To begin with, as expounded on very prominently in the Social & Residential Life Recommendations and as echoed in personal interactions with friends, Princeton students are yearning for all-school events that create campus community. Although specific interest-group, class-year, or residential-college activities are lauded for their intimacy, they’ve become trite because of their insularity. While there are exceptions, for the most part individual residential colleges have independent study breaks, trips and speakers; individual eating clubs have independent formals, Houseparties and events; individual extracurriculars and sports teams have independent events, games and social events. In many ways Princeton’s social environment is beautiful, and it draws people together with common academic and social interests, but a peculiarity of the Princeton social scene is that it stifles: eventually you’ve seen and met everyone in your college, eating club, sports team or extracurricular. Furthermore, after having been at Princeton long enough, you come to apprehend that in Princeton-specific terms, “intimacy” is synonymous with “exclusivity”; you’re either in or you’re out.
Having an opportunity, therefore, to break out of the stagnation that Princeton creates is something that an all-school event like the Orange and Black Ball will do wonderfully. It will create an opportunity for people to meet and to interact with those they would ordinarily not by joining them in common physical space and activity. The pace of the night in terms of the sequence of bands and acts, the layout of Dillon, the presence of food and the combination of tables and dance floor will all maximize the amount of interaction that students will have both talking to one another and singing and dancing with one another; there will be prime opportunity for intimate conversation as well as group experience. From freshman to senior, track star to chess champion, independent to Cottage bro, every individual will be in the Herbert F. Dillon Convention Center eating, dancing and taking photographs. This commonality of activity and location that the Orange and Black Ball will create will not only preclude social torpidity but also create a sense of campus community and inclusivity. Whereas oftentimes individuals self-identify with the concentrated and hermetic group with which they spend their time, the Orange and Black Ball will promulgate the idea of the Princeton community being a united whole. This is what students really want: to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Beyond simply appealing to the ultimate of community goals, the Orange and Black Ball appeals to it in ways that students have consistently characterized as desirous. Lawnparties is constantly cited as one of the most fun and effective campus activities of the year, and the Social & Residential Recommendations clearly note that “there seems to be widespread interest in having at least one additional major concert each year with headliner talent.” I suggest that we improve on the Lawnparties concept by also playing to the “interest in one or more on-campus, all-student dances each year.” With the Orange and Black Ball you get both. And although critics of the Orange and Black Ball have stated that spending $20,000 on musical talent is considerable, I challenge said critics to find an act with widespread appeal that costs less. Furthermore, while suggestions for Princeton bands to play would be a more economical option, the beauty that lies at the heart of having a band like Super Mash Bros. headline is that it creates a memory. While I truly believe that Princeton bands are talented, I am not going to extol a Princeton band that I’ve seen 20 times on the Street in the same way that I will Super Mash Bros., nor will I remember the Orange and Black Ball as having been such a special night. The justification, therefore, for the money spent and the talent drawn is that they will both coalesce to create a singularly consequential night — a memory to live on.
In the spirit of living on, the goal in mind for the class governments is to make the Orange and Black Ball immortal, a Princeton tradition. Given the warm welcome the event has received thus far and the number of tickets already handed out, I believe that we are on the correct path to achieving our goal. But by creating a signature event, we do not in any way deny the fact that there will be improvements upon it that we will be able to make in the future. For the event this Friday, however, please note that the decision to fund and to execute the Orange and Black Ball in this specific way was deliberate and decisive. We hope you enjoy.
Mary D’Onofrio is a sophomore from Los Angeles, Calif. She is the Class of 2014 Secretary. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.