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Administration Considers Changes to Sendoff, Party Policy

Administration Considers Changes to Sendoff, Party Policy

By Lili Martinez

Summer Sendoff: most Kenyon students would agree that it is one of the most enjoyable days of the year. But it is also inarguably one of the drunkest – a full day of drinking on South Quad, followed by an evening dancing to an expensive band. But all of that might change soon. In recent years, the excesses of Sendoff have caused concern among administrators. According to Tacci Smith, associate dean of students, “We’re doing the review of the party policy and that’s where a lot of the conversations started about Sendoff because as we look at the party policy … we realize that Sendoff is a day [when] we don’t work within the party policy much at all.” Although the alcohol-free zone in front of Ransom Lawn remains controlled, the South Quad, where most of the drinking occurs during Sendoff, has become a problem, according to Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Christina Mastrangelo and President S. Georgia Nugent.

“The whole thing is just a free-for-all. It is an instance where we just kind of look the other way and on the whole that’s not a good thing,” Nugent said. Mastrangelo, who is new to Kenyon this year, said her impression of Sendoff is that “there is a ‘free-for-all’ mentality regarding alcohol use during Sendoff … the drinking behaviors of the day are resulting in lowerattendance at Sendoff and taking away from what Sendoff is truly about.”

“A lot of times South Quad feels like each group has a section and clearly people are floating around, but it sometimes feels like there are almost mini parties happening within the main lawn,” Smith said. She emphasized that the main concern is security on South Quad. “If this is the way we like it and we want to keep it, then how do we make sure that safety is going on?”

Smith, Mastrangelo and Dean of Students Hank Toutain have met in recent weeks with students on Social Board to discuss the changes to the party policy and potential changes to Sendoff. A main question has been the College’s liability toward the heavy drinking that occurs on South Quad. “Sendoff isn’t this horrible day of millions of people going to the hospital, but there is this day of binge drinking. The conversation has been: how can Sendoff be fun and do the things it’s supposed to do?” Smith said. According to Mastrangelo, “Administrators from Student Affairs are meeting with students, organizations and the party policy committeeto examine the event, in general,and how we can make it safer. Rather than applying the party policy as is, we are exploring thepossibility ofa policy specific to Sendoff and outdoor events similar in nature.”

Students have expressed reservations about changing the policy towards Sendoff this year, especially in light of the changes that will go into effect next year. “It feels like because we are going to make changes to the party policy that will go into effect next year, there’s a conversation about whether we wait and do everything under that new part for next year,” Smith said. “I suggested that to Social Board and some of the Greek leaders because they are the ones that throw the majority of the parties and know the party policy very well. Is there something we could try to do during this year’s Sendoff, almost as a trial basis for the party policy?”

Sendoff is different from normal events sanctioned under the party policy because most, if not all, of the drinking happens outside. While the administration, Social Board and other organizations have some experience with outdoor events involving alcohol, the scale of Sendoff makes it a very different situation. “Bexley [Apartments] has tried to throw a block party the last several years. Out of the four years that we’ve done it, in this policy, one year has been good – I wouldn’t even say great. The other three have kind of been horrible and gotten out of hand and shut down,” Smith said. “The same thing [happens] with Aclands and how that spills out onto the lawn and into the street. The policy we have is pretty decent when you do Old Kenyon lounges or Weaver [Cottage]. But it doesn’t work as well for outdoor [events].” Smith has suggested creating an outdoor policy for parties on a smaller scale, such as the ones at Acland Apartments, and adapting that policy on a large scale for Sendoff. Specific changes, however, are still forthcoming.

Another major concern at Sendoff has been funding. While the Ransom Lawn activities are funded by the Budget and Finance Committee and the ODADAS grant from the State of Ohio, these resources stipulate that only alcohol-free events can be hosted using their funds. There have been discussions about moving all the events to South Quad, where, historically, they were always held. “We’ve done some research into when [Sendoff] first started. [Just] 25 or 30 years ago, it happened on South Quad … with games, fun competitions, music and food,” Smith said. “I suggested … a throwback to the original and we’ll do it all in one space.” In this case, however, the liability increases regarding underage drinking, and new controls and security have to be established. Smith is optimistic, however. “Maybe there’s a bar set up, or it’s done through AVI or students who have gone through the training as bartenders … some schools call it a beer garden,” she said. “There [are] lots of options; we’re just getting started.”

Questions of funding also arise when considering the Sendoff band. Many students spend all day on South Quad, drinking and socializing, and never see the band, which costs up to $23,000 to book. “I’ve been here seven years and one of the things I noticed was there are some students who hang out on the lawn all day and never come down to Ransom Lawn, or they only come down to hear the band,” Smith said. “You’re all spending a lot of your Student Activities money on this one day and in reality, the amount of people that attend and come and really enjoy it fully is really small.”

Discussions about re-allocations of funds have raised issues, including whether it would be more advisable to spend less on activities and more on the band, or whether the entire event should be shortened. “Is it that maybe we do less stuff and get a $30,000 band, or … maybe Social Board [can] cut back on what’s being spent and think creatively about a new way to spend it, like adding something different. Maybe the event is from 2:00 in the afternoon until 6:00 or 7:00,” Smith said.

Moving Sendoff to Friday has also been discussed, according to Emory O’Dell ’14, a member of Social Board. “It was brought up in a meeting to move Sendoff to Friday, but we haven’t discussed it further,” he said. “That’s mostly the school who wants it moved, but most likely Sendoff will remain on a Saturday. So far we plan to move thefestivities, liketattooing, to South Quad right in front of Sam Mather.Of course, we invite community members and we’re worried that those activities will be too close to all of the drinking on South Quad.”

And what events should occur on South Quad, if any? “What some students said was they would really like [to have] something in South Quad for people to do,” Smith said. “Last year, the Motown band … didn’t participate in the Battle of the Bands competition. They usually [win] and then [would] be opening for Sendoff. Because they didn’t get to participate … they did an impromptu concert on South Quad and it had more people at it than what the Sendoff band lawn area had. In some people’s minds, this could be one event.”

All in all, however, Mastrangelo said students have been eager and willing to help work out proposed changes: “Overall, our discussions with student groups have beenpositive. I think student leaders understand the risk and liability behind the event and are willing to examineSendoff.” O’Dell said, “Theadministration’sgoal is to make sure that Sendoff is safe. They haven’t put too much pressure on us. But Sendoff is very far away; there may be additionalpressurein the future.”

Nugent emphasized the general desire for Sendoff to become a more communal event, not just for Kenyon students, but for the entire Gambier community. “There was a sense, coming in part from the faculty, that it would be nice if it was a campus-wide fair that would be fun and [you could] even bring a family to, instead of being a drunken free-for-all, which is not the best idea,” she said.

Smith said that whatever changes are discussed, the administration, working with students, wants to have a list of options by March. “We would like, by spring break, to have at least some concrete options,” she said. “Maybe come up with two or three viable options. I know students are going to say don’t change it at all. Unfortunately, in the time that we live in, I don’t see that as a possibility because it makes the College and individuals liable. We must follow our policy. Safety is our number one goal and the policy helps us better achieve that.”

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