One of many traditions for graduating classes at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), Senior Gala is a semi-formal nighttime event that takes place during the same week as Commencement. In recent years it has been held off-campus — at least once at The Inn at Brome Howard, and at the State House in Historic St. Mary’s City — as well as outdoors under tents on Admissions Field, and, like last year for the Class of 2017, indoors in the Great Room at Campus Center.
Though last year’s location was a result of inclement weather, the Class of 2018 Student Government Association (SGA) officers have decided to again hold Senior Gala at Campus Center. SGA members and proponents of the location say that it saves money — cutting costs from around $80 a ticket to $40 a ticket, including four alcoholic drink tickets — while providing adequate space for mingling and dancing and making the task of catering the event easier. Bon Appétit will cater the Senior Gala as they have in years past.
The location of Senior Gala has caused conflict in the last two semesters. Opponents of the Campus Center location cite concerns over aesthetics, space and atmosphere, while some feel that students were not involved in the process when choosing a location.
Plans for Senior Gala were brought up at various SGA meetings last fall, and the issue was discussed at length on the Class of 2018 Facebook page. There, students pitched the idea of moving the gala to the State House or another location.
Evan Lesser, Senior Class President, responded with a group post saying that in order to host Senior Gala at the State House, for example, the Class would have to raise another $11,000.
Lesser also wrote that losing former Director of Student Activities Kelly Schroeder as a senior class advisor set planning and fundraising for Senior Gala back.
Lesser wrote that when Schroeder was removed from her position earlier last semester (see the November 2017 The Point News article for more information), “We lost a lot of experience and knowledge of how to fundraise and organize gala … During the time that she was gone we had no advisor … so we lost out on a lot of time being able to fundraise. We mostly had to spend this semester organizing everything rather than running fundraisers.”
The location of the 2018 Senior Gala has now been finalized and will be held at Campus Center on May 10 from 6-11 p.m. Nevertheless, students have continued to debate the issue on Facebook and offline.
Some seemed to point the blame towards low enrollment at SMCM, citing the lower funds available to SGA when there are smaller classes. Others applauded the decision as a cost-cutting measure, like Malik Jackson, ‘18, who wrote, “Making Gala accessible and open for [people] should be a priority. But if someone’s rich aunt or uncle wants to pay for the gala to be at the [S]tate [H]ouse, by all means go ahead.”
A March 2 email from Associate Dean for Retention and Student Success Joanne Goldwater described the event as such: “Cost: $40 (includes 4 tickets for alcoholic beverages) or $30 (includes unlimited non-alcoholic beverages) per person … Bring your fancy attire and enjoy beverages and hors d’oeuvres on the patio (weather permitting), dinner and dancing in a beautifully decorated Great Room, and making memories with your friends.”
Even with the location finalized and the debate seemingly settled, some members of the Class of 2018 have discussed the prospect of holding “Alterna-Galas” — some in jest, but some with what seem to be serious intentions. Proposed locations for alternative galas include off-campus locations like the Brome Howard Inn or on-campus locations like the Townhouse Greens, the State House, the River Center and Waterfront or the Edward T. Lewis Quadrangle.
With the date of Senior Gala and graduation fast approaching, SMCM students will have to see if organizers of would-be Alterna-Galas are serious about fundraising, planning and hosting the event or if the conflict doesn’t have the legs to extend past Facebook.
Correction: A previous iteration of this article referred to Malik Jackson as “Malik Johnson.”