By Laura Dripps
The College is scaling back its role in planning the 100 Days party and asking students to do more this year. While staff members said there was not one easily identifiable factor that caused this change, there were complaints about excessive alcohol use and the spread of illness through kissing after last year’s party.
Director of Conference Operations and Events Rachel Bly ’93 said that the role Conference Operations played in planning the party had increased in recent years to a level that was out of place for an event that is not College-sponsored.
“The Commencement Committee has always done a subcommittee of that group that plans 100 Days,” Bly said. “And we have offered some sort of background support to it. I think the amount of support had sort of crept up to that level where it wasn’t where it was probably on that line of being okay, of us planning it, and that was a problem. So we have to step back a little bit so it is not officially a College function, but so it is a student function, much like Block Party.”
To fill in for Conference Operations’ lesser role, the Commencement Committee will form a subcommittee of students to plan the party.
“I don’t think that this decision is in response to a particular 100 Days party,” said Jen Jacobsen ’95, Wellness Coordinator. “I think it’s more of a philosophical thing that we don’t have staff members who plan any other party on campus. This is an anomaly.”
Still, both Jacobsen and Bly said that they had been approached with concerns from students and commencement committee members after last year’s 100 Days party. Many of these concerns were alcohol-related.
“We heard concerns from a great number of people,” Bly said. “From students and committee members who choose to be sub-free, it didn’t feel like an environment that was inviting. It didn’t feel fun. It felt very high pressure, so it felt like it was all about alcohol and nothing else. You had a group of students who didn’t even want to go because it didn’t feel like it was an all-student party.”
100 Days, a party for seniors with about 100 days left in the year, has been a Grinnell tradition for about 40 years.
“In 2001, it became a kissing party,” Jacobsen said, referring to the more recent tradition in which members of the senior class have locked lips with many others during the party.
This behavior has raised health concerns after illnesses became prevalent following 100 Days.
“We heard some concern from the health center, because there’s a lot of kissing that goes on at 100 days, that there were epidemics afterwards, flu and strep and medical issues that occur when you’re exchanging fluids with a lot of people, or getting close to a lot of people.” Bly said. “There was some concern from the health center about whether this is practicing good safety.”
Bly said Conference Operations will now throw an official dinner for the Class of 2013 to celebrate the seniors’ progression.
“We’re making it more all-inclusive, and that’s really the biggest change.” Bly said. “That here’s something for students who choose not to drink, being thoughtful about that, making sure that the inclusivity of the entire senior class is there.”
Both Jacobsen and Bly stressed that the details of the 100 Days party will be left up to students.
“We were doing a lot more of the logistical pieces of it than was comfortable for anybody,” Jacobsen said. “And clearly students know how to do this. They do Block Party. They do great with Block Party. It just shifted a little too much that wasn’t appropriate.”