This year’s Yule Ball will feature the usual wizard rockers, enchanting decorations, and magical food and drink, but on a significantly tighter budget than in years past, as the Student Budget Committee (SBC) decreased funding last spring for the Social Affairs Committee (SAC), which finances social events for students each weekend.
Last year’s Yule Ball, based off the dance in the fourth book of J.K. Rowling’s enormously popular “Harry Potter” series, received $8,270 from SAC, according to SAC Co-Director Renée Flores ’13. For this year’s event, due to a miscommunication with SAC members last spring, Yule Ball Director Yana List ’14 expected around $5,000, but instead received $3,000.
List was dismayed when she learned of the budget, as she had already signed contracts with various vendors from which she could not back out. Fortunately, Coordinator of Student Activities Paury Flowers and Dean of Students Liz Braun have stepped in and agreed to cover the costs of Yule Ball for which SAC funding was insufficient.
Flores and fellow SAC Co-Director Sera Jeong ’14 said that the committee’s decision to allocate less funding for the Yule Ball was the result of a limited budget from SBC. SBC allocates the money from student activities fees, which are built into tuition and other fees ($336 per student this year), to fund subcommittees such as SAC, as well as the Forum for Free Speech, the Movie Committee, and other student groups.
During spring budgeting, Jeong said, SAC received less funding from SBC than proposed by the previous SAC co-directors. “Sometimes, it just breaks down differently,” Jeong said of the decreased funding for SAC. As a result, SAC members have been increasingly mindful of their budget for the year. “To be consistent with that, we wanted to be prudent with our spending with the Yule Ball as well,” Jeong said.
Jeong said that with other SAC-funded events, such as weekend parties and Halloween, the committee has attempted to keep spending low as well, asking students who propose weekly Saturday night parties to request only the necessities when looking for SAC funding.
Jeong placed the reduced funding for the Yule Ball in the context of the Halloween party, which cost $3,422 this year, much less than the $7,500 that List requested from SAC. “The committee feels that it would be inconsistent in our decisions to have an exception for an extravagance that, given our budget, we can’t really justify funding,” she said of the Yule Ball.
While List said that she understands SAC’s tighter budget and inability to fully fund the ball, she said that as a dry event (without alcohol), the Yule Ball’s expenses are vastly different from those of an event involving drinking, something she feels was not accounted for in the funding decision. She added that the comparison to the Halloween party was unfair.
“For the Halloween party, there aren’t many expenses besides music and alcohol,” List said. “The Yule Ball needs food and something pretty to look at, because people are sober… I just think they’re totally different events,” she continued. Funding for the Yule Ball will go towards removing tables and chairs from Sharples ($2,500), decorations ($2,000), food and drink ($1,500), cleanup ($600), Alex Carpenter, a magical musical guest from California ($600), and DJ Gabe Benjamin ’15 ($70).
List and SAC members also disagreed over the location of the Yule Ball. SAC members recommended that the Yule Ball be held in Upper Tarble, a designated dry space, instead of in Sharples.
“From our perspective, this is a dry event that should be held in a dry venue,” Jeong said, adding that the $2,500 required to move Sharples tables could instead be put towards the cost of the party itself. The committee also felt that Upper Tarble would have the capacity to hold all students who attended the Yule Ball over the course of the evening.
List’s perspective differed. She feels that the budgeting decision and location recommendation were tied to SAC’s perception of the Yule Ball as a smaller event than the Halloween Party, though she said that the two events have similar attendance. “If you look at photos from last year, Sharples stays pretty crowded throughout the evening,” List said.
Regardless of size, List also emphasized the importance of dry events on campus, which she feels are necessary to hold in a large, formal way at least once a year, whether or not they are Harry Potter related. List said that the desire for a party without alcohol as the central focus was common among her friends and many members of the student body. “I get where SAC is coming from… but the Yule Ball is such an important event,” she said. “It’s a different kind of party, a different environment for people to hang out in.”
Jeong said that SAC’s funding decision was not driven by anti-dry event sentiments or anti-Yule Ball sentiments. She mentioned that outside of the Yule Ball, SAC funds many dry events. “It just came down to being pragmatic and having a budget to work with. Objectively, it’s feasible to throw a dry event for $3,000 that is successful and well-attended,” she said.
This year’s event will be surrounded by others related to Harry Potter, including a Sharples takeover involving students dressed as Death Eaters and members of the Order of the Phoenix (iconic groups from the Harry Potter canon), Harry Potter quizzo at Pub Nite, a Harry Potter themed edition of “The Phoenix,” waltz lessons at 8:30 on Friday night in Bond Hall, and Movie Committee screenings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone all weekend.