Senior Week accessibility must be priority

With the commencement speaker announced last Thursday and 50 Nights this coming Saturday, these past two weeks have been important for members of the senior class. Naturally, with Commencement just over a month away, other senior events have been the topic of discussion. A major component of celebrating seniors’ impending graduation is Senior Week, the week of activities organized by the Senior Class Council. We at The Miscellany News believe that the steps taken to make Senior Week and Commencement more financially accessible to all students must continue and expand in future years.

Traditionally, Senior Week events have been primarily off-campus and have varied greatly in cost for the students. In past years, one of the most expensive events is the formal, with the ticket typically around $40 per person. The reasons for the higher cost include a more expensive venue as well as transportation. These two factors make up the majority of the costs of Senior Week events. While events like formal have become tradition and are often expected by members of the senior class, the relatively expensive nature of these events calls the culture of Senior Week into question.

For seniors, after four years of activities mainly held on campus, the week before graduation is filled with events throughout the Hudson Valley that are intended to bring the class together. Busing students to these events creates higher costs for transportation, which drives up the ticket price for students. One way to make a more accessible Senior Week would be to focus on planning more events on campus. Furthermore, the purpose of Senior Week is to facilitate bonding within the senior class as seniors spend their final days at Vassar together. Although having events at off-campus venues is tradition, on-campus events would be less expensive and would allow a greater number of seniors to attend more events. Therefore, hosting more events on campus would permit more members of the senior class to spend their final week together, regardless of their financial status, thus furthering the goal of Senior Week. We at The Miscellany News acknowledge that recent fundraising efforts have made some progress toward a more accessible Senior Week. Ongoing merchandise sales are expected to raise almost $1000 dollars, and the Senior Class Council has applied for additional funding from the VSA and Dean of the College. There is also an initiative supported by the Office of the President, so that $2500 will be given to the senior class if 75 percent of seniors participate in an exit survey. It should also be noted that the events held by the Senior Class Council throughout the academic year do not greatly impact its budget, as the ticket cost for activities such as Halloween pays for themselves. This ultimately means that the Senior Class Council will have a larger budget for Senior Week, so that the cost of the events can be further subsidized for seniors. We appreciate the steps taken so far to reduce the cost of Senior Week tickets.

Although fundraising by the Senior Class Council is able to help lower the costs of Senior Week events, the current fundraising methods are nevertheless insufficient for the high costs of Senior Week. One of the main problems with on-campus fundraising, like selling merchandise, is that the money to pay for those items comes from students, many of whom are intended to benefit from the fundraising. Funds from the VSA are also from students, because VSA funding comes from the annual Student Activities Fee that all students pay. Naturally, these fundraisers incorporate few, if any funds from outside the campus community, which restricts the amount that can be made from such ventures. Other fundraising techniques that target parents, alumnae/i, or members of Poughkeepsie or other localities would be able to have a broader reach, and would likely also be more successful in gaining funds. The Senior Class Council could do this by expanding merchandise sales to non-students, or the Senior Class Council could also look for event sponsors.

Current on-campus fundraising techniques are also not a large source of revenue when the funds are broken down by the number of students. When the amount made from any given fundraiser is divided by the number of attendees of an event, the resulting subsidy is small compared to the price of events. If 400 people purchased tickets for the formal, and all merchandise revenue was used to subsidize formal tickets, assuming $1000 revenue, this would only allow for a $2.50 subsidy per ticket. This is money saved for seniors, but is a small savings compared to the ticket price.

Beyond Senior Week, Commencement itself can pose a problem to many students and their families. Hotels often raise their prices during the weekend of Graduation, and rooms sell out quickly. Though Vassar offers some subsidized housing options on campus for families, there is a limit to five beds per student, with each bed costing $50. In addition to housing, families must pay for transportation costs. For families who live far away, the price of travel is extremely high and can potentially make attending Commencement infeasible. There has been a proposal by members of the VSA to subsidize the cost of transportation for low-income families, and we at The Miscellany News hope the College takes up this proposal.

The purpose of Senior Week is to host events for members of the senior class as a way to celebrate the end of their four years at Vassar. Although traditionally these activities have remained relatively constant from year to year, we would like to see continual effort put into making the events cost-friendly for the seniors. We at The Miscellany News feel that the current proposals and efforts undertaken by members of the Senior Class Council are a step toward making Senior Week more financially accessible. There are some measures put in place to reduce to cost of attending Commencement to families of seniors, and these must continue if the College hopes to be more welcoming to students of varying socioeconomic levels. Vassar examines all costs to students and their families during their four years here, and Commencement and Senior Week should not be exceptions.

 

—The Staff Editorial represents the opinions of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.

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