Today the Hoya reported the unfortunate news that Georgetown Day 2012 will not have a beer garden or any inflatables, such as a bounce house or obstacle course (pictured left). According to the Hoya, Senior Class Committee chair Chris Butterfield (MSB ’12), a leader of the informal planning efforts, and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord placed the responsibility for the delay in planning on “lack of student interest in the fall semester.” What Butterfield and Lord neglect to mention is that students weren’t given the opportunity to be interested.
In previous years, broadcast emails in the fall semester have invited students to submit applications to be on the Georgetown Day Planning Committee. For example, on November 8, 2010, Georgetown students received the “Weekly Events Email” from the Center for Student Programs, which included the following blurb:
Apply to be on the Georgetown Day 2011 Planning Committee
Sponsored by: The Center for Student Programs
Details: Applications are due Wednesday November 10th at 11:59 p.m.
Want to be Part of a Georgetown Tradition? Apply to be on the leadership team planning Georgetown Day 2011 Check out our website to learn more, and apply online at http://studentorgs.georgetown.edu/georgetownday.
No such email was sent last fall. Not until the GUSA Executive’s broadcast email yesterday were students given the opportunity to apply for the Committee. With applications not due until March 24, the planning committee this year will have one month, at most, to plan, compared to five months last year. CSP Director Erika Cohen Derr did not respond to a request to explain why no email was sent out last fall.
While the delay in planning, artfully blamed on students, is an easy excuse for abandoning the beer garden and inflatables, ultimately they were abandoned because they were considered inappropriate for the day. Planning was not the deciding factor.
In an email to Vox yesterday, Associate Vice President Lord explained the real reasons why Georgetown Day is different this year (bolding hers):
The past few years have seen declining participation on the part of student organizations and individual student volunteers in the activities of Georgetown Day. The mission of the day seems also to have lost clarity over this time- what began in 2000 as a celebration of the campus community in all its parts has shifted to being a celebration by the community, or more accurately, by the student community. Based on this trend and on concerns over general health and safety on Georgetown Day, there was limited interest on the part of past planners- both students and administrators- in replicating the full scale of events. Student leaders and administrators have been discussing the concerns raised, and are developing a plan for the last Friday of classes that seeks to both celebrate appropriately the end of the academic year and address concerns about the scope and purpose of the day.
The reason Georgetown Day 2012 will be a fundamentally different experience is because of two things: the event’s shift from “a celebration of the campus community” to “a celebration by…the student community” and “concerns over general health and safety.” In other words, because it turned into a party for undergraduates.
The effect of the changes on town-gown relations remain to be seen, especially considering that the Campus Plan is still pending. The D.C. Zoning Commission decides on April 30, three days after Georgetown Day, whether to hold another hearing on the plan before issuing a ruling. One has to wonder if students’ actions this year could affect if there even is a Georgetown Day next year. Regardless of the Campus Plan, the last Friday of classes this spring will be very different from those in years past. Perhaps we’re lucky to have a Georgetown Day at all.