ms. Griffen and Mr. Frerick disagree over ACE’s role in coordinating with Concerts. Mr. Frerick believes that concerts and ACE events both served to enrich the student experience. “If we both scheduled something at 9pm, I usually would move my event up a hour and he would push it back an hour so that way Grinnellians could make both events. This probably went unnoticed by most people, but that is how it should be. You should be able to go to an ACE event and enjoy an amazing concert all in one night,” Frerick said.
Conversely, Ms. Griffen believes that concerts and ACE ought not overstep each other’s boundaries, saying “As far as the Gardner parties, even though me and Pooj seem like we don’t get along, like we’ve been working kind of like since this summer on kind of like having like better relationship between ACE and Concerts, because last year it was like not really rocky but they had a lot of conflict, a lot of issues. We kind of have to realize that the ACE Coordinator kind of has reign over Harris and Concerts over Gardner. So we’re trying to kind of like this year respect each other’s space, and that comes for me too by not trying to throw a lot of events in Gardner especially when Pooj has a lot of concerts this year,” Griffen said.
For Mr. Offenberg, who estimates he’s helped set up, host, or served alcohol at “3 or 4” Harris parties this year, disorganized weekend activity negatively impacts Grinnellians’ social experiences. “The last Harris of the semester had literally ZERO decorations or anything distinguishing it from any other Harris because organizers have not been found in sufficient time and adequately supported by the ACE arm of SGA,” Offenberg said.
Ms. Don and Ms. Griffen aren’t the sole factors contributing to our event-related campus culture issues; we haven’t been outgoing enough about throwing great parties. Our failure manifests itself when Ms. Griffen petitions senators to throw events in their clusters, when high street housemates feel like they’re required to throw parties, and when parties are postponed or cancelled.
Whether due to an increased number of concerts, respecting Pooj’s demesne, or our own student failures in coming forward with fun event ideas, the absence of events arguably shifts the locus of events off campus. In addition to his [concerts]-related responsibilities, Pooj Padmaraj lives at 1005 High Street and experiences the process of coordinating social gatherings offcampus when there are no on-campus events, or when on campus events aren’t entertaining.
“I know that High-Street as a whole has been like ‘Oh, what
are we going to do? There’s nothing going on this day!’ We feel like obliged to kind of do a party. There shouldn’t be that kind of obligation. I know that people have come to [1010 and 1008 High Street] expecting a party; that’s kind of weird, people live there,” Mr. Padmaraj said.
In Mr. Offenberg’s eyes, scant student involvement with events serves to denigrate campus community because it pulls students further apart. ““Campus culture can be severely ‘fac-
tionized’ when the parties that people across student social circles love lack many basic elements,” Offenberg said.
Bradie Connor ’15 believes that Grinnellians won’t step up to throw more parties because they’re more interested in going to parties than organizing them.
“I wouldn’t want to throw a party because I’d want to leave it before it got bad or boring,” Connor said. “I’d want to follow my friends to the next thing that’s happening.” Ms. Connor’s sentiment directly proves Offenberg’s ‘factionizing’ contention; when our sole motivations for attending parties are our own personal fulfillment and gratification, we fail as a community.
Although Student Affairs, ACE, or our student body aren’t exclusively responsible for why we’ve experienced some seemingly lackluster events this semester, none of these parties have adequately addressed the problems discouraging quality events. While Ms. Don has so far failed to publicize Event Hosting Certification training beyond that initial email and the information available on Grinnell’s website, and although Ms. Griffen might not be the most successful at finding a variety of party hosts, I’m uncomfortable with the notion that students will only get involved if opportunities are clearly presented to them on silver platters. Failing to throw popular weekend events exacerbates the divides in our campus community.
However, Ms. Griffen is using her position as ACE Coordinator to encourage a stronger community through a series of initiatives.
“We’re collaborating with a lot of other groups – especially the MLC groups which hasn’t happened a lot in the past either – but it’s not just ACE doing it, it’s FAC, it’s QPAC, it’s [weekend], just the symbolic nature of collaborating and then the literal nature of collaborating; how do we get people from these different parts of campus with different ideas to one event, and how we’re going to do it is really powerful. We’re working with PDC on a socializing, almost speed-dating event…We’re working on a midnight madness where we’re trying to create excitement and community around sports, we’re going to do the women’s basketball team, the men’s basketball team, and the swimming teams…every once and a while it’s nice to do something special,” Griffen said.