Staff Editorial: The search for Founders’ Day

The postponement of Founders’ Day Ball has caused much controversy. While officials have offered their reasons, there are still questions to be asked and lessons to be learned.

This weekend, the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue will remain dark and empty. The lights will be dimmed, the walls will not be vibrating from subwoofers and party-goers will not attempt to stretch the capacity of the 1,800-person venue–like any other night it is not rented out. However, had the best-laid plans of the AU SG not gone astray, AU students would have swarmed the Pavilion this Saturday for one of the most universally popular events. As it is, this year’s Founders’ Day Ball remains indefinitely postponed.

SG Vice President Alex Prescott and event planner Jacque Martin — both organizers in charge of the ball — have directed blame toward the unusually large amount of snow that was dumped on D.C. last week. Others insist that culpability lies solely in SG incompetence. With such controversy surrounding the postponement, it is important to separate just how much responsibility can be attributed to weather and how much fault lies in official negligence.

To be sure, Snowmageddon was a destructive, inconvenient mess. According to Prescott, contracts had been set for signatures from Old Post Pavilion officials on Feb. 4. However, there was no response from the venue that day, and within hours, schools and other offices had closed due to snow. No official, no matter how adept at planning, could have completely eluded this winter-induced paralysis. Both Prescott and Martin deserve some understanding for what seems to be a bizarre and uncontrollable occurrence.

That being said, significant questions remain. Why were contracts not ready for signatures until three weeks before the event? Prescott and Martin insist that venues and caterers will not sign contracts until the entire event looks like it is certain to come together, hence the delay of the process until February. Because no one on The Eagle staff has extensive experience in D.C. event planning, we must give Prescott and Martin the benefit of the doubt. Still, if someone with equivocal knowledge comes forward attesting to the contrary, additional explanations will be needed.

Even assuming the extensive length of contract negotiations and accepting the horrendous weather, it seems that much of this hassle could have been avoided if a venue with less intangibles were chosen. Hypothetically, had SG officials selected the Katzen Arts Center, or another venue with AU contacts, Founders’ Day Ball would still be on for this Saturday. Moreover, The Eagle reported previously that last year’s venue of the Mellon Auditorium — while ultimately successful — induced multiple logistical and planning hassles, prompting many students to call for a less extravagant location.

Some may be adamant that a Founders’ Day Ball at Katzen would be a less ornate event. And perhaps they would be right. But regardless, the seemingly annual dilemmas the SG faces concerning the dance — not to mention this year’s cancellation — would likely be alleviated.

As with any cancellation or postponement, it is understandable for students to become upset with their representatives as a cursory reaction. Concerning the prestige affiliated with Founders’ Day, Prescott and Martin should be especially receptive and sympathetic to student anxiety. At the same time, the AU community must reciprocate this openness when Prescott and Martin offer further explanations before the Senate this Sunday. Still, SG needs to transcend this controversy to recognize the ultimate desire of the AU community: Someway, somehow, we want a Founders’ Day Ball.

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