UPDATE: Read the email sent to the senior class here.
**Because this post seems to have struck a nerve and is slowly getting buried under event posts, it has been stickied to the top of the page. Please continue the (mostly) civil conversation. I encourage anyone who has something to say to go ahead and comment despite what response they think they’ll receive. Don’t forget to scroll down for new posts!**
As many of you have heard, the senior class presidents recently emailed all members of the senior class with a proposal to cancel the next senior cocks and instead donate the $15,000 allotted to that event for relief efforts in Haiti. That email was sent out on Monday and we have until today (Wednesday) to vote on it.
In the days since, a facebook group has been created and a pretty heated discussion has developed on the ACB. In the midst of Haiti hysteria (fueled partly by compassion and partly by a perverse interest in large scale destruction), the overwhelming majority of discussions have centered on how people can help more than they already have and how what has been done is nowhere near enough. It has become our responsibility and moral duty to get involved and help a people who have already been dealt more misfortune than we can even understand by giving up some of our excess.
Wesleyan students were impressively quick in organizing themselves to come up with strategies for aiding the relief efforts. That is commendable and I really hope that they are successful in their mission. However, this hastily made proposal to cancel senior cocks, has brought out a lot of knee-jerk reactions to vote “Yes” from people who sincerely want to help any way possible and people who were never really behind the idea of senior cocks anyway.
I know I, and many others, don’t appreciate being made to choose essentially between partying and donating to charity. That’s a choice I make every time I party and don’t donate money, but now there is a lot of social pressure to vote a certain way. This post is a chance for me to express what appears to be a very unfavorable opinion that a surprising amount of people share. I also hope this can open up discussion.
(I hope you’re all over the age of 16, ’cause there’s gonna be a lot of cocks in this post.)
The Survey is Flawed
- 3 days is not enough time. I’m not sure what the rush is about here. Of course, the date for the planned February cocks is coming up, but considering that the proposal is about changing those plans, I don’t see how having at least a full week would create any time crunch. Some would say that it’s important to act quickly so we could get money to Haiti quickly but there’s probably more money coming in than they can use right now (for most major orgs). Having only 3 days to make this decision means that there wasn’t much time to get an actual discussion going, which is one of the major problems with the whole proposal.
- Anyone can vote. Not everyone in the senior class paid for cocktails, yet they all got the email with the link to the survey. As a matter of fact, anybody who checks out the facebook group can click the link and vote too. I do not feel comfortable letting my money’s use be decided with a survey that allows people who put in no money to be involved in making the decision. This is a really sloppy way to make decisions about where to put funds. I would expect people experienced with managing a lot of other people’s money wouldn’t let this kind of situation happen with the voting.
- Yes or No is not enough. The cute “Feel free to explain why/why not” box is pretty much just there for show. The options are “Yes” and “No” and there is no place for discussion or opposition that will actually change the proposal. When, I voted “No” I didn’t write anything because there didn’t seem to be a point. Student opinion here is pretty much limited to two one-word options, which is insulting to our intelligence and ability to think in more nuanced ways about issues.
Where Does This Put Cocktails?
- Are they completely frivolous? The general reason given for why we should donate the senior cocktail funds is usually that cocks is just one night of drinking and it’s really an example of waste and excess. I can definitely see where that argument is coming from, but I already kinda knew this when I decided to pay for them in the first place. Having cocks be put up against donating to a needy country makes it look all the more wasteful and unnecessary. I know that not everybody goes to cocks for the same reason, but having the event be so easily dismissed as expendable and even an embarrassing display of drunken excess, makes me wonder if anyone can ever make a real argument for why we should have them without looking like an ignorant binge drinker. The money spent on cocktails never wasn’t being spent on having a good drunken time even though most of us would probably have agreed that there were other more useful ways that money could be spent. That is all to say that this raises a bigger issue about why we pay for the event and how comfortable we feel about that. If you did not hesitate at all to give up this event, why pay for it in the first place?
- Bonding is important too! Part of what makes cocks worth the money was that I got to be with most of my friends for a few hours and even get a chance to meet new people. It was really cool meeting people on the bus and just having fun. That was worth the money I paid, in my opinion. In other words, I was never paying for just useless debauchery. That’s kinda an every weekend thing. The fact that no alternate plans for how we might get to spend that time together as a class were proposed or even mentioned as a concern gives me the impression that the senior class officers see cocktails as little more than drinking. I could definitely be wrong and I wouldn’t be stupid enough to claim to know what they’re thinking or planning but that’s the impression I’m getting.
- We CAN unite in charity. I think it’s a wonderful idea to bring us all together to do a good thing, but what’s the value of doing it this way? I guess we can say we were selfless enough to give up a night of drinking off campus, but the only people giving it up are the people who were “wasteful” enough to pay for it in the first place. I guess this is redemption? What about efforts to get the entire class involved not just the people who paid for cocks. Theoretically, we could still have cocks this February and have everyone who goes choose whether they want to pledge whatever amount as part of a class-wide or even school-wide event. A LOT more money would be raised that way and we wouldn’t have to give into the false choice of “giving up” something we enjoy and helping people.
- Just a stockpile of money? Not only is cocktails being talked about as a stupid night of drinking it’s also being thrown around as a source of a lot of money that is just sitting there. The reality is that the money is the investments that students made to have a good time with their peers throughout the year. This isn’t just a sum of money used to pay for cocktails, it’s money from several hundred students. I didn’t pay with the intention of contributing to a fund of $15,000, I paid for myself to have a good time. It’s annoying to me that every individual’s money together is now being treated as everyone’s money that can be spent according to majority vote. Of course, it’s a very glamorous idea to be donating a lump sum of $15,000, but I don’t think we should be seduced by the gratification that comes with giving 5 figures so much so that we forget that the money is a lot of $20’s.
What I Think Should/Could Happen Next
- Scrap the flawed survey and throw out the completely invalid results.
- Hold some kind of forum where students can propose and discuss ideas with the senior class officers.
- Apparently, there are traditionally 2 (or 3?) senior cocks during Senior Week. If things are gonna be done by proposal and survey vote, at least make it an option to cancel one of those instead of the February one.
So that’s what I have to say about that. I know not everybody agrees with everything I said, or some people could even agree and still feel that voting “Yes” was the best way to go. That’s all fine. But the important thing here is that we recognize that these kinds of decisions are worthy of discussion (in the comments below is a good place for it!). And that even people with charitable intentions need to be held accountable for making sure that students have input and that decisions about where the money will go are made fairly. As it is now, the proposal has already been made and if the proposal gets voted down we’ll probably be known as the class who couldn’t give up drinking for Haiti. That’s a ridiculous position that we’ve been put in.
BTW, that picture up there is from 2008 after hurricanes Ike and Hanna hit Haiti.
Oh, and for the record- I’m getting the refund and donating it to an organization of my choosing.