Founders Day budget cut by two-thirds for 2006

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Founders Day, the celebration that brings together students, staff, faculty, alumni and trustees for an evening of drink, dance and merriment has received a dramatic cut to its budget for the spring of 2006. The Task Force on Budget (TFOB) has allotted $12,000 for the event this year, down from $36,000 in the previous two years.

“We don’t have to do it the same way every year,” said Laurie Hamre, the dean of students and member of TFOB. “We have many different ways of celebrating our founding.”

Director of Special Events Erlene Lagerquist was told that the cuts to the event’s budget are designed to compensate for the tight financial situation the college faces, caused by higher heating costs and a higher than planned number of students studying abroad in the spring. TFOB will do their best to increase next year’s Founders Day budget.

“The very fact that Founders Day is supposed to foster tradition says to me that it shouldn’t be changed on a regular basis,” Nick Reynolds ’06 said.

The event, which has existed in various forms from 1938 to the late 1960s, was revived for President Rosenberg’s inauguration in 2004. Past Founders Day celebrations have ranged from academic lectures to formal balls.

In its current conception, it exists mainly as a community-building gathering with an aura of tradition about it. Promoted as a gala celebration of Macalester’s history, it also serves as a birthday party for the college.

The date for this year’s Founders Day is March 3.

According to Lagerquist, total attendance was roughly 900 in its first year and 1,200 in its second, including just under 100 alumni. The return of alumni for a campus-wide gathering adds to the sense of tradition and community that the event is meant to promote.

According to feedback she received after the past two Founders Days, “students want to have more traditions and more involvement on campus,” Lagerquist said. More than 700 students formally RSVPed to the 2005 event, signaling a surprisingly wide interest in the institution-oriented event.

Students of legal drinking age have enjoyed the evening as a chance to rub shoulders as equals with faculty and alumni while consuming alcoholic beverages. Underclassmen, not allowed into the roped-off drinking section, have had to content themselves with `mocktails’ and cake.

The beer and wine, and the necessary security to prevent underage students from having access to it, are a huge expense in the event’s budget. This year’s planning committee, though not yet formed, will decide what specific features of Founders Day are going to be cut. In the past, the 12-member committee has included three students, along with faculty and staff.

According to Lagerquist, however, probable cuts include the free group portraits provided by a professional photographer, a popular feature among students. She also anticipates cuts in the form of a less expensive sound system for the dance floor and in the quality of invitations sent out, although the evening will still be highly publicized.

Some underclassmen, to whom the draw of free beer at the event does not apply, have been turned off by the level of formality in Founders Day, which is evident in everything from the invitations requesting students to RSVP to the middle-aged alumni in formal attire who appear for the evening.

“I was intimidated by the hoity toity-ness,” said Ben Abrahamson ’08, explaining his decision to avoid the event. “I would go if I perceived it to be less hoity toity.”

The budget cut has Lagerquist focusing on how to make the evening fun rather than necessarily upscale and how to foster a good time with fewer funds. She said she is optimistic that the budget cut will not substantially affect the appeal of the event.

“It is what we make it–we can make it fun,” she said.