Author: Kirsten Wright
Programming Board is announcing GLOW as the dance to replace Splatter. The advertisements for GLOW boast the event as Occidental’s first ever official black-light party. Students are encouraged to wear white and neon colors that will glow beneath black lights set up in the JSC Quad. The Facebook invitation from Programming Board promises entertainment with DJs and glow sticks from 10pm-2am on Friday, Sept. 28.
“Splatter has to take a break,” Assistant Dean of Students Tamara Rice said.
Eight underage students, including one visiting high-school student, were hospitalized as a result of over-intoxication while attending last year’s campus-wide Splatter dance. Memories of these incidents have far from faded, thanks to the immense local media coverage of the hospital transports that occurred during the Oct. 23 event.
During the week following the event, Occidental President Jonathan Veitch shared his disappointment in the student body during an interview with the Occidental Weekly.
“I hope the [student] response is embarrassment because you bring shame on the institution when you’re seen on the 6 o’clock news in that kind of state,” he said.
In light of these events, Rice has decided to cancel the annual dance. After discussing the issue with the Office of Student Life staff, the Deans’ office and President Veitch, she made the executive decision to remove Splatter from the year’s lineup of student events.
She hopes that because of her decision, students will understand that the existence of campus-wide events like Splatter is contingent on appropriate, respectful and safe behavior and decision making.
“It is important to send a message that we need to do a better job of being responsible about how we go to events. Something has to sting a little bit to send that message,” she said.
However, Rice explained during an interview with the Weekly that her decision to cancel Splatter had to do with more than just issues with alcohol.
“In all honesty, I have more problems with the paint than anything else,” Rice said. “Please know that alcohol is a close second, but really, it’s the paint.”
At Splatter, students are doused with colored paint as they enter the dance area. In previous years the dance was held in Sycamore Glen, a venue that cannot hold more than a few hundred people at a time. Because the popularity of the event has surged in recent years, culminating in an attendance of over 1,000 people last year, the event location was changed to the softball fields.This unprecedented location was chosen because the college’s typical venue for dances, the JSC quad, cannot absorb the paint used for Splatter.
“I really couldn’t do it on cement,” Rice said, “because then we have to put tarps down, and then it gets really slippery.”
Rice explained that even with the venue shift, the large amount of paint – enough for 1,000 guests to be splattered – was simply too much for the grounds to handle.
“The issue is that our storm systems can’t really handle it. That night, splattering paint all over our grass, it was just really problematic,” she said.
Understanding that students might be confused by this rationalization, Rice tried to explain the perspective she must take as an event planner.
“People might think, ‘what’s the big deal about splattering paint?’ Well, it’s splattering paint times a thousand,” she said.
Rice expressed that she doesn’t mind if another dance takes place or if it is multi-color themed; it just needs to be paint-less.
“We have to find a new way to do color,” Rice said.
Programming Board manager Redd Barua-Norton (senior) explained that the Board has done just that through the organization of GLOW.
“I completely understand the school’s reaction to Splatter. They cancelled Splatter, but they could have put a hold on all dances, and that would have been devastating, ” Barua-Norton said. “But our only requirement is that we couldn’t do Splatter again.”
But Barau-Norton argues that it is not Splatter that drew students to the dance, but the feel of the Occidental dances. “I don’t think it was Splatter people loved,” he said. “I think it was rowdy dances they loved. As long as Programming Board is doing its job, Oxy will always have dances with creative themes.”
Several changes have been made in order to ensure that GLOW as well as other dances during the school year are as safe as possible. A frequently mentioned concern with Splatter was the strict no re-entry policy employed, which meant that students could not leave the dance to get food or water and then return to the event, a policy which was changed for this year’s GLOW.
In addition to allowing re-entry, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) tent will be present to aid students who have had too much to drink. The trained professionals are experts in treating and recognizing acute illness and can analyze the seriousness of a student’s condition. While Rice believes an EMT tent is a necessary and helpful addition to any campus event, she wonders if she is sending a contradictory message about her expectations for students.
“I like having an EMT tent; I think it’s good, but I hope students don’t think, ‘well, if there’s going to be EMT there, that means I can go crazy!’ Am I just telling students it’s okay to be irresponsible? I hope students will make a better judgement and know that’s not the case,” Rice said.
These important alterations still don’t change the fact that Occidental only puts on a few big events for students each semester. Some students believe that the school’s lack of events encourages students to drink too much during the few that are offered.
ECLS major John Solowiej (junior) thinks that the small number of campus events plays a large role in prevalent alcohol-related problems.
“The fact that we only have like four events a year means that people are more likely to go big. That’s why people go to the hospital,” he said.
Rice believes, however, that no matter the number of events offered at Occidental, traditional dances like Toga and Splatter will always invite exceptional binge drinking.
“If every weekend is big, then no weekend is special. And in all honesty, I think we could have something probably every weekend and Toga is still when students will choose to go the hardest,” she said.
Programming Board manager Barua-Norton, who wishes Occidental had the funds to put on more events for students, insists that the number of events doesn’t dictate the number of problems at an event.
“In any incident, it comes down to the individual,” he said.
Both Rice and Barua-Norton have high hopes for upcoming GLOW and other events, including the annual Toga bash put on by the sisters of Occidental’s Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha (Alpha) sorority, scheduled for Oct. 21.
Last year, the women of Alpha quad sat and visited hall spreads in the weeks before the dance in order to ignite conversations about safe behavior at the event.
“I appreciate what Alpha did last year. And they had a decrease of alcohol transports from the previous year,” Rice said.
Rice chuckles, tempering her appreciation with a realistic outlook.
“Of course, my thing will always be that one alcohol transport is too many. Can we have zero? That would be really nice.”
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