Posted by Julia Leef
In response to the second early shutdown of Moorebid Ball in as many years, the administration formed a committee to analyze and discuss possible solutions to resolve this year's issues of overcrowding and excessive drinking, as well as whether the College should continue to host Moorebid at all.
Committee members include Ryan Ballantine, community coordinator of Residential Life, Aaron Shifreen '13, vice president for Residential Affairs on the Student Government Association, Larry Britt, associate director of Campus Safety, Theresa Polson, assistant director of Leadership Activities, David Karp, asssociate director of student affairs and Robin Adams, interim director of Leadership Activities. The committee first met on Nov. 9 to discuss the challenge of location, student behavior and possible remedies to the ongoing problem of Moorebid.
"If we cannot create a safe event for students, then we should not be doing it," Calhoun said. "If we can legitimately look at our concerns and address them adequately with the support of the student body, then it should be a consideration."
Moorebid Ball, the annual all-campus Halloween party, first took place in Moore Hall, an off-campus residential apartment building that held several hundred people. When the building was sold in 2006, the location of the dance moved to Case Center, which served as a successful location until two years ago, when excessive drinking and the hospitalization of several students shut it down.
This year's Moorebid Ball, which was held in the recreational and dance gyms in the Williamson Sports Center, was also prematurely terminated, this time due to dangerous overcrowding in the hallway connecting the two gyms.
Britt said that while the two gyms, which each hold about 750 people, were not the best venues for the event, they were the only options available without limiting the numbers of students who could attend. He added that the planning committee thought it would be a safe location since there are plenty of fire exits in the gym.
"The big problem that we really didn't anticipate was the crowds in the hallways," Britt said. "It was just a complete log-jam. When I went downstairs at quarter to one, I had to wrestle and push people to get through."
The inability to anticipate crowding in the hallways stemmed from data from previous events, which the planning committee used as the basis for student behavior at Moorebid Ball. Karp said in previous years, students remained largely in the dance areas, and thus they believed students would behave similarly this year.
Since many students did not remain in the dance areas, one of the more pressing concerns the committee will discuss is whether there is a venue on campus that can feasibly hold a safe event so many students can attend.
Britt said the venue that would most likely be able to maintain a safe environment during Moorebid is the main gymnasium, which the committee was unable to secure this year due to conflicts with athletic events. Scheduling conflicts may continue to be an issue in securing the main gym as a location for Moorebid, as athletics have priority for its usage.
While the matter of a future venue is still being considered, all members of the committee agreed that Case Center was no longer a viable place to host the dance for such a large portion of the student body. Fire codes limit the number of people in Case Center to 500, Britt said, which results in huge violations during Moorebid.
With this in mind, one of the solutions the committee is considering is limiting the number of people who will be able to attend Moorebid, which may involve charging for admission and distributing tickets to the student body, as has been done in the past.
"It would be reassuring to have a successful event that's smaller and more contained, and then consider it being large again as opposed to having another all-out event go badly again," Karp said.
The committee recognizes, however, that most students would be disappointed to be turned away from Moorebid, and is considering other possibilities that would avoid placing a capacity limit on the dance.
Another major concern is the behavior of students before and during Moorebid, which the committee feels has been influenced by the event's reputation for drunkenness.
"A lot of the people planning the event are nervous that it has too much history," Adams said. "By making it bigger, does that make it better and safer? These are the questions that we are asking."
"There are certain events that call out particular kinds of behavior," Calhoun said. "There is an issue with cultural norms that has grown up around Moorebid in ways that haven't around our other events."
While the committee mentioned the possibility of using Intoxilyzers, a device that uses infrared spectroscopy to identify the presence of ethanol, at the entrance to the dance, its members agreed that most of the change has to come from the students themselves.
"We can do what we can planning-wise, but it's really up to students to show that they can be responsible," Karp said.
Although many students believe the administration should apologize for the dangerous circumstances surrounding this year's Moorebid, the committee emphasized the unpredictability of the event and said administration took the responsibility to shut down the event before it became a serious danger to students.
"It would have been a mistake to allow the event to continue once it was understood that students were in danger," Calhoun said.
There will be an address to the student body before the end of next semester regarding the committee's decision about next year's Moorebid. The members of the committee are open to student suggestions, and Adams cited some of the student ideas already presented, such as considering off-campus venues. Hosting multiple events on the same day on- and off-campus is also a possibility.
"It's an event that has to be reinvented and planned very deliberately," Adams said.
The committee will continue to meet throughout the semester to discuss these issues. SGA, which is partnering with the committee and has talked about Moorebid in several of its Senate and Inter-Hall Board meetings, will also discuss different possibilities and solutions through an ad hoc committee comprised of representatives from the IHB, the Senate and the student body. Its first meeting will be this Sunday, Nov. 20.