Winter Ball doubles in size

By Emma WestRasmus

Macalester students braved snow, single digit temperatures, unruly crowds and long lines to get to Winter Ball 2010 last Saturday night. Nearly 70 percent of Macalester’s student body descended upon Epic Event Center in Minneapolis to spend a night dancing and celebrating the nearing end of the semester. According to Winter Ball organizer and Program Board Chair Katie Agnew ’11, Epic estimated 1300 to 1400 Macalester students and guests attended the event. Agnew said she was “very happy” with the way the evening went.

“It went so well, and people loved it,” Agnew said.

Despite the generally positive student reactions to Winter Ball, the evening began and ended with bus shortages that left some students waiting up to two hours on the way to the event, and up to 45 mins. outdoors on the way back to campus.

Epic employees forced students waiting indoors to leave the venue at 2 a.m., though the buses had not arrived to begin transporting students back to campus.

Agnew said that there was no problem with the number or frequency of the buses, though she did note that 500 tickets were purchased the day before the Ball, and had she had these concrete numbers sooner, more buses might have been hired.

Agnew said a major reason for the long lines once the dance ended was that too many students were trying to leave at once.

Hannah Nethercut ’13 agreed that much of the transportation problem was rooted in the number of students trying to leave at 2 a.m., but thought Program Board should have planned on the larger wave of students at the end of the night.

“Especially with the cold weather it should have been acknowledged more people would want to stay at Winter Ball as long as possible and most people would be leaving at two,” Nethercut said.

Nathan Fredrickson ’11 waited two hours to get on a bus from campus to Epic. Frederickson said that for him the time spent waiting was less problematic than the “absolutely ridiculous and debasing conduct” of other students waiting for the bus and the lack of any attempt to organize the crowds, and he spent hours being shoved back and forth by the large crowd of students trying to get on the infrequent buses.

“I entrusted college students to be able to board a bus without supervision, but that clearly didn’t work out,” Agnew said.

Nethercut echoed Agnew’s assessment of the unruliness of the crowds waiting for buses. Nethercut had stepped in glass on the dance floor and had to be carried out of the venue to the buses by several friends to prevent the glass shards from wedging deeper into her foot. She had to wait 20 mins. being held by her friends outside and said she felt blatant hostility from her fellow students also waiting.

“People in the crowd were shouting ‘Oh, she’s faking it, she’s not hurt, she’s just drunk or sick,'” Nethercut said. “I wouldn’t have guessed we were a bunch of college students.”

“It was one of the most humiliating things I’ve experienced to be a part of a group of people, a group of people which during daylight hours calls itself a community and an enlightened, considerate one at that, acting like a drunken, mindless horde,” said Amelia Furrow ’11, who waited for nearly two hours for a bus to the event. “We acted, all of us, like fools in the most debasing, demoralizing way.”

Though Frederickson acknowledged that the attitude and behavior of the student crowds were problematic, he believes that the responsibility also fell on the shoulders of Program Board.

“The organizers did nothing to manage the people getting on the buses,” said Fredrickson. “Absolutely nothing.”

Though Frederickson noted security guards were eventually on the scene, they did little to control the crowds.

“They didn’t step in to do anything until the crowd was small, and vaguely self-managing,” Fredrickson said. “I have no idea what the Program Board was thinking when they organized the transportation. I guess you could say the Program Board really dropped the ball.”

“Overall it was still a success,” Agnew said. “It’s unnecessary to dwell on the end of the night. Most people don’t remember that anyway.”

Agnew did note that there was some confusion with ticket sales this year, that may prompt Program Board to change how they sell the tickets. Tickets were sold online this year, and Agnew said this led to confusion about whether students who purchased tickets online needed to print them or pick them up at the Info Desk.

In order to bypass the problem next year, Agnew said Program Board is considering requiring all ticket sales to take place online to avoid extra work for the Info Desk.

“We just want to make it easier and more obvious,” Agnew said of potential plans for ticket sale changes.

Program Board will be emailing a survey to the student body before the end of the semester to allow students to provide feedback on the event, and suggestions for how to improve the event for next year.