Following a series of heated debates that spilled onto Wesleying and the Wesleyan Anonymous Confession Board, the senior class officers have dropped their proposal to cancel the February Senior Cocktail event and donate the funds to the Haiti relief efforts. Senior cocktails will take place as scheduled on Feb. 16, and those attending will have the option of donating to the relief efforts on an individual basis at the door.
A survey drawn up to gauge whether the majority of the senior class agreed with this proposal was dismissed as invalid after the results indicated that the number of survey responses was greater than the number of individuals in the senior class.
“Probably the biggest reason that we [the senior class officers] decided to nix [the proposal] was that we recognized the inherent flaws in the survey, and then in talking to people who were for it or against it we realized that the question itself wasn’t as clear cut as we made it seem” said Senior Class Vice President David Layne.
A recent Wesleyan tradition, senior cocktails are scheduled for six nights throughout the academic year meant to promote class bonding in seniors’ last year at the University.
Although members of the senior class must buy passes for the cocktails —$140 for all six cocktail events—a majority of the funding comes from allocations from the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s (WSA) Student Budget Committee (SBC), according to Layne.
In the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, senior class officers Layne, Jonna Humphries, Jared Blake, and Nora Gilbert met to brainstorm ways that the class of 2010 as a whole could contribute to relief efforts.
“The biggest reason for me in going forward with this [the proposal] was that the contribution monetarily would be so much greater than anything we’d be able to fundraise,” Layne said.
An e-mail containing the proposal was sent out to all members of the senior class on Jan. 25 and posted on Wesleying on Jan. 26. The officers created a single question survey on donating collectively in place of the event or preferred to keep the February cocktail. The survey was open until midnight on Jan. 27.
According to the e-mail, if the majority voted in favor of the proposal, a follow-up survey would be sent to the class to determine which organization would receive the donation. Additionally, if the proposal passed, students who did not want their money donated would be reimbursed for $20 from the senior class.
“When framing the question we thought about whether we were guiding people to a certain decision,” Layne said. “We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to make it as objective as possible, for those reasons we didn’t want to throw in any details about the disaster.”
After the survey was posted, a number of people discovered that there was no sign-in feature—anyone who had access to the survey link had the ability to vote and some were able to vote more than once.
“It would have been nice in hindsight, to have a sign-in procedure,” Layne said. “[After finding out that some people had been able to vote more than once], I tried a couple times to vote again, but it didn’t work for me.”
On Jan. 28, a blogger listed as whatshername, who wished to remain anonymous in the Argus, submitted a post on Wesleying titled “Why I Chose to Vote ‘No’ on the Senior Cocks proposal.” The post presented several reasons why the proposal and survey were flawed, including the absence of a sign-in feature, the short period of time given to evaluate the proposal, and the black-and-white presentation of the options.
“My immediate reaction was ‘yes,’” the student said. “But I hesitated because I had questions; a lot of the details were fuzzy and left up in the air. I don’t disagree with the ‘yes’ vote at all. I just feel like a lot could have been discussed. The proposal was put forth in such a way that it felt like we weren’t supposed to think about it that much.”
The post sparked a flurry of comments communicating a variety of opinions regarding the proposal and survey, including a Jan. 29 response post titled “’Cocktail Party vs. Aid’ or ‘Reason vs. Sense,’” which outlined reasons to support the proposal.
“Another part of me cries because HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY say that having one more night on the town is MORE IMPORTANT than bringing food and water to thousands of people whose city was just destroyed?” wrote the blogger listed as Noa.
Although the e-mail sent to the senior class projected a donation of approximately $15,000, many individuals opposed to the proposal suggested that the amount could be much smaller if a large swath of the class chose to withdraw their funds. Still, according to Layne, had the proposal been approved the total amount donated to Haiti relief efforts could have been as much as $20,000 to $25,000.
Some problems arose because the e-mail regarding the survey was sent out to the entire senior class, not only the individuals who had paid for senior cocktail passes. While some felt that this was fair, claiming that the donation was from the senior class as a whole, others felt that individuals who had not paid for cocktails should not have a say in where the money should go.
“I think most of the ‘no’ votes felt there was a better, or just different way of our class donating as a group, no one is acting purely out of selfishness in this,” Layne said.