I was a house fellow once in Strong. And I remember when they used to use food for Serenading instead of water balloons. Some students complained about it; some thought it was great. I got curious about the prospect of getting food dumped on me one night when I was eight, so I went in the shower and poured ketchup over my head. It was pretty great. I was fine. So I ask you: Is the notion of being covered in condiments and other food items so terrible that you would rather potentially sacrifice the local birds for your (cleaner) amusement?
Using water balloons for Serenading is a terrible idea. According to birding.about.com, all birds, from the smaller songbirds to the larger raptors (both of which reside on and around campus) can choke on the remains of water balloons. Some birds, though, manage to actually swallow the hazardous material.
Seagulls are apparently very adept at this, although their most common problem is mistaking bits of balloon floating in water as jellyfish or squid. But the latex or mylar the balloon consists of is entirely indigestible, meaning its presence in the bird’s stomach blocks any other food from coming in. The bird will then starve. Which is, of course, not great.
Serenading was over a week ago at this point, and there are still pieces of balloon on the ground throughout Vassar’s campus. I understand that it’s difficult to pick up all the pieces. But the fact remains that the longer they stay out there on the ground, the more likely it is for birds to mistake them for something edible.
One argument I recall for the ban on food during Serenading was the fact that it made cleaning the showers extremely difficult and time-consuming for maintenance. Just imagine mustard and mayo all over the place.
I completely understand and sympathize with this difficulty, and perhaps there is some way we, as students and members of the Vassar community, can help with this. (Hose us all down outside before we go shower, maybe?) But when comparing the implications behind getting food bits everywhere and spending several days picking up bits of balloon off the ground, doesn’t it seem more logical to just go with the one terrible day of shower-cleaning?
Furthermore, some tropical birds live in rubber trees in the forests of the world. Every time an American buys a bag of water balloons, down goes a rubber tree. Where do those birds go? They don’t know either.
I completely understand that there were problems with the whole food scenario. People were throwing more than condiments, and some situations became unsafe. But I strongly believe there is an acceptable gray area between banning all food in favor of water balloons (which I hope I’ve made clear I’m against, by this point) and simply banning some food items from being thrown and using less or no water balloons.
There should be a different way to put a ban on anything that cannot be squirted out of a container at someone, all in the spirit of good fun. Also a plus: A bird will not mistake a blob of old salad dressing for real bird food like they would a water balloon.
Complaints against the whole food thing may include: “It stinks. I hate getting food thrown at me. It’s disgusting.” You don’t have to go to Serenading if you don’t want to. And if you do go, isn’t that what the shirts designed specifically for Serenading are for? To get dirty? If you don’t want to get that shirt dirty (foody), bring along another shirt you’re willing to get stained. Everyone has one.
I understand the problems with throwing food around at Serenading. In a lot of ways, water balloons were a much better option for people to use and I see why they replaced the food filled balloons, in some aspects. But when I walk down the sidewalks and see pieces of them lying around, weeks after Serenading has ended, I have to wonder: Which would be more environmentally friendly? Food or balloons?
—Sam Rebelein ’16 is an English major.